Pie Crust Epiphany – or – Pastry Demands Precision, Rewards Same

OK, technically, this is flaky tart dough.  The recipe comes from Tartine, the cookbook from the bakery of the same name.  I was making the dough for Shaker Lemon Pie, however, and tart epiphany sounded not as good and could be misconstrued.


1 tsp. salt
2/3 c. water, very cold
1 lb. all-purpose flour (approx 3 c. + 2 TBS.)
10.5 oz. unsalted butter, very cold (1 c. + 5 TBS.)


Mix salt into water, keep cold.
Put flour in work bowl of food processor.
Add butter, cut into 1-inch chunks, to flour.
Pulse until most butter bits are size of peas.
Add salt-water and pulse for a few seconds, until dough starts to come together in a ball.
You should still see some butter chunks.
Turn onto a lightly floured surface, form into two equal balls, then disks, then wrap and chill for at least 2 hours.

That’s it.  How hard could it be?  Turns out, I have been over-processing, forgetting that the time the dough rests in the fridge gives it time to come together on its own.

I cut up my butter into 1-inch pieces and put it in the freezer, then mix the salt & water and do the same, then hit the ‘net for some browsing while I let everything chill.

Some recipes I’ve seen even recommend chilling the flour.  I don’t find that necessary.

What I do find necessary is weighing the flour versus just measuring it.  With stew or goulash, winging it is fine.  Pastry demands precision.

I realize the measure looks a little imprecise, but that’s just the camera angle.  The shot I got that showed the needle pegged to the pound was blurry. Trust me, I was putting flour on and taking it off by the teaspoon to get to the pound mark.

Flour into the processor, then butter on top.  During all prior attempts, I’d been trying to get my dough to the point it was in a ball when the processing stopped.

This time, I stopped sooner.  When pulsing, the dough was coming together.  At rest, however, it still looked like this.  And so, like this, I turned it out on to my floured slab of marble.

I actually covered it with saran wrap so my hot little hands didn’t come into direct contact with the dough.  I pushed it together, not into a ball, but a rectangle.  I have a hard time judging the actual middle of a lumpy sphere of dough, so I never get the 2 disks of dough the same size.  Turns out, a rectangle was much easier to figure.

Note that the slab on the left shows a fairly large slice of butter still intact.  Totally fine to have that.  The chilled pockets of butter in the dough make the flake.  And flake is what we’re after, no?

I actually weighed both halves and cut a sliver from one to make them equal.  A little obsessive, but again, say it with me, people –

Pastry demands precision.

Never fear, however, because pastry also rewards precision.  The reward was in the rolling.  I let the dough chill for about 2 hours, then broke out the rolling pin.

I bet I had a 17″ x 17″ rectangle.  Again, I’m not so good with the circles … but this time, I’d done everything right up until this point, so the dough was forgiving and easy to roll.  Roll, flip, rotate, bit of flour, repeat.  I trimmed it into a neat circle.

Note you can still see the butter in the dough.  You’ll have to check out the post on the Shaker Lemon Pie (to be written soon) to see how the pie/tart worked out.

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3 Responses to Pie Crust Epiphany – or – Pastry Demands Precision, Rewards Same

  1. Michael says:

    pastry is always my devil in the kitchen!
    check out my food blog and tell me what you think:


  2. Pingback: Joyeux Noël Avec Beef en Croûte « nonsequiteuse

  3. Pingback: Mark’s SoCo Apple Pie for Kuff’s Birthday | nonsequiteuse

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