A Step-By-Step Guide To Perfect Shortcrust Pastry

A Step-By-Step Guide To Perfect Shortcrust Pastry

Basic shortcrust pastry is absolutely essential. You can use it for all sorts of tarts, pies and quiches – sweet or savoury – and it’s a great pastry to start with if you’ve never made pastry before. Vegan shortcrust pastry is available in any supermarket, but you can easily make your own!

I always make pastry using a processor. Although it’s helpful to know how to make pastry using your hands, the best pastry happens when it is handled as little as possible. A processor, when used correctly, i.e. in very short bursts, will do a great job. If you prefer to use your hands, you’ll need to work quickly and make sure your hands are cold!

My Best Tips For Perfect Pastry:
Use lemon juice

Bad pastry (hard and chewy) happens when the gluten in the flour is over-developed by too much handling. Lemon juice (from a bottle is fine) helps prevent this and results in a good, short pastry. You can also use vodka in exactly the same way.

Use Full-Fat Vegan Butter (or Half Vegan Butter/Half Trex (shortening in the US) or coconut oil)

You cannot use a ‘light’ vegan butter/spread (such as Flora Light) and expect great pastry. You need fat. I really like Flora Buttery or foil-wrapped Stork. You can use one of these on its own, or if you also have Trex or coconut oil to hand, I would suggest using half vegan butter and half Trex/coconut oil. These solid oils contribute to an extra tender, flaky, melt-in-the-mouth result.

Use ingredients straight from the fridge

Butter, Trex, liquids, even your measured amount of flour, should ideally be kept chilled until you need them. This all contributes to super light and flaky pastry.

Feel Free To Make it in advance

I usually double or sometimes triple the quantities below, divide into equal amounts and freeze whatever dough I’m not using. Wrapped up in clingfilm, discs of pastry dough will keep perfectly fine for months in the freezer, and it can make life easier when you fancy making pie, although bear in mind you’ll need to defrost frozen pastry overnight in the fridge.

Sweet Shortcrust

When a recipe calls for sweet shortcrust, essentially the method is the same but with the addition of sugar and sometimes around almonds (as listed below).

Basic Shortcrust – Makes 340g of Pastry, enough to line a 23cm/9″ tart or quiche tin:

200g plain flour
80g Vegan Butter (Flora Buttery, Stork, Earth Balance or Pure are all good choices) OR use 40g vegan butter/40g Trex or coconut oil (see notes above)
2 tbsp lemon juice or vodka
2 tbsp cold water

Basic Sweet Shortcrust

As above, but:
Add 3 tbsp of caster sugar after processing the flour and fats.
Occasionally, a recipe will call for the addition of ground almonds; this should be added with the caster sugar.

So Let’s Go!:

Step-By-Step-Guide To Perfect Shortcrust Pastry Step-By-Step-Guide To Perfect Shortcrust Pastry
Place your flour, butter (and Trex/coconut oil, if using) in a food processor. Blitz together briefly. I find a maximum of 5-7 seconds is enough to get a sort of chunky breadcrumb texture. If you are making sweet shortcrust, this is when you add the caster sugar (and ground almonds, if applicable), and briefly blitz again.


With the motor running slowly, add the combined water and lemon juice (or vodka). Stop processing as soon as the mixture starts to ‘clump’ together as shown above (this takes just a  few seconds). Tip it on to a clean work surface .


Using your hands, quickly bring it together and form a ball. Work fast and use a light touch! Avoid kneading it. Flatten into a fat disc, place on a covered plate and chill. You can leave it overnight, but if not give it at least 30 minutes to rest in the fridge.

Once rested, you can roll it out. Roll it a few inches bigger than your tin, to allow for the sides and a little spare.

Step-By-Step-Guide To Perfect Shortcrust Pastry
Drape the pastry over the tin and gently press it into place using your fingertips, paying close attention to the bottom edges and sides. If any tears form, gently squeeze the pastry back together. Leave any excess pastry overhanging; this helps prevent shrinking and will be trimmed off after it has been blind-baked. Prick the pastry all over with a fork, then put it back in the fridge to rest for another 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180c / 350f / gas mark 4.

Place the tin on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes until it looks pale and pretty dry (see above right).

Step-By-Step-Guide To Perfect Shortcrust Pastry Step-By-Step-Guide To Perfect Shortcrust Pastry
Remove the tin from the oven and set aside to use as per your recipe. While the pastry is still warm, carefully slice off the excess pastry using a serrated knife so that you get a professional, neat edge.

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