There are many variations of pastry dough, with all kinds of shortcuts and hacks. But there’s nothing flakier or more tender than the classic method!
A lot of love and finesse is required for this method, but it's worth it! Read on to learn how to make pastry dough and learn some tips and tricks for a fuss-free experience.
What are the components of pastry dough?
There are three main ingredients in pastry dough: flour, fat and water. I like to add a pinch of salt, and some bakers add a bit of sugar to help flavor the dough.
When it comes to fat, your best bet is to use either a combination of shortening and butter, which is great for pie crusts; or all butter, which is great for tart crusts or shells and pastries.
Why is pastry dough challenging to make?
Classic pastry dough will yield the most perfectly flaky crust if done carefully and properly. However, if not carefully prepared, the dough will be tough.
The reason the dough is so temperamental is because of the gluten in the flour. Once the gluten mixes with water, it develops. The more it's worked, the tougher it gets. With pastry dough, it's critical not to overwork the dough, or you'll get dense dough that's not nice to bite into.
How to make pastry dough
Makes one pie or tart crust
- 1½ cups flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons shortening*
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
- 3-5 tablespoons ice water
*For an all-butter dough, substitute more butter for shortening.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and salt.
Add the shortening to the flour and use a pastry cutter or your hands to work it in the flour until it is evenly dispersed throughout.
Cut the cold butter into small cubes. Add it to the mix and cut in using a pastry cutter or your hands until most of the butter is pea-sized, but make sure to leave larger chunks in there as well.
Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of water over the flour and fat mixture. Use a fork or your fingers to toss it together. Gently grab handfuls and squeeze together gently. It should come together just a bit. Overall, you’ll have a very shaggy dough that’s more dry than wet — this is what we’re going for.
Turn it out onto a piece of parchment and spread the shaggy dough around evenly within a 10" diameter.
Place the remaining ice water into a spray bottle and lightly mist only over the areas that are dry. It’s OK if you don’t feel you should use all the water; it really depends on your climate.
Fold it over itself again and again (and don’t forget to press) until you’ve got a square.
Then, ever so gently press the dough down lightly to flatten a bit.
Form the dough into a disc, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or overnight. The moisture will disperse throughout the dough as it chills.
When ready to use the dough, roll it out between two pieces of parchment paper, making sure to lightly dust the surface of the dough with flour.
Bake according to the instructions of your pie, tart or pastry recipe.
For pie crust cookies, cut pieces using a cookie cutter, brush with milk or melted butter and sprinkle sparkling sugar or a cinnamon sugar mixture over the top. Bake for 10 minutes at 375 F or until golden.