I make a lot of pies and tarts because they are delicious and easy. Most people think they are complicated, but I believe this is because they don't really know how to make pie dough. There are many different kinds, and I will probably end up posting more later on, but this is the most basic. I got this recipe from Martha Stewart's Pies and Tarts. I like it the most out of any recipe I've tried. I've used Julia Child's recipe, but it doesn't hold its shape well enough. This is my favorite!
Pate brisee can be used in sweet or savory pies and tarts. If you are making a savory tart just omit the sugar. You could even add finely minced herbs, garlic, or pepper to your dough. The same goes for sweet tarts, you can add finely grated lemon zest, nutmeg, cinnamon, and even things like maple syrup or honey.
Below is a basic pate brisee recipe with some sugar. I have taken a picture of my mise en place.
2 sticks of very cold butter cut into small cubes.
2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour (you can use pastry flour or a combination, you can even use a tad of whole wheat which is really good with pumpkin or pecan pies)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
Ice cold water
1. Blend all of the dry ingredients. You can do this in a bowl or in a food processor.
2. Add the cubes of butter and pulse until they are processed to about the size of peas. You can do the same thing with the tips of your fingers or a hand held pastry blender, just work quickly. It is good for the pieces to not be uniform. The larger pieces, when rolled out, will create little sheets of butter in your crust. These little sheets are what make the dough flaky. The bits of butter that get processed really fine and cling to the flour are what make a crust tender. If you find that your dough is not flaky enough leave bigger pieces. If you find that is is really hard, try adding a tablespoon of vegetable shortening.
This is what the crumbs should look like. Notice the four is still dry. That is good; it means that the butter hasn't melted into it.
3. Next we dribble in water and pulse the processor sparingly. If you're using liquid sweeteners add them now instead of to the dry ingredients. The key with pastry dough is to add as little water as possible. I usually add a little more water to my tartlet dough in order to make it easier to work with and stronger after it bakes. Adding water activates the gluten, or rubbery quality, in the dough.
Here is what my tartlet dough looks like after I add water. You could get away with a little bit less. Grab the dough and squish it together. If it holds it shape it has enough liquid. This could take two tablespoons or a half cup depending on the humidity of your ingredients and your kitchen.
4. Remove the dough and form it into a puck shape. You can wrap and freeze it, or chill it for thirty minutes and then use it. This recipe makes enough for one double crust pie, or two bottom crust pies.
This recipe takes me about 5 minutes to make. Once you become good at making this pate brisee, all of the pies and tarts you love become really easy to make!
The key to making pie crust or pie dough is speed and temperature. This is one case where living in Alaska is a gift. Since it is so cold here I very rarely have problems with my butter melting. If you live in a warm or hot climate just know that if your butter gets smushy you can always stop and put everything in the fridge or freezer. If you put things in the freezer to cool quickly just make sure you don't forget about it! Rock solid butter isn't good for the blades of a food processor. Another way to limit problems if you live in a furnace is to freeze your dry ingredients and the bowl and blade of your processor, or your pastry blender and bowl, before beginning.