This is the most delicious crust I make and the one I use most often. But it's a bit more delicate than other crusts and not suited to fillings with a lot of juice.
SINGLE OR DEEP-DISH 9-INCH CRUST
1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour, chilled
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter; chilled and cut into 8 pieces
4 to 5 tablespoons iced water
DOUBLE 9-INCH CRUST
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour, chilled
1 teaspoon salt
14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 14 pieces
7 to 8 tablespoons iced water
1. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse together the flour and salt. With the top off, scatter the pieces of butter over the flour mixture. Re-cover and pulse 2 or 3 times until the flour resembles coarse meal. Pour 1 tablespoon iced water down the feed tube and pulse once. Add another tablespoon and pulse. Continue adding tablespoons of iced water until the dough just holds together. Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap. As you wrap the dough in the plastic, form it into a disk. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2. For a double-crust pie, divide the dough into 2 disks, one slightly bigger than the other. Wrap the smaller disk in plastic wrap and return it to the refrigerator until after you've filled the pie. For a single crust or the bottom of a double crust, roll out the piece of dough on a lightly floured surface until it's slightly larger than the pie pan. Drape one end of the dough over the pin and gently lift it up, then slip the pan underneath the dough and lower it into the pan. Press the dough gently-and quickly-against the sides of the pan. Leave about an inch of dough hanging over the sides of the pan and cut any excess away. Refrigerate the crust for at least 30 minutes before either filling or prebaking (prebaking instructions on page 28).
3. If you're making a double crust, after you have filled the pie, roll out the remaining disk on a lightly floured surface. Drape one end of the dough over the rolling pin, lift it gently, then drape it over the top of the filling. Press the edges together and crimp to seal. Slash a few vents across the top of the crust to allow steam to escape and bake the pie according to the directions in the recipe you are using.
Savory Tart Crust
This crust is even sturdier than the Dessert Tart Crust (page 40), making it perfect for elegant little hors d'oeuvres that you don't want to fall apart in your guests' laps. You can also use this recipe for one big supper tart.
1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour, chilled
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 12 pieces
Pinch of salt
2 to 3 tablespoons iced water
1. In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process the flour, butter, and salt for 15 seconds, until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. With the motor running, pour 2 tablespoons of the water through the feed tube and process until the dough just holds together. Add more water by the teaspoon, if necessary. Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap. As you wrap the pastry in the plastic, form it into a flat disk. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2. If you're using the dough for an 11-inch tart pan, roll out the dough as directed on page 40 for the Dessert Tart Crust (step 2). Follow instructions at step 3 for prebaking instructions. For hors d-oeuvre tarts, butter miniature or standard-size muffin cups or lightly coat them with nonstick cooking spray. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a thin circle. Cut out as many circles as you have muffin cups and press the circles into the cups. If you are using standard-size muffin cups, bring the dough only halfway up the sides of the cups. Prick the bottom of the shells and refrigerate them for 20 minutes before either filling or prebaking.
3. To prebake the tartlet shells, line each one with foil and fill with dry beans or pastry weights. For partially baked shells, place in the center of a preheated 350 F oven for 15 minutes. For fully baked shells, remove the foil and weights and continue baking for 3 to 5 minutes, until the shells are slightly brown.
Let cool on a wire rack. At this point the shells can be stacked in a plastic bag and frozen. Defrost to room temperature before filling.
MAKES A SINGLE 11-INCH TART CURST, 24 STANDARD-SIZE TARTLET SHELLS, OR 36 MINI TARTLET SHELLS.
I love pears but the rest of my family doesn't. When I go to the market, I get carried away whenever I see arrangements of them-I love their shape, their colors, the smell of them when they're almost ripe-and I end up buying more than I'll ever eat by myself. To get my family to help me eat the leftover pears, I'll poach them or make this pie, which they devour as long as I don't say anything about the pears inside.
Single 9-inch All-Butter Crust (page 26) or Butter and Lard Crust (page 25) or Basic Cookie Crust (page 36) made with vanilla wafers and 2 tablespoons finely crushed walnuts, unbaked
5 large Anjou pears
2 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into small pieces
1. Preheat the over to 400 F.
2. Prepare the crust of your choice and place in the refrigerator while you make the filling.
3. Peel, core, and thinly slice the pears into a medium bowl. Add the orange juice concentrate and lemon zest and toss lightly. Arrange the slices in the pie shell (if you have time, in a pretty spiral; if you don't in a pile). In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. With the tips of your fingers, work in the butter until the mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over the top of the pears.
4. Bake in the center of the oven for 40 minutes or until the pears are tender and the edges of the crust are brown.
This is great in the summer and is just as delicious cold as hot.
Single 11-inch Savory Tart Crust (page 41), partially baked
3 to 4 Italian eggplants
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 medium fresh tomatoes
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 cups light cream
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly cut and loosely packed
1/2 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
1. Prepare the tart crust.
2. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
3. Peel the skin from the eggplants and slice the flesh into thin rounds that are no more than 1/8 inch thick. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray, lay the eggplant on the sheet, and brush the slices with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Bake in the center of the oven until the slices are brown and tender but not completely soft--about 10 minutes.
4. Skin the tomatoes and slice them into rounds about as thick as the eggplants. Remove the seeds from the rounds.
5. Beat the eggs and yolk together, then whisk in the cream. Add a pinch of salt, a few grinds of fresh pepper, and the basil.
6. Scatter the cheese over the bottom of the partially baked tart shell, then loosely layer the eggplant and tomato rounds over the cheese. Pour the custard over them.
7. Bake the tart for about 35 to 40 minutes or until the custard sets. Let cool a bit before serving.
SERVES 4 TO 6.