There are many different tried tested and true recipes for a basic pastry crust. Each one differs slightly depending on the choice of fat incorporated. Whether using butter, lard or shortening the most important thing for a pastry recipe is the outcome: light, crusty, flakey and delicious.
This versatile recipe can be used for both sweet and savory fillings. This recipe for a basic pastry shell can be used in any recipe which calls for a prepared or store bought pie crust, and can be used when a recipe calls for a ‘blind’ or pre-baked crust.
If this is the case, simply prepare the pastry shell, place into a pie plate, prick the pastry with a fork all over, cover with a circle of parchment paper, place something to weigh down the crust (such as dried beans) over the parchment, and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 8 minutes until slightly golden. Allow to cool on wire rack before filling and baking again.
The following recipe for a basic pastry shell is one that both my grandmother and mother use, I use butter where they used shortening as I prefer the texture and taste of butter over shortening but feel free to substitute if your tastes differ.
Sift together the flour and the salt. Mix with a wire whisk.
Cut in the butter using a food processor on short pulses, or with two forks until the mixture is combined and coarse.
Tip mixture into a large bowl.
Add ice water, one tablespoon at a time, using a fork to incorporate the wet and dry ingredients.
Once the dough starts to pull together and can be pressed into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, press into a flat disk and chill in refrigerator for about half an hour.
It is important not to handle the dough too much, as the heat from hands and other implements causes the butter to break down and will result in a less flaky crust.
Once chilled, cut the dough into two pieces, working with one half at a time (the other half should remain in the refrigerator). Roll out half of the dough on a slightly floured counter top to a thickness of approximately 1/8- inch. This is enough dough for a 9-10 inch pie plate.
Roll out the other half of the dough if needed for a double crust pie, or if making two pies. Otherwise, wrap the second half well with plastic and place in a freezer bag for future use.
Use within a month.