Flaky Pastry Dough

I made this perfect crust from Joy of Cooking after gazillion years of reluctance :)… As it turned out, it’s not as hard as I thought.

This dough makes a light, flaky crust that shatters at the touch of a fork.  The recipe makes two 9-inch pie crusts, or two 9 1/2- or 10-inch covered pie crust.  I made mine in a couple of 4-inch ramekins and it works well too.  If you need only a single pie or tart crust, decrease all ingredients by half or freeze half the dough for future use. 

INGREDIENTS
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon white sugar or 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup solid vegetable shortening, or 1/2 cup shortening and 8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
 1/3 cup cup plus 1 tablespoon ice water
 DIRECTIONS
  • Using a rubber spatula, thoroughly mix the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.
  • Add the shortening and/or butter and break it into large chunks; if using butter, cut it into small pieces, then add it to the flour mixture, Cut the fat into the dry ingredients by chopping vigorouly with a pastry blender or by cutting in opposite directions with 2 knives, one held in each hand.  As you work, periodically stir dry flour up from the bottom of the bowl and scrape clinging fat off the pastry blender or knives.  When you are through, some of the fat should remain in pea-sized pieces; the rest should be reduced to the consistency of coarse crumbs or corn-meal.  The mixture should seem dry and powdery and not pasty or greasy.
  • Drizzle over the flour and fat mixture the ice water.
  • Using the rubber spatula, cut with the blade side until the mixture looks evenly moistened and begins to form small balls.  Press down on the dough with the flat side of the spatula.  If the balls of dough stick together, you have added enough water; if they do not, drizzle over the top 1-2 tablespoons ice water.
  • Cut in the water, again using the blade of the spatula, then press with your hands until the dough coheres.  The dough should look rough, not smooth.  Divide the dough in half, press each half into a round flat disk, and wrap tightly in plastic.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, and preferably for several hours, or for up to 2 days before rolling.  The dough can also be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 6 months; thaw completely before rolling.

    HOW TO ROLL OUT PASTRY DOUGH

    The secret of rolling dough is to lean into the pin rather than down on it:  The goal is to enlarge the dough, not press and crush it. Use firm, decisive sweeping strokes and try to get the job done as quickly as possible.

    Rolling the dough: Start by clearing a large work surface, as you will need lots of elbow room.  You can roll dough on a wood or plastic pastry board or on a marble slab (which remains cold and thus helps keep the dough from softening)  or directly on a clean smooth countertop.  Do not roll dough next to the oven or in a hot corner of the kitchen, for the fat will melt.  If the dough has been chilled for longer than 30 minutes, let it stand until it feels firm yet pliable, like modeling clay, when pressed.  If too cold, the dough becomes to soft during rolling, loosen it from the work surface, slide a rimless cookie sheet beneath it, and refrigerate until it firms up.

    Flour the work surface-lightly if you are an experienced pastry maker but a bit more generously if you are starting out.  Excessive flouring toughens dough, but sticking is a disaster.  Place the dough in the center of the floured surface and flour the dough as well.  Exerting even pressure on the pin, roll the dough from the center out in all directions, stopping short of the edge.  In order to keep the dough in a circular shape, each stroke should be made in the opposite direction from the one that preceded it.  You can do this by rotating the dough itself rather than by moving the pin.

    Be sure to check the dough for sticking by periodically sliding your hand beneath it; strew a little flour on the work surface as necessary.  Seal cracks and splits by pushing the dough together with your fingers.  If the split reopens, your dough is probably too dry.  Dab the edges of the split with cold water, overlap the edges slightly, and press firmly with your fingertips, sprinkling a little flour over the repaired area if it feels moist and sticky.  If the dough assumes an irregular shape, cut off the protruding piece, moisten the edge of the patch with cold water and press it over the short spot.

    Roll the dough roughly 3 t o4 inches wider than your pan.  This will allow plenty of dough for covering the entire pan and for constructing a rim.  Place the pan (right side up for a tart pan, inverted for a pie pan) in the center of the dough to calculate the width by eye.

    Fitting the Dough into the Pan:  Fold the dough in halves or quarters place it in the pan, and unfold the dough it to cover.