Basic Pie Crust: Pate Brisee
The standard pastry traditionally used to make flaky, tender pie crust.
Visit People Like Pie, the cooking class that inspired this recipe, for more information on making a great pie crust.
To achieve the lightest, flakiest pastry possible, everything should be cold: the butter, the water, even the flour and the bowl you make it in. Learn more tips for making flaky, delicious Pâte Brisée on our People Like Pie cooking class page.
Makes enough for two 9-inch pie crusts.
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Optional: 1 Tablespoon sugar (if you want to add a bit of sweetness)
2 sticks cold, unsalted butter (16 Tablespoons total)
3/4 cup ice water (or a splash more or less as needed)
1. Use the scoop and level method (see this page) to measure the flour and salt into the bowl of a food processor with a metal blade, or a large bowl. Add the sugar if using, and mix to combine.
2. Cut the butter into small pieces and add them to the dry ingredients. Using either a food processor, a pastry cutter or your fingers, break up the butter into smaller and smaller pieces evenly distributed throughout the flour mixture.
If using a food processor, use the pulse button to pulse about 10-12 times to cut the butter into the flour mixture.
If using a pastry cutter, use a vertical circular motion to repeatedly move the blades of the cutter down, through and back up out of the mixture.
If using your fingers, use the tips of your fingers to repeatedly lift small portions of flour and butter up from the bowl, rub it between your thumb and fingers and let it drop back into the bowl.
Whatever method you use, the result should be that the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, with very small pieces of butter, about pea-sized, still visible. If using a food processor, dump the flour/butter mixture into a large bowl before proceeding.
How Much Water?
Adding the water to pate brisee is one of those things in cooking that requires your good judgment, rather than just following the recipe with precision. Many factors can affect the way the dough absorbs water on any given day, including the way the flour has been stored, the temperature and humidity in your kitchen, the particular brand of flour you are using and even whether the wheat was grown in the north or the south!
The bottom line is to use only as much water as you need for the dough to form a mass when pressed together. Too much water will result in a tough crust, too little will make it impossible to roll out. Use your best judgment, learn as you go, and you'll be fine.
3. Form a well in the middle of the flour/butter mixture and pour a few drops of ice water into the well. Use a rubber spatula to lift portions of the flour/butter mixture from the edges and drop it onto the wet portions. Keep adding water gradually as you continue to gently combine the dry portions of the flour/butter mixture with the wet portions,just until the mixture comes together enough to form a mass when pressed together. For a light, flaky crust, do not add too much water.
4. When the dough can be pressed together, split it into roughly equal halves and transfer them each into Ziplock-type bags. Press down on the dough in each bag to form a disk (this will make it easier to roll out).
5. Rest the dough in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or up to 3 days, before rolling it out (a longer rest will make it easier to work with). Dough can also be frozen for a few months.