This pastry dough technique is one that I learned through a baking course at King Arthur Flour Education Center in Norwich, Vermont. It strikes a balance between flaky and tender, and creates beautiful layers in the crust.
I find that the more often you make it, the more second-nature it feels. After baking the crust is light, crispy on the outside and melt-in-your-mouth tender as you bite through.
The amount of ice water needed to make the dough will vary depending on how dry or humid the day is. This is why it is important to add the water slowly and check the dough after each addition.
Keep the butter very cold until you need it, and be sure the water is icy-cold. Handle the dough sparingly, you will only need to knead it a few times to get it to come together. Too much handling will cause the butter in the dough to start to melt, which will affect how the dough bakes up and the texture of the final product.
This crust always brings in enthusiastic feedback from the hungry fans who get to try it. It’s nice to have a crust that is as enjoyable as any filling that it may hold!
The recipe is below, and also tips for rolling out the pastry and for baking.
Buttery Flaky Pastry Dough
- 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, unbleached
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter
- Ice water
- Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl.
- Slice 6 tablespoons of the cold butter into very small cubes, about 1/4-inch sized cubes. Work these into the flour using a pastry blender until the mixture is coarse.
- Slice the remaining butter into slightly larger cubes, between 3/8-inch and 1/2-inch sized. Use your fingers to mix these into the flour mixture, flattening the butter pieces as you mix them in.
- Add 6 tablespoons ice water to the mixture and use a spoon to toss it together. Add more ice water 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing it together with the flour-butter mixture with the spoon. Add water only until the dough is moist enough to hold together when you squeeze some in your hand.
- Turn the contents of the bowl out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead gently 4-5 times: flatten it with the heel of your hand, fold up from the bottom, turn one-quarter turn and repeat. Do not over-knead the dough. Stop when the dough has just come together. There will still be pieces of butter visible in the dough, which is what you want: those pieces of butter are what will give flakiness to the baked crust.
- Divide the dough in half. Flatten each half slightly with the palm of your hand and wrap the disk in plastic wrap. Chill the dough disk in the fridge for 30 minutes or until firm.
- The dough can be stored in the fridge for 2 days or well-wrapped in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.
- Take out only the dough you are using immediately. Keep the rest in the fridge.
- Roll out the dough starting from the center and rolling out towards the edge. Use a light touch as you get to the edges so as not to roll them thinner than the rest of the dough.
- After each roll lift up the dough using a bench scraper and turn it a one-quarter turn. Dust under the dough with a little extra flour if it is sticking. Keep the same side of the dough up: do not flip it over.
- When fitting the dough into a dish or pan, be sure not to stretch the dough to fit it in the pan. Pick it up to re-position it as needed.
- Once the dough is fitted in the pan and/or filled, chill the whole thing (lightly covered in plastic wrap) in the fridge for 20-30 minutes before baking.
- Pies or tarts baked in a metal pans can be placed on an oven rack in the center of the oven; if using a glass or ceramic pan bake it on an oven rack moved closer to the bottom of the oven. This helps ensure that the bottom crust bakes perfectly.