This foolproof recipe allows you to make flaky shortcrust pastry in seconds by using a food processor. Sweet, savory, and whole-wheat variations included!
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For years, I was wary of making pie crusts from scratch. Everything about the process annoyed me: my attempted crusts would be too dry or too wet, they would crack badly when I rolled them out or upon baking, or they would turn out dry or tasteless—never flaky and delightfully buttery—no matter the amount of butter I used.
Part of it was inexperience: I’d never properly learned to make shortcrust pastry, so I didn’t know what to look for. No matter how many recipes I tested, (which all repeated the same advice over and over again—don’t cut out the butter too small, don’t overwork the dough, let it rest), it seemed like I couldn’t master the task. I would’ve gladly resorted to buying pre-made pie dough, except I couldn’t find 100% butter pastry where I live. So, for the longest time, I didn’t make pies at all. A tragedy, right?
A few years ago, I decided I’d tackle the task once and for all. If I’d mastered finicky things such as macarons and éclairs, surely I could make simple, humble pie dough, right? I went back to my reference books and truly applied myself to the task. I took notes of what worked best for me and tweaked my recipe until I got it down to a science. Now, I can make it with my eyes closed, and the recipe never fails. Ever.
But let’s start at the base: what is shortcrust pastry, exactly? You can use different types of dough to make pies, but shortcrust pastry, also called short pastry or pâte brisée, is probably the most versatile. You can use shortcrust pastry to make both savory and sweet pies and tarts: it’s a supple dough you can roll out to line pie plates and flute to create pretty edges, fold up and over fillings to create free-form galettes, or cut out to weave lattice patterns.
Basic pie dough uses flour, butter, and water at an approximate 3:2:1 ratio. Shortcrust pastry also includes an egg, which makes the dough more supple and easier to roll out. Most recipes will instruct you to keep large pieces of butter in the dough (pea-sized, or even larger), which produces the flakiest pastry. In my experience, this produces a dough that’s more fragile, stickier, and harder to work with. I prefer blending the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs, which creates a sturdier dough that’s still super flaky but holds any and all kinds of fillings well, including juicy fruity ones.
This food processor method for making shortcrust pastry is perfect if you’re:
- a pie-crust novice (like I used to be)
- lazy (like me) or
- in a hurry (like I pretty much always am)
A food processor allows you to control the shortcrust-making process, giving you a consistent result, every time. It also considerably shortcuts your way to homemade pie dough. My recipe produces perfect shortcrust pastry in less than a minute. Really! I’ve carefully timed how long you should run the food processor at each step, providing the exact time in seconds. This recipe will never fail you: I now routinely make this shortcrust pastry with my son, allowing him to count the seconds in between the steps, and it works, every time.
Learning how to make shortcrust pastry in the food processor is also a great way to familiarize yourself with the looks and texture of “proper” pastry. Making shortcrust pastry by hand introduces so many uncertainties: the result will vary according to the temperature of your hands, that of your working surface, the tool you’re using, and so on. Because a food processor allows you to produce consistent results, you’ll see and feel the pastry as it should be. In time, you’ll be able to go back to the hand method if you want to, and enjoy that relaxing feeling you get when you make things from scratch.
My shortcrust pastry recipe includes options to make whole-wheat crusts—great for savory galettes and quiches—and sweet crusts, for desserts. It has now been my go-to crust for years, and it never fails me. If you’ve been shying away from making pie crusts from scratch, or unsatisfied with the recipe(s) you currently use, I hope you’ll give my shortcrust pastry a try. It will surely make you more confident in the pies you make—and happier with the results!
Helpful Tips to Make Perfect Shortcrust Pastry
- Keep butter and water cold—ice cold: This is crucial: the butter and water you use should in this recipe should be very cold—not room temperature, not cold from the fridge, *ice cold*. Ice-cold butter better distributes into the flour, and ice-cold water allows the dough to come together without melting the butter, both of which are key to producing tender, flaky dough.
- To make ice-cold water, simply pour a bit of water in a small bowl, then fill it with ice. The water will be cold enough to use a minute or two later.
- To make ice-cold butter, cut it into cubes, spread the cubes over a small plate, then plate it in the freezer for 20 minutes.
- Shortcut your way to shortcrust: Keep portions of pre-cubed butter stored in airtight containers in the freezer. Whenever I want to make a pie crust, no need to wait 20 minutes for the butter to cool—I simply take out a container of frozen butter cubes and add it straight to the food processor. I prefer this to freezing shortcrust pastry because mixing a fresh batch of dough with frozen butter is much, much quicker than letting shortcrust pastry thaw to room temperature.
- Be accurate: This shortcrust recipe works, but only if you’re counting accurately. You’re literally seconds away from under- or overmixing the dough, so make sure to concentrate. If needed, look at your watch or use the stopwatch function of your phone to time things accurately.
- Roll it out now, not later: If you’ve long been frustrated by cracking dough, I feel you. Freshly made shortcrust pastry needs time to rest in the fridge before baking (at least one hour), which lengthens the dough-making process, as you need to properly let the dough come back to room temperature before you roll it out (30–-45 minutes.) Here’s how to fast-forward your way to homemade pie crust: roll the dough out *before* you refrigerate it. I picked up this game-changing tip from Parisian cookbook writer Clotilde Dusoulier: when shortcrust pastry is freshly made—that is, straight out of the food processor—it is wonderfully supple, just like brand new Play-Doh is. This makes rolling it out really easy and fun. After you’ve gathered the dough into a ball, lightly sprinkle your working surface and rolling pin with flour, then roll out the dough to the desired shape and size. Ease into the pan you want to use, letting the excess overhang, or spread it out on a baking sheet. Refrigerate, then bring back to room temperature 10 minutes before trimming, filling, or shaping the dough.
This recipe was previously published in my cookbook French Appetizers, in which you’ll find many delicious ways to make the most of this shortcrust pastry. Learn more about French Appetizers, or buy your copy now!
Foolproof Shortcrust Pastry (Food Processor Method)
Cut the butter into small cubes and arrange on a small plate. Freeze for 20 minutes.
Add the flour and salt to a food processor, then pulse to combine. Add the butter and process for 10 continuous seconds, until the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs.
Add the egg and process for 5 seconds. Add the ice water and process for 20 seconds. The dough should now start clumping together. Turn the mixture out onto a work surface. The mixture will easily hold together when pressed. Using your hands, gather the dough into a ball then flatten into a disk, kneading it as lightly as possible.
If you’re making shortcrust pastry right before you need to use it, gather it into a disk, set it on a lightly floured surface, and roll it out to the required size. Ease into to a pie or tart pan, lay flat on a baking sheet, or cut out and fit into muffin pans if making tartlets. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour. Use as instructed by the recipe.
You can alternatively wrap the ball of shortcrust pastry in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 3 days, or freeze for 1 month.
Bring refrigerated shortcrust pastry back to room temperature at least 30 minutes before rolling. Thaw frozen shortcrust pastry overnight in the refrigerator, then bring back to room temperature at least 30 minutes before rolling.
Whole-wheat shortcrust pastry: Substitute one-third of the all-purpose flour for whole-wheat flour.
Sweet shortcrust pastry for desserts: Add 1 tablespoon (12 g / 15 ml) granulated sugar to the flour mixture.
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