Basic Pie Pastry

Basic Pie Pastry

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Servings: 8
Crisp and flaky, this crust is good for custard, chiffon and fresh-fruit pies. For successful pastry making, keep these three tips in mind: Take care not to overblend the fat and flour, add enough water so the dough can be rolled out easily (better a bit too much water than not enough), and handle the pastry no more than necessary. Overblending, adding too little water and handling the pastry too much can make a crust tough. If you like the taste of butter, use it in place of shortening, or try a combination of butter and shortening, which will produce a firmer crust than one made with shortening only. Pastry made with butter must be refrigerated for at least 1 hour before being rolled out.


For a 9-inch pie shell:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 3 to 4 Tbs. cold water

For a 9-inch double-crust pie:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 6 to 7 Tbs. cold water


Hand Method: Combine the flour and salt in a mixing bowl and toss together. Add the shortening. With your fingertips, 2 knives or a pastry blender, blend the ingredients together, working quickly, until you have a mixture of tiny, irregular flakes and bits about the size of coarse bread crumbs. Sprinkle on the water, 1 Tbs. at a time, stirring gently with a fork after each addition. Add just enough water for the dough to form a rough mass.

With floured hands, pat the dough into a smooth disk (or into 2 disks, one just slightly larger than the other, if you are making a double-crust pie). The dough is now ready to use. It is not necessary to refrigerate the dough before rolling out (unless you included some butter), although for convenience it may be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 2 days.

Food Processor Method: Because the food processor works so fast, it is very easy to overblend pastry. Follow these instructions carefully, and your piecrust should turn out perfectly.

With the steel blade attached, place the flour, salt and shortening (in one lump) in the work bowl. Process with 15 rapid on-off pulses; the mixture should look light and dry and resemble tiny, irregular flakes and crumbs. Add 2 Tbs. of the water (4 Tbs. if you are making a double-crust pie) and process in 5 rapid on-off pulses. Add 1 Tbs. of the water (2 Tbs. for a double-crust pie) and process in 3 rapid on-off pulses. Stop and feel the dough (taking care not to touch the blade); it should be just damp enough to mass together. If necessary, add more water by teaspoonfuls, processing for just an instant after each addition. The total mixing time is less than 1 minute, and the dough should not form a ball; it should remain a rough, shaggy mass.

With floured hands, pat the dough into a smooth disk (or into 2 disks, one just slightly larger than the other, if you are making a double-crust pie). Use immediately, or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days. (If pastry contains butter, refrigerate for at least 1 hour before rolling out.)

Rolling Out the Dough: Roll out the dough on a floured surface (using the larger piece for the bottom of a double-crust pie) until it is about 12 inches in diameter and 1/8 inch thick, or about 2 inches wider than the top of the pie dish. Try to keep the dough as round as possible.

Transfer the rolled-out pastry to the pie dish. Pat the pastry in around the edges to fit the shape of the dish. If you are making a double-crust pie, roll out the remaining pastry for the top crust and set it aside on waxed paper.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library Series, Pies & Tarts, by John Phillip Carroll (Time-Life Books, 1992).