Recipe: Easy Butter Dough

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Photo by The Bitten Word/Flickr CC


This is an easy to make crust that is flaky, tender and buttery. I replaced some of the usual butter with sour cream, which makes the dough easier to work and increases the tenderness and richness of the crust.

The recipe can be doubled or tripled, and the unused dough may be frozen well wrapped in plastic wrap for up to 1 month. To defrost, thaw in the refrigerator several hours before using.

Makes 8 ounces dough, enough for one 9 to10" tart, or enough "lids' for 4 servings

    • 1 cup unbleached flour
    • 1 teaspoon sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
    • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" bits

Food Processor Method: In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Process to mix. Add the butter and process to a coarse meal. If you have time, put the work bowl with the butter flour meal in the refrigerator to chill for 15 minutes.

Add 3 1/2 tablespoons sour cream. Process until the mixture gathers together in the bowl. Gather the dough into a ball, knead several times on a lightly floured surface and form it into a flat disk, or for cut outs (below) shape into a 4-x-5-inch rectangle. Wrap in plastic. Chill at least 1/2 hour before rolling.

By Hand: In a medium bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the butter and cut it into the flour with a pastry cutter or two knives, until it makes a very coarse meal.

Alternatively, using a pinching motion with your fingers, mix the butter into the flour; rub the butter and flour between the palms of both hands to further blend it, until the mixture is the texture of coarse meal. If you have time, chill the dough in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Add the sour cream and blend it in with a pastry cutter or fork. With your hands, knead and squeeze the dough 7 or 8 times to incorporate the loose bits and gather the dough together into a rough ball and shape as directed above.

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Sally Schneider writes The Improvised Life, a lifestyle blog about improvising as a daily practice. Her cookbook The Improvisational Cook is now out in paperback. More

Sally Schneider is the founder of The Improvised Life, a lifestyle blog that inspires you to devise, invent, create, make it up as you go along, from design and cooking to cultivating the creative spirit. It's been called a "zeitgeist-perfect website." She is a regular contributor to public radio's The Splendid Table and the author of the best-selling cookbooks The Improvisational Cook and A New Way to Cook, which was recently named one of the best books of the decade by The Guardian. She has won numerous awards, including four James Beard awards, for her books and magazine writing.

Sally has worked as a journalist, editor, stylist, lecturer, restaurant chef, teacher, and small-space consultant, and once wrangled 600 live snails for the photographer Irving Penn. Her varied work has been the laboratory for the themes she writes and lectures about: improvising as an essential operating principle; cultivating resourcefulness and your inner artist; design, style, and food; and anything that is cost-effective, resourceful, and outside the box.
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