A savory tart crust or homemade shortcrust pastry is super easy to make, it takes only a few minutes and you know exactly what you’ve put in it. Buying shortcrust pastry sheets to make a tart crust can mean that you are using palm oil for e.g. as palm oil is a big culprit in deforestation. You do get sustainable palm oil, but this will be marked clearly on the ingredients list.
Shortcrust pastry should generally only contain flour, butter or vegan margarine (if you’re vegan), salt, ice water and sometimes lemon juice as my grandma would add.
It somehow feels super special to share your grandmother’s recipe, especially if she was a regular baking competition winner in her day. The recipe below comes out of her book of secrets, which means it contains lemon juice, an ingredient not always used in shortcrust, but it adds a little something special.
What is Savory Tart Crust Exactly?
To make savory tart crust you can use shortcrust pastry, not to be confused with shortbread. This type of pastry is often used for tarts, quiches and pies. It can be used for both sweet and savoury pies so is super versatile.
Shortcrust pastry usually contains double the amount of flour in weight than it does fat. You can use butter, lard, baking margarine if you choose or a combination of two different fats such as butter or lard. If you’re vegetarian then you should definitely opt for vegetarian or even vegan margarine as lard is definitely not veggie.
Some variations of shortcrust pastry will contain egg.
A basic shortcrust has 4 or 5 ingredients. But with these simple ingredients, you can make a tart crust that’s buttery with just the right amount of crumbliness.
When it comes to making shortcrust pastry, temperature and moisture balance play an important role. So measure all the ingredients carefully and keep the dough cold as it will be easier to handle that way. Let’s take a look at what you’ll need.
- Plain organic flour: for this recipe we recommend using a plain, unbleached all-purpose flour. The same variety you’ll use for cakes. You can use pasta flour if as well, but all-purpose flour will work well in this recipe
- Organic butter: When it comes to adding fat to a pie crust it’s best to use one that ralatively solid, such as pure butter. A a soft butter or margarine won’t deliver the same texture. The dough will likely be too moist and difficult to work with so skip tubs that says soft butter or margarine
- Ice-cold water: To make pastry dough easier to work with you need it to be as cold as possible so that the fats don’t become sticky. That’s why using cold water and refrigirating the dough before rolling it is so important. Keep the temperature of the ingredients low for best results
- Organic lemon juice: Adding lemon juice isn’t essential and can be replaced with cold water, however, some say it makes the dough more tender. Others seem to think it does the opposite. With that said the result is very subte and does come down to personal preference in the end, for us it adds a hint of nostalgia and if all else fails extra vitamin C
- Salt: And a pinch of salt of course, to balance the flavour
Mixing and Chilling the Ingredients
To combine the ingredients, start with sifting the flour and add the salt. Sifting helps to make the flour light and airy and removes any lumps that could be problematic within the pastry.
The next step is a little fiddly as you need to blend the butter with the flour. This can be done by using a pastry cutter or you can rub the butter and flour between your fingers until it combines and becomes crumbly. The fastest way is to use a pastry cutter, but it’s not 100% essential if you don’t have one it will just take a little longer (not hours but a few minutes) to achieve a similar result.
Once the butter and flour are combined you can add the liquid ingredients, mix and lightly kneed until it forms a dough. Remember you’re not making bread here so don’t overwork the dough as it will become sticky when the butter is warm.
Before you start to prepare the crust for baking, make sure to chill it in the fridge or even freezer until it’s nice and cold. Not frozen, just nice and stiff so that it’s easier to handle.
Preparing the Crust for Baking
Step 1: Once the pastry has been chilled and is quite hard and rigid you can remove it from the fridge and place it on a floured and clean surface. Add a generous amount of flour here to make sure the dough doesn’t stick to the surface.
Step 2: Roll the pastry into a round shape, using a rolling pin. It doesn’t have to be perfect as you can see from mine until it’s slightly larger than your pastry dish. The more you practice the easier it will be to get a more rounded shape. But again don’t overwork the dough as the heat of your hands will warm it up and make it difficult to handle and drape during step 3.
Step 3: Once you’ve rolled the pastry out to around 0.5 cm thickness, and a shape slightly bigger than your pie dish, you need to lift it using the rolling pin as shown and drape it over the pie dish. Be careful here as it can break easily.
Step 4: Shape the pastry into the pastry dish being careful not to stretch the pastry in any way. If you have small tares you can prepare them but moulding the dough back together but if it breaks up too much during this step you’ll likely need to start again by rolling it into a ball and chilling the dough again.
Step 5: Remove the excess over the sides by using a knife or by carefully rolling the rolling pin over the top and prick the crust with a fork as shown. Then put it in the freezer for 10 mins or until it’s nice and solid again. Depending on the end-use for your crust you can now either blind bake it or if you’re using it for a quiche you can fill and bake, just note that the bottom of the crust won’t be as crumbly if you’re not blind baking the crust.?
Blind Baking the Crust
To ensure that your crust is extra crumbly at the bottom as well as the sides, and if you have a bit of extra time you can blind bake your crust. I don’t normally do that for things like quiches as a speedy bake is more important to me. When you’re skipping this step it’s important to include a good amount of filling as any sides that stick out will “melt” and collapse.
To blind bake, line the prepared pie base with parchment paper, leaving plenty overhanging the edges. Next fill the base with baking beads, rice or flour to weigh the crust down. Then bring the overhanging parchment paper over the top to encase the filling. Bake at 210C/ 190C fan/ gas mark 7 for 10 minutes until the crust starts to brown, then take out of the oven and remove paper and beans. Lower the heat on the oven to 195C/175C fan/gas mark 5 and bake for another 15 minutes.
When blind baking the crust, it’s important to line the base with paper and fill the dish with baking beans rice or flour to weigh the crust down. If you skip this step the sides will collapse as the butter melts and you’ll end up with a bit of a mess – yes we speak from experience here!
Homemade Savory Tart Crust Recipe – Shortcrust Pastry
- 250 ml plain organic flour (1cup)
- 100 g organic butter (125ml)
- 1 tbsp ice-cold water
- 10 ml organic lemon juice
- 1 pinch of salt
- Sift the flour and add the salt.
- Use either a pastry blender or rub the flour and butter gently between your fingers until it combines.
- Add the lemon juice and ice water. Knead lightly, wrap in re-usable food wax wrap and put in the fridge for roughly 2 hours or the freezer for 20 mins.
- Once chilled roll the pastry out on a floured surface until it's roughly 0.5cm thick and slightly bigger than the pie dish.
- Transfer the pastry to the pie dish by draping it over your rolling pin and carefully arranging it over the dish.
- Remove the excess, prick with a fork and blind bake or add your filling and bake as per the filling instructions.
Butter is the best option. And with that old fashioned butter, not soft spreadable butter. But you can also use lard if you’re not concerned about creating a vegetarian crust. And if you’re going vegan then we’d recommend using a rigid butter rather than soft. You can find a few ideas on the brand of vegan butter here along with testing results of which to use for which purpose.
The key factor is getting the ratio of fat and flour just right as that will ensure a crumbly and buttery crust. Another important aspect is to work with cold dough to avoid it sticking to your hands and everything else it comes into contact with.
You can add egg to your pie crust, it will make the dough more pliable. However, not all methods of shortcrust pastry require egg so if you’d like to add egg to a recipe you’ll need to adjust the moisture ratio as the dough will be too sticky if you don’t.
If your pie crust cracks when rolling it out, it’s likely that your dough mixture is too dry. You can add a dash of water, but not too much as the dough might become sticky.
Yes, you should poke holes in the pie crust to prevent it from bubbling up. Misforming the dough and causing problems with cracks and breaks.