pate brisee, galette and hand pies

Is there anything better than pâte brisée? Cubed butter, an avalanche of flour and a pinch of sugar or salt and sometimes both pulsed in the food processor until it has been divided again and again into pea-sized bits and then glued together with a trickle of ice cold water. I’m convinced that there’s nothing that can’t be done with it, from pie… and really, we could stop right here: Pie. Pie after a movie. Rhymes with sigh. But there are also tarts and quiche very tiny, decorative cookies. Really, the possibilities are endless.


And yet, because without “and yet”-s, there really is no discourse, twice in the past month, pate brisee has not come through for me. It was too stiff and pretty unyielding, cracking when it should have bent and tearing when it should have twisted, kind of like the guy in the back of yoga class that always gets dragged there by his girlfriend. And while they both still deserve mad props–the boyfriend for making a room full of mostly women wish their boys would ever embarrass themselves publicly for the sake of love and imbuing them bragging-to-girlfriends rights, and the pate brisee for remaining delicious even when springing leaks aplenty–I can’t help but have a nagging feeling that there must be a better option.


On the 4th of July, in the first instance of pate brisee dismay, I only wanted to make pie, strawberry pie, as it could possibly be the only thing more American and wholly unloathable than apple. But, it being a barbeque, and a well-attended and eating-while-standing one at that, I got it in my head that I would make “hand pies” or wee fruit-enclosed turnovers rather than regular round pie. Could there be a better finger food? But turnovers, as the name may imply, require folding and a little stretching and turning and crimping and this crust, it wasn’t having it. The dozen or so that I got into the oven with no cracks or tears left it 20 minutes later looking as if they had starred in a slasher flick.

strawberry, slicedstrawberries, chopped

This past weekend, I had my second instance of pate brisae disappointment, when I made two nectarine and blackberry galettes. They did not wish to bend, they did not want to be folded into a round accordion and they sure as heck didn’t wish to contain overflowing berry juices. (Excuse me while I pause for a moment… nyum, berry juices…)

strawberry hand piesgalette fail

Should it be any consolation–and who are we kidding, it is–the busted hand pies look a heck of a lot like those on They were also insanely delicious, as were the galettes, and each were gone in 2.5 minutes flat, but my complaint isn’t with any of these things. My complaint is that I have known great doughs; wonderful, pliably, bendy and forgiving doughs and this ain’t them.

tiniest pastry brushgalette

Take, for instance, the one that I used to make empanadas in April. Was that a delight! Imagine swapping the salt for the sugar, and leaving leaky turnovers behind forever! How about that mushroom galette I made in November? This, too, was a dough deserving high praise. It bent and folded and baked as pretty as a picture. Why not use this one instead next time?

hand piesuurp

I hope to, and will give a detailed report, as soon as I can find some hapless types to be my next guinea pigs. I’m a tough girl to be friends with, as you can guess.

In the meanwhile, the recipes I used are below. They were delicious, indeed, and will not disappoint. But do expect some cracks and fissures, and if anyone asks you about them, be sure to flip your hair back a little and look them dead-on when you said “Oh, I meant to do that.”

cubed butter

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Pâte Brisée
Adapted from Martha Stewart

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour and salt; pulse to combine. Add butter, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some larger pieces remaining, about 10 seconds. (To mix by hand, combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, then cut in butter with a pastry blender.)

With machine running, add ice water through feed tube in a slow, steady stream, just until dough holds together without being wet or sticky. Do not process more than 30 seconds. Test by squeezing a small amount of dough together; if it is still too crumbly, add a bit more water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Turn out dough onto a clean work surface. Divide in half, and place each half on a piece of plastic wrap. Shape into flattened disks. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight. The dough can be frozen for up to 1 month; thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.

Strawberry Hand Pies
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Makes 12 large

3 cups strawberries, hulled and cut in half or quarters, depending on size
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
All-purpose flour, for work surface

1 recipe pâte brisée (above)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Sanding or demara sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line two baking sheets with Silpats (a French nonstick baking mat) or parchment paper. In a medium bowl, add strawberries, sugar, and cornstarch; stir to combine, set aside.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll one half of dough into a large rectangle, about 1/8-inch-thick. Using a 5-inch cookie cutter, cut out 6 rounds. Transfer rounds to prepared baking sheet.

Place about two tablespoons of the strawberry mixture onto one-half of each round. Lightly brush egg around the edge of the covered half of each round. Fold remaining dough over to enclose, forming a half moon. Gently press edges together to seal. Brush the tops of each pie with egg. Using a paring knife, slash the top of each pie. Sprinkle generously with sanding sugar.

Repeat this process with second half of dough and remaining filling on second baking sheet.

Bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer pies to a wire rack to cool slightly before serving. Or let cool completely, and store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 4 days.

Nectarine and Blackberry Galette
Adapted from Bon Appetit, July 2002

Makes one smallish galette, good for 4 to 6 people

1/2 recipe pâte brisée (above)

1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
3 medium nectarines, each pitted and cut into 16 slices
1/2 -pint basket blackberries
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional, still not sure if I liked it in there)
1 egg, beaten to blend (for glaze)
Raw or coarse sugar crystals

Peach preserves, heated

Roll out dough on lightly floured sheet of parchment paper to 12-inch round, turning dough occasionally to prevent sticking. Slide rimless baking sheet under parchment. Transfer dough on parchment to refrigerator. Chill until dough firms slightly, about 30 minutes.

Make filling: Stir sugar and cornstarch in medium bowl to blend. Mix in fruit and vanilla. Let stand until juices are released, stirring fruit occasionally, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Transfer baking sheet with dough to work surface. Let stand 8 minutes to allow dough to soften slightly if too firm to fold. Spoon fruit and juices into center of dough.

Arrange fruit in even 9-inch-diameter layer in center. Brush 2-inch border of dough with egg glaze. Lift about 2 inches of dough border and pinch to form vertical seam. Continue around tart, pinching seam every 2 inches to form standing border. Fold border down over fruit (center 6 inches of fruit remain uncovered). Brush folded border with egg glaze; sprinkle with raw sugar.

Place baking sheet with tart in oven. Bake until crust is golden brown and fruit filling is bubbling at edges, about 55 minutes. Remove from oven; slide large metal spatula under tart to loosen from parchment. Brush fruit with preserves. Slide tart onto rack. Cool 45 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream.

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55 comments on pate brisee, galette and hand pies

  1. Celeste

    Try again with pate sucree. It has more sugar and sometimes an egg in it. Either of those can give your dough more tenderness.

    I love tarts; they are just so beautiful AND tasty!!!

  2. deb

    Thanks Laurel and Celeste. I have sometimes had trouble with pate sucree for the same reason: it’s so much like a cookie, it does best when less is expected of it. But the Dorie recipe looks great–I agree that the missing ingredient must be vinegar or sour cream or lemon juice. These were in the crusts I mentioned above that worked so much better, they seem to add a tenderness.

  3. Mike

    For what it’s worth, my dough recipe is very similar but with slightly different proportions:
    2 cups all-purpose flour
    ¼ teaspoon salt
    ¼ teaspoon sugar
    1.5 sticks butter, cut into small pieces and frozen for ~1 hour
    3-7 Tbsp of ice water

    Also, I do not divide this into two separate mounds–I just make one big pie crust. *shrugs*

    Hope this helps!

  4. I’m putting in my vote for an empanada type dough, jazzed with a bit of sugar.

    I made the empanadas last night and boy were they a hit, even if they were in the oven a couple of minutes too long. Stupid late boyfriend.

    Delicious though. And the remaining filling will be joining me for lunch today.

  5. I made a galette the other day (greenmarket peaches, swoon…), and used an AMAZING recipe from Baking Illustrated for their “free form tart” dough. Roughly, it was 7 Tbs butter cut in to about a cup of flour, some sugar, etc, and 1/4 cup of cornmeal. Then the whole thing is bound up with 2 Tbs sour cream and 2 Tbs water. The cornmeal and sour cream combination made it. It was salty/sweet/buttery heaven, and I’m now getting requests to just make in to cookies.

  6. Thanks for reminding me that I need to get some pie crust made so that we can have cherry pie for dinner with the last of the sour cherries!

    BTW, I am in love with using about 20% lard in my crusts these days. Great flavor, texture and workability!

  7. Mandah

    It just so happens that I made a divine sour cherry pie last night, if I do say so myself! I was actually floored that the pie crust was so cooperative for once. They are fickle friends, aren’t they?

  8. Just pour salt in my wounds. You just had to bring up the empanadas didn’t you? You know they were stolen from me by those bitches in the “cool woman’s full moon hippie club”. Ugh. I am so angry!

    BTW those hand held strawberry thingy’s from the 4th of July are still being raved about by acupunturist and I think his buddy wants to steal you from Alex.

    ok, ciao!

  9. Jim

    “I’m a tough girl to be friends with, as you can guess.”

    Ah yes, life must be hard for your buddies. “Try this pastry.” “Now this one.” “Hey, want to come over for mushroom galettes?” Truly an arduous relationship.

  10. Lisa

    I’ve found that if you substitute about 1/2 of the butter with vegetable shortening (I know.. ICK) but still.. It gives the dough a lot more flexibility and bendiness.

  11. Next time Joc, protect your empanadas better!

    Do you think it’s the type of flour that you used, Deb? I’m sure the butter was cold enough. Maybe a quick pop in the freezer before combining into a ball. I’m pulling things out of the air that have helped me when making pie dough.

    The galette looks gorgeous, I wanted to lick the monitor.

  12. PS. I think these mouthwatering photos are going to SAVE me some calories this afternoon when I go to Starbucks… cause ain’t no way their baked goods are wooing me with images of your pâte brisée in my head. Uh uh.

  13. I’ve never baked my “hand pies” just fried them. Though my dough calls for a bit of vinegar. I don’t know anything about chemistry but I wonder if that helps keep the filling from oozing? Of course, I firmly believe it doesn’t matter what food looks like, as long as it tastes good!

  14. Marianne

    Deb, the dough recipes I have had the best luck with to make the type of galette/crostata that you have pictured is either the crostata dough in Johanne Killeen’s and George Hermon’s fabulous book, Cucina Simpatica or the crostata dough in the Barefoot Contessa’s apple crostata recipe in, I think, her second book. They are great, very pliable and very flaky.

  15. I highly recommend Alton’s pie crust recipe from “I Pie”. It’s never failed for me, and makes the most delicious, flakiest crust I’ve ever had – even beating out my Southern grandmother.

  16. I’ve used the hand pie dough recipe from Martha with success but I did liberally apply egg wash. The egg wash not only made the sugar stick better, improved the browning of the crust, but it seemed to give the dough a bit more security. As for when I made a gallette, I didn’t use much egg wash and I also didn’t let the pie crust cool before stuffing it.

  17. joanne

    I let a friend borrow my copy, but Jacques Pepin, had a recipe for an apple galette in his fruit dessert book, and his big black tome. I made them with much success, and enjoyment of 5 year olds.

  18. oh the hand pies look great! and thanks for sharing your defeats, as well as the victories… we all have them. and i’m convinced that there is some magical and slight range of temperature and humidity that pate brisee {and most of the world of baking} needs in order to come out ‘right’ but at least its tasty!

  19. I usually do my commenting on Flickr, but hey, it kind of goes here. My friend Jen got inspired and made the hand pies tonight. Here’s the result:

    Yay! They were super tasty!

    BTW, even though I didn’t do the cooking tonight, I really like the short crust pastry recipe as described in Delia Smith’s How to Cook. Always works. And I chill the whole deal in the fridge first. Works better for some reason. I got that from Nigella Lawson. And no, I’m not English. Just like English cookbooks!

  20. Come now, Deb, don’t be too hard on yourself (or rather on the dough). I love the “rustic” quality of these beauties. I think sometimes it’s important to let the final product have that homemade look so everyone knows to expect amazingly fresh and wholesome flavors instead of all the perservatives and additives in the store-bought (albeit, “perfect” looking) pies and tarts.

  21. I love your photography! And, as I read down the comments – I am so excited about everyones suggestions and links…I am going to be a busy girl come pie season!

  22. Amy

    Isn’t it great how forgiving taste can be, even if the appearance is not what we desired? And is it not also great that our loved ones whom we feed mostly just care about the taste (even though we want that perfect picture for the blog!)? Don’t worry, these were still picture perfect, especially with the image of freddy kreuger attacking your hand pies.

    Don’t sweat the small stuff, but expirimenting with different doughs can’t hurt.

  23. This is absolutely stunning! Might it be somewhat criminal to say that I almost licked my screen? I just received the Martha Stewart Baking Book and I cannot wait to dive in. Yours will probably the first recipe on the list (after the creme filled cake toppled with fruit that graces the cover).

    Thanks for keeping such an inspiring blog for this foodie!
    Cheers, Felicia

  24. Debbie

    Try the fraisage technique– it will make the dough less prone to cracking. Instead of using the food processor, try this: Place the dough on the table and smear about 1/4-c. forward with the palm of your hand to blend thoroughly. Repeat until the whole mixture has been blended. One additional fraisage of the dough should be sufficient, but if the ingredients are not quite blended, gather the dough together again into a ball and repeat the fraisage. (Text taken from, because I’m a bit lazy. And at work. There is a photo.). It’s important to have cold hands and surface for this to really work.

  25. Deb that looks SO delicious. Cracks and all, I still want to eat it!

    I generally add an egg to my pâte brisée. It makes it MUCH easier to deal with. I’ve used this kind of dough for tarts, but I’ve not really tried folding around things and making turnovers…

  26. Jelena

    That looks so good! I could eat the screen. I made a cherry galette using Martha’s pâte brisée, but it cracked on me too.

  27. Jay

    mmm…I wonder if this would be good using the lemon sable recipe from chocholate and zucchini.

    It’s wierd I swear I’ve made comments here before but I think they all died in the internet deadzone.

  28. Megan

    Maybe this recipe would prove better for containing the fruit? It offers baked as well as the deep fried (lip smacking) version. I have a bowl of ripe peaches at home moaning for this.

    Fried Peach Pies with Bourbon and Cinnamon from NYT

  29. Lucky me! I have a bag of nectarines, fresh from a farmer’s tree, and I will go pick blackberries tomorrow (can’t throw a cat around here without spearing it on a blackberry cane). I’m a gonna make this for our 15th(!) wedding anniversary dessert tomorrow. Mmm.

  30. Ruth Ann

    I live in the Basque region of spain and there are so many wild black berries so I found your recipe for Nectarine and Blackberry Galette and made 5 in various shapes. I invited my basque friends over for coffee and dessert this evening and the galettes were a huge success!! It is not typical to see this type of dessert in the pastelarias so it was fun to have my friends try this. The nectarines were such a wonderful combination and my pate brisee was so easy to work with. This recipe along with every other I have tried from you site are keepers! Agur/Adios/Bye

  31. ChristinaM

    I made this using nectarines and raspberries, and a prepared (fold out, not frozen) crust that I rolled thin. It worked really well. I found the extra chilling of the crust unnecessary because it was pre-chilled, not freshly made. Once I got the fruit and first round of egg wash on, tho, I chilled it briefly in the freezer to keep the pastry from tearing.

    Overall, very good. I topped mine with candied almonds. Next time I’d like to try peaches or apples, because the nectarines were just OK. Or maybe turn this into a savory tart using roasted tomatoes, potatoes and goat cheese tossed with a little egg custard (sorta quiche-y).

  32. Helena

    Hi Deb,
    I just made these strawberry handpies yesterday as a gift for our new neighbors and they turned out wonderfully. I didn’t have any of the troubles with the dough that you mentioned…no cracks and not too much filling leaked out either. I really liked that the dough was not too sweet.
    I’m from the South where our handpies are deepfried, so this baked version was a nice lighter alternative to all that grease.

  33. Kim

    Hi. I am looking for some galette advice/direction and I’m hoping you can give some direction. I’d like to make a small sour cherry galette but am unsure about the filling. I dont have a lot of cherries, 1-2 cups, maybe a little more. Thank you in advance!

  34. Valentina

    Whenever I make tarts and my dough is being a pain and won’t come together properly, I add a tablespoon or two of heavy cream. Always does the trick! (:

  35. This crust is singularly AMAZING! I didn’t run into any of the problems you encountered, which must be chalked up to beginner’s luck. The result was the flakiest, tenderest, most delicious crust I may have ever tasted, let alone baked. Love the fillings, too. I can’t wait to make variations with peaches, especially. Nectarines are grand, but there’s nothing like a July peach.

  36. Magnarama

    I’m curious about the science behind adding an acid element to pastry doughs (sour cream, yogurt, vinegar). I guess I’ll have to explore Alton Brown or Mark Bittman or some such to see if they can explain the what & why of adding them to dough.

    We’re having such amazing peaches this summer in the Carolinas that I’m going try this galette with them and a smattering of blackberries. What a gorgeous color combination they make in your pix!

  37. Cindy


    Have you tried Chez Pim’s technique I’ve been a pie-dough-phobe for years and I tried this technique the weekend before Thanksgiving. I was delighted: the dough was very pliable and pie crust sturdy and flaky.

    For my first attempt, I used the “standard” Land O’Lakes butter and it tasted good. For my second attempt, I used Challenge butter and boy, it was sooo buttery even though, according to the label, it just has 1% more saturated fat.

    The next time I do this, I plan to skip the folding stage and fraisage instead. I read that fraisage yields a flaky pie crust as well, so we shall see.


  38. Varsha

    I did add the 1/2 cup walnuts, then 1/2 cup choc chips and 1/2 cup of raisin-dried cranberry mix. I cut the sugar by 1/4 cup but could have cut the sugar by a full 1/2 cup or more since the nuts/chocolate/raisins/craisins are all sweet too. It was delicious and froze well for two weeks – then we ate it!

  39. Hi Deb! I made your nectarine galette with delicious-tasting results but horrid presentation last weekend. Reason? I think it was because I switched out ALL (mistake) of the white flour with wheat flour. Do you have any ideas for me how to make pate brisee come out well with wheat flour? I just read your post on the blueberry pancakes! Any advice is much appreciated!

  40. Hi, my Mom’s best pie recipe includes going out to our cherry tree and picking it fresh. Love your pics, and will send one.
    C A Holmes
    Healing with Food

  41. Sophie

    Hi Deb,
    For thanksgiving I will be making your silky smooth pumpkin pie, and I’m going to use the pie dough you recommended there. Since I only have to use half of the dough for the pie, can I use the other half for the galette?
    P.s– Loving the cookbook!!

  42. Hi Deb, I see this predates your Pie Crust 102 recipe post. I use that all time time (no food processor!) but was trying a pate brisee (with egg yolks and milk rather than water) from another cookbook. I ignored the instructions to run the whole dough through the food processor but I’m starting to think I should have, as it’s not holding together all that well (vs my experience with pie dough). I don’t think I added insufficient liquid based on other recipes I’ve seen, so maybe I should have run in the food processor. So, (um, after all that) my question is: is pate brisee meant to be a different type of dough than pie dough? It seems to be the case from poking around the internet, but I want to know what Deb has to say! (and I’m super-excited to meet you in Boston next week). Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. deb

      Hi Sara — I actually prefer the FP for tart doughs. With tart doughs, flakiness is not as noticeable so whatever gets lot in the FP does little harm in the long run. With traditional two-crust fruit pies or hand pies, you can really tell and I think the best flakiness and pie dough texture comes from working by hand. You can of course use the FP for pie doughs, or at least the butter-chopping/pulsing step. But then I’d recommend that you stir the cold water in by hand and if you’re going to end up doing it by hand anyway, it doesn’t seem worth the trouble to dirty the FP. Hope that clarifies.

  43. Perle Feldman

    Looking for the apple cranberry galette promised on the page with the butternut squash pie
    need some advice for the filling
    please help