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Perfect Pie Dough

I'm guilty of having a very small repertoire of pie doughs I use in my baking, whether sweet or in one; this one. This is a recipe from "Baking with Julia" that came out in the late 1990's. It is fabulously simple as it handles easily. There are a few tricks to perfect dough but the main one is to 'romance it!' Dough doesn't like to be handled too much. Everyone needs to find a piece of chiffon or light silk and practice barely holding on to it, passing it from one hand to the next. THAT is romancing it. Food needs a light touch to remain appetizing until it is served.

I use the Cuisinart to pulse my margarine and shortening into the flour. I read recently that depending on how much the oils are cut down into the flour, the crust will either be light and flaky (not cut all the way down) or a little more dense (well incorporated). I prefer the lighter hand. Anyway, follow the steps and you'll find that it gets very easy with practice. Lots of my baking, from large sweet tarts to savory quiches, mini tartlet appetizers to free-form galettes require confidence with dough. So, please, please give this a try so we can have more fun! 

Kosher Status: Parve
Number of servings: 3 x 10" tarts, 1 x double pie crust + 1 single crust
Main Ingredient(s): Flour - Unbleached All Purpose
Preparation Time: 00:20
Cooking Time: 00:00
Skill Level: 2 (1 Easy - 5 Hard)
Estimated POINT value:
Average Rating: 5/5


  • 5 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2/3 cups cold unsalted margarine, cut into small pieces
  • 1 3/4 cups solid vegetable shortening, chilled
  • 1 cup very cold water (iced if you have)


Gather the ingredients on the work surface. It is best to use well chilled margarine and shortening. If using a food processor, add the flour to the bowl.

If doing the dough by hand, put the flour into a large bowl.

Add the remaining ingredients EXCEPT the cold water to the work bowl. If using the food processor, pulse until the mixture is like coarse cornmeal. If working with a pastry blender by hand, cut the margarine and shortening into the flour and salt until it looks like coarse cornmeal.

If using the food processor, empty the mixture into a large bowl.

At this point, with either technique, the mixture is in a large bowl. Make a hole in the center of the mixture and pour in the cold water. Using just your finger tips with a light touch, bring the flour from the edges of the bowl to the middle, over the water. Spin the bowl as you work, bringing the flour up and over the wet ingredients. The dough will seem impossibly wet and sticky. Yep, it is. Once it is mostly combined, set it aside and rinse off your fingers.

I'll have to make more dough to get a photo...none in this batch of pictures!

Flour the work surface generously....MORE flour please! Empty the contents of the bowl onto the floured surface and set it aside. Sprinkle a generous amount of flour over the dough and gather it up into a rough mass. Divide into 5 parts. Cover and chill for about 1/2 hour if you have the time as it'll make the dough easier to handle. It may also be wrapped well and frozen for future use.

For a one crust pie or tart:

Generously flour the work surface. Take one ball of dough and gently shape it into a ball and flatten into a circle. Don't handle it too much. Use light and quick touches.

Roll the dough into a circle from the center to the outer edges, both away from you and towards you. You are using light pressure and guiding the dough into a larger circle. Lift the rolling pin upwards at the outer edge and you don't want to flatten the dough into the table.

If the dough is resisting the rolling, use the metal bench scraper and lift the dough from the outer edge to the center to free it from the table. Toss more flour under the dough, sprinkle a little more on top and continue to roll. We want to have about 1 1/2" of dough beyond the pan edge when it is inverted onto the circle of dough.

Trim the dough with a paring knife to even out the circle.

Once the dough is large enough, it should be about the correct thickness. We want a dough that is not too thin or too heavy, not quite 1/4" but not less than 1/8". Again, each ball will make 1 crust so roll close to the size you need to fit your pan.

Gently fold pie dough in half.

Lift dough into the pie pan.

Gently fit pie dough into the pan. You want to lower it into the bottom, ease it up the sides and let it hang over the edge. Don't stretch the dough as you work it from center towards the edge as it will shrink when baked.

Roll the outer edge UNDER so it sits on the rim of the pie pan.

With an even pressure, go around the entire pie edge gently making the edge uniform.

Crimp the dough by gently pressing the forefinger of the right hand between the thumb and forefinger of the left hand. Let the pan spin after each indentation to complete the circle.

For an 'unbaked pie shell', fill as desired and instructed in the particular filling recipe. If the pie requires a 'baked pie shell', chill at this point and follow instructions for the given filling.

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Perfect Pie Dough

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Hi! Thank you for stopping by to watch me, Leah, cook kosher. I've been the owner operator of my boutique catering firm in Seattle, Leah's Catering, for the past 14 years.

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