And dough-one: Pâte brisée

Pate brise

When Steve successfully produced his first version of this simple butter crust, Michelle told him he no longer had any excuse not to make dessert. While he hasn’t exactly prepared a tart per day, Steve has put together plenty of pâte brisée, and doesn’t even need to consult a recipe. His current eyeball-only version is a combination of recipes from Patricia Wells and Alice Waters.

In Gourmandistan, butter is the key to a good pie crust. Steve takes Alice Waters’ advice and cuts half the butter in with the first few food processor pulses, then puts the rest in for a few more before adding ice-cold water. (While Michelle has made pâte brisée in rental houses with nothing but her bare hands and a wine bottle to roll with, Steve’s delicate wrists prefer a food processor.) This leaves some bigger butter chunks distributed in the flour, making an even flakier crust.

Steve has made this crust’s cousins, the sweeter pâte sucrée and even sweeter pâte sablée, but he keeps returning to the basic brisée, finding it just as tasty with sweet fruit tarts as in a savory quiche. From processor to pie plate takes a couple of hours (including the necessary chilling) but once you get the hang of it, it seemingly takes no time at all. Plus, practice runs are almost as tasty as perfect crusts.


  • Servings: one pie crust
  • Print

  • About 1-¼ c. all-purpose flour (one heaping cup)
  • ⅛ tsp. salt
  • 1 stick (4 oz.) chilled butter
  • 3 TB ice-cold water

Put the flour and salt into a food processor. Cut half the chilled butter into large chunks (Steve uses frozen butter) and add into the dry ingredients. Pulse 2-3 times. Chunk the rest of the butter and add to the flour mixture. Pulse a few more times, until the mix begins to look like roughly crushed cracker crumbs. Add the ice-cold water a tablespoon at a time, pulsing quickly, until the crumbs barely hold together.

Pour the dough onto a piece of waxed paper and gently pat into a rough disk. Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Remove the disk and roll out to fit a 10″ pie or tart pan. Prick the bottom and sides well with a fork.  Place the pan in the refrigerator for another hour, or for a shorter time in the freezer.


    • Oh, sorry, how American of us not to consider that not everyone gets “sticks” of butter! A stick = 8 tablespoons/4 ounces/about 113 grams. Our standard butter has not quite so much butterfat as European butter. Not sure how yours compares.

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