Basic Pastry Dough

About 4 weeks ago, I had a break through. It was a marvelous feeling, I felt free, happy, accomplished and as if I had conquered Mount Everest. I, Joanne of Inspired Taste, finally made a successful, flaky, buttery pastry dough. You see, my history with pastry dough has not been a good one, there has been tears, anger and on one occasion, dough thrown across the kitchen. I followed the method, I watched the TV shows, I read the recipes, but nothing seemed to help me, it was as if I had angered the pastry gods–I assume throwing the dough across the kitchen didn’t help that one.

I, however, am not one to give up, so with Adam’s support and Marmalade by my side, I pledged to overcome. I practiced, I failed, I got close and then, one day, it all clicked, the dough was flaky, buttery and perfectly seasoned. Convinced it was a fluke, I tried again, it worked, I had broken through the barrier–I finally made dough that I could be proud of!

So, after overcoming all of my anguish, I was left to determine why I now am able to make that perfect crust. All the recipes I tried have extremely similar measurements of the same ingredients and they all pretty much explain the same process, so, why if the ingredients and general method is so similar did I have such a difficult time actually getting a good result?

The process sounds simple enough, add butter to flour then process to make the butter “the size of peas,” add your water, chill in the fridge and roll out. But you see, within that deceivingly simple process, there are unspoken rules; everything must be extremely cold, the temperature of your kitchen matters and the type and age of your flour affects how much water you will need. So, it is not just about the recipe, it is really about the person making it. That is where practice comes in. In order to achieve the same result every time, we must be confident in our process, include a few fail safes and determine our strategy to make the perfect dough.

For us, those fail safes included the following:

  1. We place the butter, food processor bowl and blade into the freezer for about 10 minutes before starting
  2. We  “fluff” the flour by using the measuring cup to dig into the tub/bag of flour and then pour the flour out back to aerate it a bit
  3. We work quickly, by making sure everything we need is measured and in place before starting to work with the cold butter
  4. We chill the water with ice to make sure it is as cold as possible before starting
  5. If the oven or any burners are on, we work as far away from them as possible
  6. We only use the pulse function for the food processor for more control
  7. When we roll out the dough, we cut it in half and place one half back into the fridge to stay cold

Following our own little fail safes has led to multiple successes over the past month with pastry dough.  I can honestly say that each time has been a bit different, for example, the last time I made this dough, I used much less water than the time before.  Making pastry dough requires a bit more attention than other things, can be a great success and something you can keep in your repertoire for a long time.  Our best advice is to practice and use those little tips like keeping everything cold, working quickly and possibly saying a little something to those pastry gods every now and then, they certainly have helped us out.  Making this dough is not magic, we just have to trust ourselves a bit and remember keep everything COLD!

This dough worked perfectly for our mini chorizo tarts.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Basic Pastry Dough
Created By:
Yield: Makes two 8-10 inch rounds
You Will Need
  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup very cold water
  1. Cut the butter into small pieces then place into the freezer along with the food processor bowl and blade for about 10 minutes.
  2. Once the food processor bowl and blade is chilled, add the flour, sugar and salt; pulse a few times to combine.
  3. Add the chilled pieces of butter and pulse (1 second) about 8 times until it looks crumbly and the butter is the size of peas.
  4. Next, use a tablespoon measure to add 3 tablespoons of cold water to the dough, pulse for 1 second; repeat this process until the dough begins to come away from the sides of the bowl and comes together.
  5. Place the dough on a floured work surface and use your hands to bring it together into a ball, do not knead.
  6. Wrap the ball with plastic wrap and place into the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
  7. To make one pie crust, cut the dough in half, place one half back into the refrigerator and the other on a floured work surface to roll out.

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20 comments… Leave a Comment
  • BeBe August 19, 2016, 6:21 pm

    I have yet to make pastry dough and I always want to make things once I’ve done all the grocery shopping and is in for the night. I wanted to ask could this dough be made into a cookie (I saw you suggested that). I LOVE how thorough and precise you were. Thank you

  • Casper9194 January 11, 2016, 11:45 am

    I actually used this dough to make a Sheppard pie, turned out great!

  • Ginnie Smith February 22, 2015, 11:13 am

    Another variation on pie crust dough that is soooo good and flaky and easy too!
    Makes 2 double crusts and freezes great ready for roll out next time
    3 C. flour
    1 1/4 C. Shortening
    1 teas salt
    1 egg, well beaten
    5 Tablespoons vinegar (white)
    Cut shortening into flour, add salt…add liquid mixture all at once
    Proceed as you would rolling out dough for recipes
    Can be rerolled and will keep in frig up to 2 weeks, or can be frozen…Very good and flaky PS, you don’t taste the vinegar….give it a try

  • mallika tegi July 16, 2014, 9:28 am

    i was looking for this recipe a long time ago.. i will sure to try it.i am a lover for cooking.

  • Anita June 20, 2014, 12:28 am

    You are so thorough. Thank you, I’ve been looking for a recipe that tells step for step. I haven’t made it. But going over the recipe, i feel more confident. I appreciate you!!!! 😉

  • Sandy November 20, 2013, 11:22 pm

    Tried this recipe for my meat pie!!! After my third attempt for find a recipe for pastry, I am so glad I found this page with all the tips!!! Thanks for sharing!!! I am going to be making more for sure!

  • jhjbfejhvkjfd August 13, 2013, 12:34 pm

    can I use this dough to make cinnamon rolls?????/?

    • Joanne August 13, 2013, 1:46 pm

      We don’t recommend it. Pie crust dough will be flaky and not soft like cinnamon rolls. You could turn it into cinnamon roll-inspired cookies with it, though.

  • Holly December 20, 2012, 2:55 pm

    two things , why no yeast surely adding it will make more dough and depth to your food and secondly can self raise flour do if you want a little rise if and as your recipe states no yeast needed ??

    • Joanne December 20, 2012, 4:53 pm

      As this is a pastry/pie dough, there is no yeast or leavening agent (baking soda or powder) required.

  • juanita October 30, 2012, 9:12 am

    Which blade did you use?

    • Joanne October 30, 2012, 3:31 pm

      There was only one that came with our food processor – use the standard food processor blade.

  • L. Wilson August 16, 2012, 10:16 pm

    Your receipe does not require any baking powder or yeast?

    • Joanne August 20, 2012, 1:16 pm

      No, it doesn’t. There is no need — this is a pastry dough, which becomes flaky from the cold butter.

  • toots May 17, 2012, 10:03 pm

    to make rounds, roll a chunk of the dough into a small ball in your palm, then roll it our pat it flat.

  • Memoria March 2, 2011, 4:54 pm

    I have had trouble with anything calling for cold butter, too, even after keeping everything colder than usual and using a food processor, I still have trouble. I finally had success with some buttermilk biscuits, but it is still difficult for me to get good flaky crusts, laminated dough, biscuits or anything else calling for cold ingredients because of my hot hands. I am glad you finally found what works for you!

    • inspiredtaste March 3, 2011, 3:24 pm

      Thanks, Memoria … we hope you find some luck soon!

  • Jennifer October 18, 2010, 10:35 pm

    I’ve only made pastry a few times, and while the results have been ok they haven’t been fantastic. I will have to give this a try. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • Wendi @ Bon Appetit Hon October 18, 2010, 1:48 pm

    Joanne, I think you got the dough absolutely right. I have been snacking on the leftover tarts from Saturday night and even after being refrigerated for a day, the dough is still flaky.

    So, how did you form the dough into those perfectly shaped little rounds?


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