Shortcrust Pastry: Pâte Brisée, Foncer and More

Types of Shortcrust Pastry

If you love the flaky goodness of pies, tarts or quiche, then a big reason for your passion is probably the crust, or base, of the pastry itself.

And really, what would any of them be without it?

In fact, it could be argued that it’s the base, which is also known as shortcrust pastry or short dough, that makes them so irresistible.

While you might be unfamiliar with the term, shortcrust pastry has a long history and has evolved over time into the delectable delight so many of us cherish.

We’ll talk about all the most common types and what they’re used for so get those taste buds revved up because we’re sure you’re going to want to dig in as soon as you’re done reading all about them!

French Shortcrust Pastry

As with so many things in the world of baking, it should probably come as no surprise that the French are well known for the perfection of shortcrust pastry. In fact, there are no fewer than four distinct varieties of French shortcrust pastry, each of which we’ll discuss below.

Pâte à Foncer

In French, “Foncer” literally translates into “putting a bottom” under something and when it comes to crust, that makes perfect sense. In this type, eggs are featured in addition to butter and along with small amounts of salt and sugar, all ingredients are combined. Once mixed together, they’re added to flour and bound with cold water.

Pâte Brisée

Pâte Brisée is somewhat similar to Pâte à Foncer but with a couple of minor differences. The first of these is that it doesn’t include any sugar and unlike Pâte à Foncer, it features a greater amount of butter. This has the effect of producing a lighter and tender crust which makes it more suitable for savory dishes.

Pâte Sucrée

While Pâte à Foncer has some sugar, Pâte Sucrée, which literally translates into “sweet shortcrust pastry” has generous amounts. Besides sugar, Pâte Sucrée also incorporates eggs.

The combination of both ingredients results in a rich crust that has a noticeably sweet taste. Aside from providing a measure of sweetness, the sugar in Pâte Sucrée also helps to prevent gluten from forming, which translates into a delicate crust that is said to melt in the mouth, yum!

Pâté Sablée

Pâté Sablée is most often associated with tarts and that’s because the ingredients used in it result in a less crumbly crust that is ideal for holding fruit or other tart fillings. In this type of shortcrust, creamed sugar is combined with butter prior to being added to the flour. Thanks to the addition of egg yolks, the result is a sturdier but still tender crust that is sweet and delicious.

Type of French Shortcrust Pastry Ingredients Texture Flavor
Pâte à Foncer Eggs, butter, salt, sugar, flour, cold water Firm Mild
Pâte Brisée Butter, flour, salt, cold water Lighter, Tender Savory
Pâte Sucrée Eggs, sugar, flour, cold water Delicate, Melts in the mouth Rich, Sweet
Pâté Sablée Creamed sugar, butter, flour, egg yolks Sturdy, Tender Sweet, Delicious

Italian Shortcrust Pastry

If you’re a lover of Italian desserts, then there’s a shortrust pastry you’ll want to try. Like its French counterparts, it’s rich and delicious but unlike French options, best suited for sweet dishes.

Pasta Frolla

The ingredients in Pasta Frolla are similar to those of Pâte Sucrée but often includes baking powder as well. Besides making pies and tarts, Pasta Frolla is also used to make Italian cookies and other sweet treats.

Type of Italian Shortcrust Pastry Ingredients Best Suited for
Pasta Frolla Flour, sugar, butter, eggs, baking powder Sweet dishes, Pies, Tarts, Italian Cookies and other sweet treats

What Is Shortcrust Pastry?

Shortcrust pastry (or short dough) is a specific term that refers to a ratio of ingredients.

In terms of baking, this relates to the amount of fat being used versus the amount of flour. For shortcrust, the ratio of flour used is double the amount of fat by weight. 

The types of fats used in making shortcrust pastry are lard, butter (usually clarified), margarine (full fat or pastry margarine), or shortening).

To make the crust, fats are combined with flour until it loosely forms. At that point, cold water is added to the mix to bind the ingredients together so that they can be rolled and shaped for use in a tart pan, pie pan, etc.

What sets shortcrust apart in the minds of many is its buttery flavor. This is usually accomplished by dividing the fats used in equal proportions with butter making up half and lard or shortening making up the rest.

Characteristics of Shortcrust Pastry Description
Ratio of ingredients Flour is double the amount of fat by weight
Fats used Lard, butter (usually clarified), margarine (full fat or pastry margarine), or shortening
Making process Fats combined with flour until it loosely forms, cold water added to bind ingredients together
Flavor Buttery
Fat proportions Butter making up half and lard or shortening making up the rest

Shortcrust Pastry History

Some food historians trace the earliest development of shortcrust pastry over a thousand years ago where it’s thought to have originated in Venice, Italy.

While not quite the same as today’s shortcrust pastry, similar versions appeared as a result of the importation of cane sugar from places like Egypt.

The modern formulations began appearing in the 1800s where it was mentioned in cookbooks of the era. Back then, most shortcrust usage was limited to savory preparations like meat pies.

Over time, shortcrust found a permanent place in sweet dishes and remains a staple of them to this day.

Characteristics of Shortcrust Pastry Description
Origin Traced to have originated in Venice, Italy over a thousand years ago
Early Development Similar versions appeared as a result of the importation of cane sugar from places like Egypt
Modern Formulation Began appearing in the 1800s and mentioned in cookbooks of the era
Savory Usage Limited to savory preparations like meat pies in the past
Sweet Usage Permanent place in sweet dishes today

What Is Shortcrust Pastry Used For?

Modern shortcrust pastry is most often used in delicious foods like quiche, tarts and pies.

What makes shortcrust so wonderful aside from its rich, decadent taste is its versatility since it can be used in both sweet and savory dishes.

What Does Shortcrust Pastry Taste Like?

Shortcrust pastry is quite different from other kinds of pasty, like puff pastry, in terms of its taste and texture.

Thanks to the high amount of fats used in shortcrust pastry, the taste is much more buttery and the texture is best described as crumblike as opposed to flaky.

In fact, the “crumbliness” of shortcrust pastry is one of its defining characteristics and a big part of the reason quiche, pie and tart lovers just can’t get enough of it.

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