Pate Brisee for Pies and Tarts

Makes enough for one 9-inch double-crust pie or two 9-inch single-crust pies

The rich flavor, delicate texture, and versatility of pate brisee have made it the standard at Martha Stewart Living and in our Pies & Tarts book, where it is used for pies and tarts both sweet and savory. From three main components -- flour, fat, and water -- plus a little sugar and salt, you get a crust that is incomparably flaky, yet sturdy enough to contain nearly any filling. An all-butter pate brisee tastes best, but some cooks use shortening or lard for additional tenderness. The name pate brisee means "broken pastry," and refers to cutting the butter into the flour, either by hand or with a food processor. The butter-flour mixture should resemble coarse meal, with some pieces of butter the size of small peas, before cold water is drizzled into it; these bits of unincorporated butter give pate brisee its famously flaky texture by releasing steam as they melt.


  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water


  1. Pulse flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor (or whisk together by hand in a bowl). Add butter, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with some larger pieces remaining. Drizzle 1/4 cup water over mixture. Pulse until mixture just begins to hold together (or quickly cut in with a pastry blender or your fingertips). If dough is too dry, add 1/4 cup more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse (or mix with a fork).

  2. Divide dough in half onto two pieces of plastic wrap. Gather into two balls, wrap loosely in plastic, and press each into a disk using a rolling pin. Refrigerate until firm, well wrapped in plastic, 1 hour or up to 1 day. (Dough can be frozen up to 3 months; thaw in refrigerator before using.)

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