This is my tried-and-true classic pastry recipe, the one I've been using in my Paris kitchens for more than 20 years. It is easy as - can one say it - pie. I find that once a cook is confident with pastry making, he or she is ready to attack just about anything. For great pastry, you need chilled ingredients and you must work swiftly, without hesitation.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
  • 3 tablespoons ice water

Equipment: A food processor

1. Place the flour and sea salt in the bowl of a food processor and process to blend. Add the butter and process until well blended, about 10 seconds. With the machine running, add the ice water and process just until the mixture begins to form a ball, about 10 seconds.

2. Transfer the dough to a clean work surface, and with a dough scraper, smear it bit by bit across the work surface until it is smooth and the flour and butter are well blended. Form into a flattened round, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.

For Two Prebaked 9-Inch Shells:

1. Divide the chilled dough in half. Roll one half out to form an 11-inch round. Fold the dough in half, and without stretching it lift it up at the edges so that it naturally falls into the rim of a tart pan. Unfold the dough. With your fingertips, very delicately coax the dough into the rim. There should be a generous 1-inch overhang. Allow it to drape naturally over the edge of the pan. Generously prick the dough lining the bottom of the tart pan. Cover loosely with aluminum foil. Repeat with the remaining half. Freeze for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.

2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

3. Remove the tart pans from the freezer. Unwrap and place each one on a baking sheet. Bake until lightly and evenly browned, about 25 minutes. Watch carefully. Ovens vary tremendously.

4. Remove the pans from the oven, and carefully roll a rolling pin over the tart rims to trim off the overhanging pastry and create a smooth, well-trimmed shell. Discard the overhanging pastry. Cool for at least 10 minutes (or up to several hours) before filling. Do not freeze prebaked shells.

Excerpted from The Paris Cookbook by Patricia Wells (HarperCollins Publishers, 2001).