The most traditional pastry for a pie is shortcrust. Founder of the pie brand Higgidy, Camilla Stephens, shares her recipe for the ultimate shortcrust pastry.
Traditional shortcrust pastry is made up of two parts plain flour to one part fat, such as butter, plus a tiny amount of cold water. At Higgidy, we’ve had lots of practice making shortcrust pastry, so here is our trusted recipe, which is both delicious and easy to handle.
For the ultimate savoury flavour, we add cheese. This makes the pastry taste great and gives it a gorgeous golden colour when baked, but you can leave it out if you prefer a more traditional approach. To make a richer pastry, add a touch more butter and an egg yolk. The pastry can be made easily by hand or using a food processor.
200g plain flour, plus a little extra for dusting
Generous pinch of salt
100g butter, well chilled and cut into 1cm cubes
30g Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
1 egg yolk, beaten
About 3 tablespoons ice-cold water
How it’s done — by hand
- Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl.
2. Add the butter; lightly rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
3. Add the Parmesan, if using, and rub again until the cheese is mixed in evenly.
4. Add the beaten egg yolk and measured ice-cold water and mix with a round-bladed knife until the mixture just comes together to form a dough.
How it’s done — in a food processor
Making shortcrust pastry in a food processor takes just minutes. Pulse the flour, salt, butter and cheese, if using, together until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk beaten with the ice-cold water and pulse until the mixture just comes together to form a dough, adding a tiny bit more water if you think it’s needed. Wrap in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
TOP TIPS TO MAKE THE PERFECT PASTRY
Jordan Moore, Senior Chef at online recipe ordering service, Gousto, has shared some advice for pie making success!
Create a pie shield to protect burning edges – It’s really easy for the edges of your pie crust to get too brown (or burnt) whilst your pie filling bakes. Creating a pie shield with a large piece of foil will help protect those delicate borders. Simply cut a circle of foil to resemble a ring donut and fit it around the edge of the pie dish to cover just the crust, leaving the filling free to bake. Remember to remove the foil during the last 15 minutes of baking, or until the edges are golden brown. Using a glass pie pan also reduces the risk of over-baking as it heats more gently.
Eliminate the soggy crust – A great hack we love to prevent a soggy crust is to brush the pastry on the base of the pie a beaten egg before adding the filling. Adding a sprinkling of flour over the bottom layer of pastry also helps to form a layer and prevent a soggy crust. Another method is to partially bake your shortcrust pastry base for 20 minutes, using baking beans to prevent it rising and keep it even. Remember, assembled pies should only be refrigerated for a few hours before baking, otherwise the trapped moisture creates a soggy crust.
Keep the butter cold – An oldie-but-goodie tip is using cold butter when making pie pastry. It doesn’t hurt to pop your pie plate and mixing bowl in the freezer to chill before working. This all helps to keep the butter from melting inside the crust, allowing you to make the pastry nice and flaky.
Flaky crusts – Adding a few tablespoons of ice-cold water to the pastry at a time is a good way to ensure you have the flakiest crust possible. Going slowly, adding more if needed, is a good way to judge it. For the flakiest crust, you want to add as little water as possible.
A touch of cornflour for fruit pies – If you’re making a delicious fruit pie for dessert, try adding a teaspoon or two of cornflour to your filling. Cornflour is a natural thickener, which helps juicier fruit pies set and slice more easily.
Once you’ve mastered the basics of shortcrust pastry, you can experiment with adding extra flavours, such as nuts, herbs or seeds. Stir in once the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs, just before you add the egg yolk and water. Be aware that some additions, such as moist herbs or oily nuts, can make the pastry harder to handle. Try the following:
A TABLESPOON OF FINELY CHOPPED FRESH HERBS — woody herbs such as thyme, rosemary and oregano work best. Avoid wetter herbs like chives or parsley, and remember to remove any stalks before chopping.
A COUPLE OF TEASPOONS OF SEEDS, such as sesame, poppy, black onion (nigella) or caraway. These add flavour and texture to the pastry.
SPICES, such as a pinch of saffron threads, paprika or dried chilli flakes. These taste delicious and give the pastry a beautiful colour.