Perfecting Shortcrust Pastry

By Val | Dairy Free

May 27
Perfect Vegan and Gluten Free Shortcrust Pastry | Baking Help from The Recipe Box

Let’s not beat around the bush, good homemade shortcrust pastry is so much better than anything you can buy in the shops, but it’s a lot of work and it doesn’t always come out the way you imagined or had hoped. It’s too thick or too thin, or chewy or dry and crumbly, or it shrinks during cooking or it doesn’t cook or it has a soggy bottom. There are many things that can go wrong with a homemade shortcrust pastry that you can be forgiven for thinking it’s easier to just buy some ready made from the shop.

For those of you who bake vegan or dairy free, the ready rolled Jus Rol, sweet and savoury shortcrust, are great for you where as those of you who bake gluten free, it’s not quite that simple. You can get frozen blocks of gluten free puff and shortcrust pastry, so not quite as simple ( and they don’t seem to be available everywhere). Either way, the convenience has to be paid for, and it is, with it’s taste.

Create Your Own Convenience

Once you get the hang of making shortcrust pastry, you can be your own convenience. Make it in advance and have it, ready to roll in the fridge. A batch of pastry is good in the fridge for 4 days. That way you get the taste of home made with the ease of shop bought.

Vegan and Dairy Free Shortcrust Pastry

Let’s start with some tips for vegan and dairy free pastry. These tips apply to both. Gluten free pastry is a totally different ball game, so we will get to that in a minute.

  • Don’t over work your dough by over kneading. This will lead to tough pastry.
  • Pastry bakes best in metal tins, especially the ones with holes in them. The ceramic dishes look lovely but they encourage soggy bottoms.
  • Make your pastry in advance. Make you pastry at least 2 hours before you want to use it. This allows time for the gluten to relax, so no chewy pastry.
  • Bring your pastry out of the fridge 30 minutes before you want to roll it. This makes it easier to handle. ( the same actually applies to the ready rolled stuff, it’s easier and bakes better if it comes up to room temp)
  • Don’t stretch your pastry to fit the tin. If it’s too small, bring it back to the work surface and roll it out a bit bigger. Stretched pastry shrinks back when it’s cooked.
  • Don’t add too much flour to the surface when rolling. This makes the flour too dry.
  • Always blind bake your pastry. Pastry doesn’t cook fully when it’s ladened with fillings, par cooking it first helps.
  • Make sure pastry fillings are cold when they are put into the shell. A hot filling will melt the margarine in the pastry, causing soggy pastry.
  • Use a cartouche and baking beans to blind bake. This is way easier than it sounds. A cartouche is a round piece of greaseproof paper or foil. Use it to line your uncooked pastry case, and fill it with baking beans to weigh it down while you are blind baking.
  • When lining the tin, leave some of the pastry over hanging the top. The weight of the over hang stops the pastry shrinking back into the tin. When the tart is fully baked use a sharp knife to make the pastry level with the tin for a slick finish.
  • Rest in the fridge after handling. After you have lined your tin, put the pastry back in the fridge for 30 minutes to harden the fat back up.
  • Repair any tears with a wet finger. If your pastry tears as you are lining the tin, bring the dough back together, or smooth an extra piece of dough over the top, and use a wet finger to blend it in.
  • Always create a vent. If your making a pie, make sure you cut a little cross in the centre of the pie lid to allow steam to escape. Again this will stop soggy pastry.
  • Always glaze a pie lid for a more polished finish. If you eat eggs, an egg white will give you a shiny finish, a whole egg will give a deep coloured shiny finish. If you don’t eat eggs, dairy free milk will give your pie a Matt golden colour.
  • Preheated Oven. Always cook your pastry in a pre-heated oven on the middle shelf.
  • Use the right fat. A soft spread will not make great pastry. Either use all Stork Block or Vegan Block or do half hard margarine and half Trex.

Gluten Free Shortcrust Pastry

Before we talk tips, lets talk gluten free pastry. If you simply swap the flours out you will end up with a dry crumbly mess. Nothing melting about it. Gluten free flours are way more absorbent than regular flour, so the dough needs to be a lot wetter. When you make my gluten free pastry I want you to trust the recipe, it’s right and it works but it will go against any baking and pastry instinct you may have. Gluten free pastry is more like a moist biscuit dough than a pastry. Don’t panic, this is how it should be.

  • Make sure your ingredients are cold.
  • Make it at least 4 hours before you want it. It needs time to harden back up.
  • Use it straight from the fridge. If it warms up, it’s harder to manage
  • Don’t add extra flour to make it more manageable.
  • Roll it between two pieces of lightly floured cling film. It’s too sticky to roll on the surface, you will never be able to move it.
  • Keep turning the dough over. Keep flipping the dough and cling film over, and loosening the cling film off the dough. It sticks to the cling film and doesn’t roll as easily.
  • No kneading needed. Bring this pastry together with just a few rolls.
  • Pastry bakes best in metal tins, especially the ones with holes in them. The ceramic dishes look lovely but they encourage soggy bottoms.
  • Always blind bake your pastry. Pastry doesn’t cook fully when it’s ladened with fillings, par cooking it first helps.
  • Make sure pastry fillings are cold when they are put into the shell. A hot filling will melt the margarine in the pastry, causing soggy pastry.
  • Use a cartouche and baking beans to blind bake. This is way easier than it sounds. A cartouche is a round piece of greaseproof paper or foil. Use it to line your uncooked pastry case, and fill it with baking beans to weigh it down while you are blind baking.
  • Leave your pastry on the cling film to line your tin. It will fall apart if you try to move it the same way you would regular pastry. Remove one layer of the cling film, and move it using the other layer for support. Flip it on top of the tin, with the cling film now on the top. Gently move it into place, with the cling film still on. Only remove the cling film when the pastry is totally in place.
  • When lining the tin, leave some of the pastry over hanging the top. The weight of the over hang stops the pastry shrinking back into the tin. When the tart is fully baked use a sharp knife to make the pastry level with the tin for a slick finish.
  • Rest in the fridge after handling. After you have lined your tin, put the pastry back in the fridge for 30 minutes to harden the fat back up.
  • Repair any tears with a wet finger. If your pastry tears as you are lining the tin, bring the dough back together, or smooth an extra piece of dough over the top, and use a wet finger to blend it in.
  • Always create a vent. If your making a pie, make sure you cut a little cross in the centre of the pie lid to allow steam to escape. Again this will stop soggy pastry.
  • Always glaze a pie lid for a more polished finish. If you eat eggs, an egg white will give you a shiny finish, a whole egg will give a deep coloured shiny finish. If you don’t eat eggs, dairy free milk will give your pie a Matt golden colour.
  • Preheated Oven. Always cook your pastry in a pre-heated oven on the middle shelf.
  • Use the right fat. A soft spread will not make great pastry. Either use all real butter or Stork Block or Vegan Block ( if you need it to be dairy free as well) or do half hard margarine and half Trex.
 | The Beginners Guide To Gluten Free Baking Ingredients | Find the right ingredients to make amazing gluten free  shortcrust pastry
The Beginners Guide To Vegan Baking Ingredients | Find the right ingredients to make amazing vegan shortcrust pastry

Practise Makes Perfect

I know it seems like a lot of things to remember, but I promise you homemade pastry is so worth the effort and the more times you make it the better it will get. Before long, all of these things will be second nature to you, as will always having a block of pastry ready to use in the fridge.

Shortcrust Pastry Recipes

The recipes and detailed directions have been added to the Community Freebies classroom, click the button below to go straight over.

If you have already signed up to my little baking school you will get access straight away, but if you haven’t joined us yet, you will need to sign up. It’s free and gives you access to loads more recipes.

What To Make?

The only question left to ask, is what are you going to make in your pastry shell? A fruit pie or tart? A Bakewell tart? A cream Pie?

Just FYI, remove the sugar in the shortcrust recipes and you have a savoury shortcrust pastry recipe, and all the same rules apply. Now you can also make quiches, tarts and pies for dinner.

Gluten Free | Dairy Free | Vegan Pastry Ideas| Learn to make amazing shortcrust pastry | Chocolate Eclair Pie | Bakewell Tart | Egg Custard Tart

Need some recipes to try out your new pastry skills on? On Best of British class is available from Saturday and that has fabulous recipes for Egg Custard Tart and Bakewell Tart or our Introducing Baking classes includes a retro Strawberry and Vanilla traybake. Check out all of our FREE and paid classes by heading over to our little online school.

Happy Baking

Val x

P.S Still got a few questions?

Come over to our little baking club on Facebook and ask. Psst.. It’s free.