This is an all-purpose, flaky crust great for savory pies and sweet dessert tarts. After much experimentation I have found that it is best to roll the dough right after mixing it; the traditional method of chilling the dough beforehand makes it unnecessarily hard to handle. Work quickly, though, to keep the butter cold.

MAKES ONE 9- TO 10-INCH CRUST

1Вј cups unbleached white flour

2 teaspoons sugar (for sweet), or Вј teaspoon salt (for savory)

5 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into bits

2 tablespoons oil

3 to 4 tablespoons ice water

  1. In a large bowl combine the flour and either the sugar or salt (depending upon whether you want a sweet or savory crust). Add the bits of butter and toss to coat with the flour.
  2. With a pastry cutter or the tips of your fingers work the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse meal.
  3. Sprinkle on the oil and toss, then sprinkle on 3 tablespoons of ice water and toss again. Gather the dough into a ball (if you need more water add 1 more tablespoon) and knead 3 or 4 times to help distribute the moisture. Gather into a ball again and flatten into a disc. (See Note on how to make the dough with a food processor.)
  4. Lightly flour your work surface, your rolling pin, and the top of the dough. Roll it into a circle to fit your tart or pie plate. Make sure to keep turning the dough as you roll to keep it a perfect circle, and lightly flour underneath whenever it begins to stick. If it breaks at all pinch the edges together until mended.
  5. Place the rolling pin on the center of the dough and fold one half of the pastry over it. Carry the pastry this way to your pie plate and unfold it over the plate. Press it in thoroughly and flute the edges. If you are using a tart pan then roll the rolling pin over the top of the pan to cut off any excess dough. Chill for at least 30 minutes, or cover and chill for up to 24 hours, or cover well and freeze. Proceed with your pie or tart recipe. If you need to prebake the crust, then follow step 6.
  6. To prebake: Prick the pastry bottom all over and spread a sheet of foil over it. Press the foil into the sides, then fill with dried beans or aluminum pastry pellets to weight it down. Bake in a preheated 400В°F oven for 10 minutes. Remove the foil and beans (save the beans for future crusts), and prick again. Bake an additional 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and proceed with your recipe.

NOTE: To make the dough with a food processor combine the flour, sugar or salt, and butter in the bowl of a food processor. Set the metal blade in place and process for about 8 seconds, or just until coarse meal is formed. With the processor still running pour in the oil, then the ice water (try 3 tablespoons; if more is needed add a little more bit by bit), then stop the machine as soon as the dough begins to form a ball. There should be bits of butter visible in the dough; you don’t want it to be perfectly smooth. Gather the dough into a ball, then flatten into a disk.