Because a pie is only as good as its crust, the perfect pie dough must be part of any cook's core curriculum. Martha's favorite pie dough, known as pate brisee in French, is a short pastry, a non-yeast dough containing a high proportion of fat to flour. The best crusts are made from the coolest pastry, made in a chilly kitchen with ice water, chilled flour, and cold butter. The amount of water used will vary between 1/4 and 1/2 cup, depending on the moisture in the atmosphere and ingredients. Subtle changes in the recipe naturally affects the dough.
Use bread flour instead of all-purpose flour, and your crust becomes tougher. Add lard and shortening instead of butter or margarine, and your pastry will be somewhat flakier. Sprinkle in some sugar, and the dough becomes more tender.
Maintaining consistent standards doesn't prevent you from adding a twist to the taste. Try personalizing your pastry by adding some ground cinnamon, cardamom, or ginger. Enhance savory pies with a sprinkle of basil, cumin, or tarragon. Pie dough can be stored in the freezer for up to a month. Just wrap it in cellophane and place it in a resealable plastic bag, and make homemade pies at a moment's notice.
Get the Pate Brisee recipe.