Image of the Shortcrust Pastry on Biancolievito Pastry School

shortcrust pastry

You may have already wondered how to prepare a perfect Shortcrust Pastry for delicious tarts and cookies. There are so many ways to use Shortcrust Pastry at home! Let’s discover more about this!

BASIC INGREDIENTS of SHORTCRUST PASTRY

Shortcrust pastry is a basic dough mainly made up of some essential raw materials such as:

  • FLOUR
  • SUGAR
  • FATTY MATTER
  • LIQUIDS

and some COMPLEMENTARY ingredients which characterize its taste and aroma.

Generally speaking, ingredients such as FLOUR and EGGS are responsible for building the final product structure. They provide water and proteins that form the “scaffolding” of the dough.

For the excellent success of Shortcrust Pastry, it is essential to use an appropriate flour low in gluten, such as All-Purpose flour. This kind of flour will avoid getting a “rubbery” and not-crumbly pastry that will absorb humidity once baked. It does not matter if it is 0 or 00, or even type 1 (semi-whole grain)!

In addition to flour, there are 2 essential ingredients: 

SUGARS obviously have the function of enhancing the flavors. Still, they are also responsible for the coloring of the cake during cooking. Moreover, we can’t forget that sugars also have the function of extending the product’s shelf-life.

On the other hand, FAT (Butter or Margarine) determines the product’s crumbliness and, together with sugar, increases the product’s preservation. Another essential characteristic of fats is to fix aromas into the dough. Moreover, the chilling period in the fridge is a crucial step to obtain a crumbly Shortcrust! 

LET’S PLAY WITH THE RECIPE: HOW TO BUILD A SHORTCRUST RECIPE

The BASIC RECIPE for a “standard” Italian shortcrust pastry that is good for many preparations is made with these proportions:

  • All-Purpose Flour 1Kg
  • Sugar 500gr
  • Butter 500gr

>> Total ingredients: 2Kg

Let’s see how many eggs to use: Eggs are used in the proportion of 10% of the total ingredients: In our example, then, 10% of 2Kg =200gr.

Don’t forget the salt that we add in a proportion of 0.5% of flour’s weight. So we will have 0.5% of 1Kg of flour, or (0.005×1000) =5gr

 So far, so easy… but what happens if we start to vary the butter to obtain a more crumbly pastry (perhaps to use as a base for a mousse)?

The quantity of butter also varies the recipe’s liquid amount (because 18% of butter is made up of a liquid part). With that said, we can compensate every 100gr of butter increased (or removed), with about 30gr of eggs (or 35 of yolk). Be careful because if we increase the butter, we must decrease the eggs and vice versa.

In our example

  • All-Purpose Flour 1kg
  • Sugar 500gr
  • Butter 600gr (+ 100gr compared to the basic recipe)
  • Eggs= 200 – 30= 170gr
  • Salt 5gr

We can also add other ingredients that will characterize the taste and aroma. Here are the main ones:

Cocoa: It is more astringent than flour, so we replace 100gr of flour with only 20gr of bitter cocoa, and we adjust adding +10gr of sugar.

Dry Fruit Flour (Almond Flour, etc.): Replace 100gr of flour with 200gr of dry fruit flour and add 10% of the fruit’s weight (20gr) of the egg to balance liquids.

Dry Fruit Pastes (e.g., hazelnut paste, pistachio paste… etc.): add 20gr of paste for every 100gr of butter in the recipe and balance by adding 20% of the weight of the fruit paste (4gr) of egg white.

Chocolate or Cocoa Mass: I suggest adding these ingredients once melted and lukewarm (around 30°C, 86°F) directly with the butter during the kneading process in a ratio of 300-400gr per kg of flour.

Traditional Shortcrust Pastry
Try the Recipe
Image of the Traditional Shortcrust Pastry on Biancolievito

KNEADING TECHNIQUES

The way we knead the recipe’s ingredients will have a decisive effect on the final result. The same recipe, if executed with different methods, will result in a very different shortcrust pastry.

There are 3 main techniques to make the shortcrust pastry:

Traditional Technique:

  1. Mix the butter with the sugar and aroma (grated lemon zest, vanilla, or other fruit zests).
  2. Apart, dissolve the salt in the eggs.
  3. When the butter is well mixed (it should not be whipped), add the beaten eggs, the flour, and knead for the time necessary to form the dough. It’s crucial not to over-knead the dough to avoid forming too much gluten.

Once ready, cover the dough with a plastic film and chill it in the fridge at +4°C (39°F) for 10-12h.

Sablé Technique:

In this case, you rub the butter with the flour (by hands or using a stand mixer). The fat will practically entirely coat the flour; thus, gluten formation will be limited, and you will get a shortbread with an excellent crumbliness. Once the flour is likely wet- sand, you add the sugar (preferably icing sugar), aroma, and eggs. When the dough is ready, wrap it up with a plastic film and let it chill in the fridge for at least 10-12 hours before using it.

Whipped Technique

(ideal for fine biscuits for tea/coffee)

This particular type of shortcrust whisk the soft butter at 18-20°C (64°F – 68°F) with the sugar in a stand mixer until the mixture is well whipped and fluffy. When the mass is foaming, add the eggs, the salt, the aroma, and finally, the sifted flour. Once ready, you have to immediately use this type of Shortcrust, modeling it with a pastry bag. I recommend not exceeding 30% of butter on ingredients to avoid the cookies losing their shape while baking with this technique. 

STORAGE

The advantage of shortcrust pastry is that you can prepare it in advance and store it (well covered with plastic wrap) in the refrigerator at +4°C (39°F) for up to 5/7 days, or in the freezer at -18°C (0°F) for up to 60 days. When you need it, you can thaw it in the refrigerator.

I replay your questions about shortcrust pastry

Can I replace granulated sugar with icing sugar?

Yes, you can replace the granulated sugar with an equal weight of icing sugar. The shortcrust pastry prepared with icing sugar will have smaller alveoli than that prepared with granulated sugar.

Can I use Margarine instead of butter?

Yes, you can replace the butter with Margarine in equal weight.

Can I replace butter with oil?

Yes, but in this case, be careful to use oils that are not too strong in flavor (such as rice oil).

Olive oil can be a good substitute for butter, but I recommend using about 100gr for every 400gr of flour.

Can I freeze the shortcrust pastry?

Yes, you can freeze the shortcrust pastry for about 60 days.

When you want to thaw it, place it in the fridge for 24h, before using it, and avoid thawing it at room temperature.

How long does the shortcrust pastry keep in the fridge?

If well wrapped with plastic wrap, you can store the shortcrust pastry in the refrigerator for up to 5/7 days.

This will allow you to prepare the shortcrust pastry quite in advance!

Can I use baking powder in shortcrust pastry?

Baking powder is generally used if you want to obtain a shortcrust pastry with marked alveolation. Still, in most cases, it is not used.

When making dry cookies, you can substitute baking powder with baking ammonia and get crispy cookies. Don't worry; the smell of ammonia you perceive during the baking will not stay in the baked product.

Can I substitute eggs for the yolks?

In general, yes, but in this case, you need to review the liquids in the recipe (those lost from replacing the egg whites).

Can I make shortbread with wholewheat flour?

Yes, but be careful to choose weak flours, low in proteins. In case you want to use type 1 or wholewheat flour, I suggest you prepare the shortcrust pastry with the sablé technique to limit gluten formation.

Can I knead the shortcrust pastry by hand?

Sure, the process and the ingredients' order do not change vs. the process with the stand mixer. To avoid overheating the dough with your hands' heat, I recommend using a fork to mix the ingredients and then finish the dough with your hands.

Why is my shortbread very hard and tends to crumble once removed from the refrigerator?

Once removed from the fridge, the shortcrust pastry tends to be less plastic.

For this, you will just need to knead it for a few minutes, until it gets the right consistency.

However, suppose the shortcrust pastry tends to crumble once it is out of the refrigerator. In that case, it is most likely due to an incorrect balance in the recipe.

You can remedy this by adding a tiny amount of water, recompacting everything, and then working the dough as you prefer.

Why is honey added in Short Crust Pastry?

The addition of honey is widespread in shortcrust pastry used for tarts (Shortcrust Milano). The honey will give the shortcrust pastry a beautiful color during baking, lower the baking temperature by 20°C (68°F)

I don't have time to let the Shortcrust Pastry chill in the fridge. What can I do?

I suggest you place the shortcrust pastry between 2 sheets of baking paper, lower it to about 1cm thick and then place it in the freezer for 15/30minutes.

Why does shortcrust pastry is not crispy after baking?

Suppose the consistency of the shortcrust pastry is not crispy and crumbly after baking. In that case, this is due to the wrong proportion of sugar and fat. Most likely, you have used too much sugar and not enough butter (or fat).

Why does shortbread tend to crumble when baked?

The explanation is in the excessive quantity of butter (or fat) in the recipe. Shortcrust pastry very rich in butter (above 600gr per 1kg of flour) and, therefore, very crumbly is preferable for making bottoms for mousse and modern cakes. Still, they are not suitable for making tarts.

Can I use rice flour?

Yes, if you want to obtain a gluten-free pastry. In this case, decrease the amount of liquid (eggs) because rice flour absorbs less water than wheat flour.

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