Three tips for a perfect crust:
1. Always preheat the oven to the recommended temperature before baking a tart or pie. When dough is made with a large amount of butter, it is best starting with a preheated 425°F oven and baking the pie for 15 minutes. Then reduce the temperature. This will help to stabilize the pastry and keep it from slipping while baking.
2. When “cutting in” fat, you want to keep small pea-size dots of fat in the dough. As they melt, the moisture in the fat will evaporate, leaving flaky layers in the pastry.
3. Chill the dough at least 30 minutes before rolling it out. This will relax the protein (the gluten), and the dough will hold its final shape better. If the dough is not sufficiently chilled and you roll too soon, the dough will be too elastic and pull back as you roll it.
Every baker should have a great crust in their repertoire. We think it’s pate brisée, an incredibly versatile crust that can be used when baking either sweet or savory tarts. “Pate brisée” is known as a 3-2-1 dough. Measured by weight it is: three parts flour, two parts butter, and one part water. It is a “short dough,” which means it has a high ratio of butter “fat” to flour, which makes it is crumbly, flaky, and remarkably rich in flavor. This dough can be made with or without a pinch of sugar, but when making a dessert crust, adding a little sugar to the basic recipe helps to keep the crust tender. Always handle crust dough lightly: a tough crust results from over-mixing the dough and developing the gluten. Gluten is great for bread; not so wonderful when making a tart or pie crust. If you feel the dough toughen as you work, let it rest in the refrigerator for a half hour.