Basic Pie Crust ala Martha Stewart

Say what you will about Martha, the woman knows quality.  I'm a huge fan of her work ethic and attention to detail. This is my favorite pie crust recipe ever - especially since it uses real butter rather than processed vegetable shortening.  Her book, Martha Stewart's Pies & Tarts is packed with awesome ideas and practical tips and photos.  It's my go-to for pastry ideas. 

Makes two 8 - 10 inch tarts or single-crust pies, one 8 to 10-inch double-crust pie, or twelve 2 1/2 to 3-inch tartlets

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp granulated sugar (optional)
1 cup (2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

Instructions:
Put the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor.  All ingredients should be cold.  Add the pieces of butter and process for approximately 10 seconds, or just until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  (To mix by hand, combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Using a pastry blender or two table knives, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal.)

Add ice water,  drop by drop through the feed tube with the machine running, just until the dough holds together without being wet or sticky; do not process more than 30 seconds.  Test the dough at this point by squeezing a small amount together.  If it is crumbly,  add a bit more water.

Turn the dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Grasping the ends of the plastic wrap with your hands, press the dough into a flat circle with your fists.  This makes rolling easier than if the pastry is chilled as a ball.  Wrap the dough in the plastic and chill for at least an hour.

Lightly butter or spray with vegetable cooking spray the pie plate(s) or tart pan(s) you will be using. On a lightly floured board,  roll out the pastry to a thickness of 1/8 inch.  Place the pastry in the pan which has been set on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and press it into the bottom edges and along the sides.  Trim the pastry using scissors or a sharp paring knife, or by rolling a rolling pin across the top of the pan. (I often cut the pastry an inch or so higher than the edge of the tart pan and tuck this overhang to the inside of the pan for extra height and reinforcement.)  Crimp or decorate the edges of the pastry, if desired.  Chill the pastry lined pan until ready to use.  Unbaked pastry shells can be refrigerated, well wrapped in plastic, for up to 1 day; for longer storage, they can be frozen.




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