Basic Pie and Tart Pastry Dough

James Peterson

Cookbook Author

In his James Beard Award–winning cookbook, Baking, James Peterson offers full instructions for a variety of mixing methods for his Basic Pie and Tart Pastry Dough—by hand, in a stand mixer, and with a food processor. The food processor method follows.


  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup cold butter, cut into 1/3-inch cubes
  • 7 tablespoons water or heavy cream, or 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons additional liquid, or 1 egg white, if dough is too dry


Making pastry dough in a food processor is by far the easiest method. The only disadvantage is that it mixes in the butter so completely that the dough is less flaky and more crumbly. Much is made about overworking dough in the food processor, but overheating is more of a problem, because the food processor warms it very quickly. The secret is to chill all of the ingredients thoroughly before starting and, if need be, to chill the dough in the food processor bowl if it gets too warm while you’re making it.

Combine both flours and the salt in a food processor and process for 15 seconds. With the processor off, add the butter and liquid, and process for 30 seconds. If the dough still looks powdery, like grated Parmesan cheese, pinch a piece. If it falls apart in your fingers, add 2 more tablespoons of liquid. Process for 15 seconds more. Feel the dough with the back of a finger. If it’s no longer cold, put the entire work bowl in the freezer or refrigerator for 15 minutes. Dislodge any pastry dough sticking to the sides or bottom of the work bowl with a rubber spatula. Process for 10 to 30 seconds more, until the dough clumps together or clings to the sides of the food processor. Flatten the dough into a disk if you’re using it for a pie or tart; roll it into a cylinder if you’re making cookies or tartlets. If you’re not using it right away, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate.


Enough dough for one 2-crust pie or two shells