easy as pie?

For years I’ve heard the phrase “it’s as easy as pie” and thought “okay, clearly you have never made one”.  Why is the idea of making basic pastry dough daunt even the most cool, calm and collected types? Making them so nervous at even the thought of tackling a pie crust?

Well, if this is you then you never need fear pastry again. I have found a wonderful recipe for pastry dough, which is flaky, flavorful, and tender. It is also strong enough to be rolled out and molded into a free-form shape or a galette. You can use this dough to make any kind of pie or tart, sweet or savory, plain or fancy. By adding a little sugar and vanilla you have a beautiful pâte sucrée or sweet pastry. Throw in some thyme, lemon zest and grated parmesan and you have the base for a savory tart. Once you have mastered this recipe you can let your creative juice flow and create wonderful crusts for so many recipes.

I have made this recipe by hand with a pastry cutter, but have also found the food processor works great as well. This recipe is large and can be cut in half or even quartered, but since the dough can be frozen for up to a month, it’s practical to make the full batch. You can freeze the dough disks, rolled out in circles, or already fitted into pie pans or tart molds, ready to go into the oven-without thawing-when you’re in a crunch for a crust.



recipe adapted from Leslie Mackie


  • 5 ¼ cups all purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1 ½ sticks (6 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 ¾ cups (11 ounces) solid vegetable shortening, chilled
  • 1 cup ice water


To make the dough by hand, mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Add the butter and using a pastry blender (or your fingers); cut it into the flour until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Be patient-this take a while. Break up the shortening and add it in bits to the bowl. Still working with the pastry blender, cut in the shortening until the mixture has small clumps and curds. Switch to a wooden spoon and add the ice water, stirring to incorporate it. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and fold it over on itself a few times-don’t get carried away. The dough will be soft, but it will firm up in the refrigerator.

To make the dough in a food processor, start with very cold ingredients and take care not to overwork them. Place dry ingredients in the food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse just to mix. Take the top off, scatter the chilled cubed butter and shortening over the flour, cover, and pulse again, working only until the fats are cut in and the mixture resembles slightly moist cornmeal. Add a little of the liquid and pulse a few times, then add more liquid and pulse again. Continue until the mixture has curds and clumps and sticks together when pressed between your fingers. Don’t process until the dough forms a ball that rides the blade-that’s overdoing it.

Chilling the dough; divided dough into quarters, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes, any longer and it’s too difficult to roll out.

Storing; the dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for 1 month. Defrost, still wrapped in the refrigerator.

Makes enough dough for four 9- to 10-inch tarts or open-faced pies or 2 double-crusted pies.