The Crust I Trust

TO ME, A PIE IS ONLY AS GOOD AS ITS CRUST. And the tenderest, flakiest, buttery-est crust in the world is surely Pate Brisee Fine – the traditional French pastry dough for pies, quiches, and tarts. In other words, it’s a crust you can trust. I make it this way:

Pate Brisee Fine
Ingredients for two 9-inch crusts
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled
4 Tbs vegetable shortening, chilled
1 pinch salt (optional)
1/2 cup ice-cold water

Important notes:
Pastry dough made with all-purpose flour alone tends to be tough. The small addition of cake flour, however, insures a light, tender crust.

Work rapidly; your pastry effort will fail if the butter becomes too soft. It is tiny pieces of butter suspended in the flour that makes the pastry flaky.

To start, cut the butter lengthwise in fourths; dice the fourths into 1/2 inch cubes. Measure the 2 kinds of flour, pour them onto a piece of wax paper, and sprinkle the salt on top.

Pour all the flour, the butter and the optional salt into the bowl of your food processor. Pulse on and off 10 times just to break up the butter. Then turn the machine on, add the shortening and 1/2 cup of water, and immediately stop processing.

Remove the lid of your processor, and withdraw a small amount of dough. If it holds together when gently pressed in your palm, as above, processing is complete. If it falls apart, add a few droplets of water, and pulse again for 5 or 6 turns.

Empty contents onto a cloth lined board, and roughly shape the dough into a disk. Don’t worry if the dough seems dry — just push it together as best you can.

Finally, rip small segments from the disk you just formed, and smear them across a piece of wax paper, a marble or tempered glass cutting board, or some other non-stick surface. Smearing the dough — a tip I learned from watching Julia Child — insures that all particles are thoroughly blended.

Reshape the dough (which by now should be more malleable) into a disk, and insert it into a plastic bag. Chill for at least 30 minutes before using. Refrigerated, this pastry dough will keep for about 3 days before the flour turns gray. Frozen, it will keep perfectly well for months.

Do you have your own special recipe for pastry dough? Care to share it here?

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  1. My mother used to make pastry dough the same way. It's SO much better than store bought crust.

  2. I have never used butter in my crust, only butter flavored Crisco, but of course, I am sure butter would be SO much better!! I have not tried the smearing thing either. I have found that using the absolute least amount of water is best, only enough to barely hold it together enough to pat into a ball, then chill, then roll with a soft touch. The dough should be handled as little as possible. And stay away from any recipe that uses oil instead of shortening, awful, probably what is used in the store bought crusts 🙂
    Oh and I don't have a food processor, I just cut in the shortening with a fork till the shortening is in tiny pieces, although a hand pastry blender would be nice to have and take a little less time.

  3. Janis – Sometimes I think sheet-rock is better than store-bought crust.

    Terry – You are so right…the least amount of moisture and the least amount of “working” the dough is the secret to a successful pastry crust. Good for you for using a fork to mix your dough. I'd be lost without my FP!

  4. Andrew Thompson says:

    My attempts at pastry dough (I followed a Betty Crocker cookbook recipe) have ALWAYS been disastrous. I'll have to give yours a try. Now where is that food processor hiding…

  5. Thank-you, Kevin.
    I'm off to the kitchen… looking forward to making this crust. I'll let you know how it turns out.


  6. Thank-you, Kevin,
    Looking forward to making this crust. Off to the kitchen….

  7. Thanks, Kevin for re-posting the recipe.
    Looking forward to making this crust. Perfect day for baking.

  8. Dana – The chick-pea pie you mentioned over on FB sounds intriguing…let me know how the crust works out for you.

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