Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Tomorrow I'm going to post recipes for lamb pie and chanterelles tart. But first I thought I'd talk a bit about shortcrust pastry. You can buy a frozen tart shell at the supermarket. Often they are quite good. But if you have time to do one at home it's pretty straightforward.

Kids love dough. Even when it's just flour, salt, butter, and water. It's just like working with clay. And it tastes so much better. Give your kids the scraps to taste and use to make their own mini-tarts. Last week Dash and Bella did one with strawberry jam.

For the first time in (almost) 40 years I can make shortcrust pastry dough for a tart, galette, or pie without referring to a recipe. I have my own recipe. A template. Very satisfying. I might add cornmeal and pepper to one or vanilla and lemon zest to another.  But it's basically the same each time. Here's a bit of what I've learned.

1. When you first start making this dough you'll learn more if you do it by hand. It's hard to overmix when you're doing it by hand. I can't tell you how many times I've over-pulsed dough with the Cuisinart. It's really hard to see what's going on in there. Get your hands into the dough instead.
2. To incorporate the butter into the flour mixture you need to squeeze the butter and flour between your fingers quite vigorously, as if you're trying to snap your fingers.
3. Use very cold butter and liquid.
4. Make the dough ahead of time so that it can chill in the fridge for at least an hour before you roll it out.

1. Combine the dry ingredients.
 2. Cut the cold butter into 1/2 inch square chunks. Mix in the butter until the dough looks like coarse cornmeal with pea-sized chunks.
 3. Add some of the cold liquid. Lightly mix with your fingers or a fork.  Press a bit of the dough together between your fingers. You want it to just come together into a dough. Add more liquid if it's too dry.
4. Place onto a long piece of plastic wrap and use the sides of the plastic wrap to press the dough together and flatten into a disc. Look closely. You want to see chunks of butter.
5. Chill for at least an hour. Roll out using lots of flour on the board and rolling pin. Press into a tart pan, pie pan, or place flat onto a sheet pan for a galette.

Once you get comfortable making this recipe you can play around a bit by adding the butter in 2 batches. Add the first half of butter to the flour mixture and mix until it looks like coarse cornmeal. Add second half of butter and mix it in until second half of butter looks like large peas. This makes the dough tender and flaky at the same time. Proceed with steps 4 and 5.

Play with adding different flavors depending on the filling. To the flour you could add: salt, pepper, lemon zest, cinnamon, sugar or cornmeal. You could replace some of the cold liquid with: milk, cream, vanilla, lemon juice, or orange juice.

This works well for any recipe that calls for tart, double-crust pie, or galette dough. Just double the recipe and split into 2 even discs for double-crust pie dough.  It freezes really well for months.

printable recipe

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (one stick), cut into small chunks and very cold
3-6 tablespoons ice water

Mix flour and salt in a bowl. Cut butter into 1/2 inch square chunks and toss into dry ingredients. With your fingers or a pastry cutter, incorporate the butter into the flour mixture until the butter chunks are the size of peas. Add half the cold water and mix it in with a fork. Add more water if you need to, enough so that when you squeeze the mixture in your fingers it's just moist enough to form a dough. Pour dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Use the sides of the plastic wrap to press the dough into a disc. Wrap tightly and refrigerate for at least an hour before rolling it out.


  1. What a great resource!

  2. This is my new go to "crust" recipe. I just made a peach & blueberry Galette. I spritzed water and fine sugar on the crust just before baking! It was great! I also made, with this same dough a carmelized onion & tomatoe tart, (no sugar on crust!) Love this recipe. Thanks!
    PS I bake it right on the pizza stone for crisp, crisp , crisp!!!!!! THANKS!!!!

  3. OK, so how do you possibly make this with your kids without it all going to hell in a hand bag? I made this two times without the kids, perfection. Last night they had a fabulous time 'helping' me and there was no way that crust was going to roll out. My Thanksgiving pie is pieced together crust :(

    1. i know. i know. it's so crazy. luckily, the dough pieces together fairly well! it gets easier. i promise.


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