The Pretend Chef

Easy Pie Dough, shortcrust pastry

soft, tender and supple Easy pie dough

This easy pie dough recipe is a basic shortcrust pastry, it is one of the easiest pastries to make. The short crust pastry is simply made with flour, fat and water, a very important pastry because its usage is far reaching. It is suitable for most Nigerian pastries because it is soft and light but sturdy enough to hold any filling without breaking up or tearing. 

This easy pie dough is not too rich, buttery or bland rather it is crisp, a bit crumbly and melt in the mouth. The crust won’t compete with your fillings rather will act as the ultimate vessel for any of rich, delicate, sweet or savoury pies. It can be used for hand pies or turnovers, tarts, open pies, quiches, water cookies etc.

Easy pie dough

The fat for the easy pie dough can be a combination of butter and lard or shortening, butter impacts optimum flavour while lard or shortening makes the pastry flaky. In Nigeria, margarine is the fat of choice, you can add a pinch of nutmeg to improve the flavour. This cuts down a little on the flakiness and gives the Nigerian pastry its unique texture.

For sweet pies, sugar is added to the dough and sugar will impede gluten formation further creating a more melt in the mouth sweet pastry. Whole wheat flour can also be used in place of or in combination with plain all purpose flour, just make sure not to sift it.

This shortcrust easy pie dough is easy and a pleasure to make and use, just follow these simple rules in order to produce beautiful pastries over and over again.

Rules for making easy pie dough

  1. All the ingredients and if possible, the equipment must be very cold. You can put ice cubes in your water so that it will be very cold.
  2. If using a food processor or pastry cutter, the butter can be frozen for best results but if mixing by hand, leave the butter to soften a little.
  3. Warm or melted butter will give you a greasy pastry.frozen butter for Easy pie dough
  4. Blend flour and butter thoroughly till the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, but you should still be able to see some flecks of butter, before adding any liquid for short crumbs. 
  5. Be careful when adding water, add a little at a time, too much water encourages gluten formation and will make the pastry hard and chewy but with too little water, it will be overly crumbly.
  6. Once you press a bit of the dough and it sticks together, stop adding more water.
  7. Handle the dough as little as possible. Over handling and kneading will build gluten which will toughen the resulting pastry.
  8. Always rest your dough in the refrigerator or in a cool place before rolling to avoid shrinkage when baking.
  9. Roll with short light strokes.
  10. Roll from the middle of the dough, away from you then give a quarter turn and roll. Keep doing this till it reaches the desired thinness.
  11.  When rolling your dough, don’t stretch your pastry no matter how tempted you are. It will shrink during baking.
  12. Don’t bang your dough with the rolling pin when rolling it out, it could tear be gentle with it.
  13. If your dough is not rolling out properly, if it is bouncing back or tearing when rolled, it has not rested enough. Give it more resting time.
  14. Work quickly so that your dough stays cold till it enters the oven.
  15. Do not leave bits of dough on the counter top and rolling pin before rolling another piece of dough it will make it have a rough finish.
  16. Preheat your oven to the correct baking temperature before putting in your pastry, hot oven-cold dough
  17. A too low oven temperature will also cause shrinkage.

To make Easy pie dough

2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)
1/2 cup margarine
1/3 cup (6 tablespoons) ice cold water

By hand or Pastry cutter

Place flour in a large bowl, add salt and nutmeg, mix. 

Cut cold margarine into the flour. 

butter and flour for Easy pie dough

Rub in the margarine into the flour with your fingers, fork, knife or pastry cutter, until the mixture resembles large bread crumbs with some flecks or small chunks of margarine still visible.

butter and flour, rubbed in for Easy pie dough

Add half of the cold water and stir flour around, it will still be dry.

Add more water a little at a time stir and mix after each addition until you get the desired texture.

Easy pie dough being mixed

To check, press some dough between your fingers, if it sticks together, there is enough water. It should not be sticky, stretchy or wet.

Push, press and pat dough together to form a smooth ball. 

Easy pie dough

For Food processor

Place flour in the processor bowl, salt and nutmeg and mix. 

Easy pie dough flour

Cut cold margarine into the flour.  

frozen butter with flour in food processor for Easy pie dough

Pulse a few time, not more than 1 minute total until the margarine pieces are broken down into tiny bits and the mixture resembles breadcrumbs with some larger flecks or small chunks of margarine still visible. 

butter mixed into flour in food processor for Easy pie dough

Start adding ice-cold water a little at a time.

Easy pie dough mixing in food processor

Check if water is enough by pressing some dough between your fingers, if it sticks together, there is enough water.

Scrape the bowl and blades, give it a few more pulses and dump the crumbly dough onto a table. 

butter rubbed into flour for Easy pie dough

Press and push together until you get a smooth dough. 

Easy pie dough kneaded on a table

soft, tender and supple Easy pie dough

Flatten dough to form a disc and put in a plastic wrap, this helps it chill faster. Put in the refrigerator to chill for one hour or more.

soft, tender and supple Easy pie dough in cling film

Allow dough to warm up a bit before rolling.

If frozen, defrost in the refrigerator possibly overnight.

Use in your pie recipe.

To roll dough

Press dough lightly with the rolling pin at the centre and roll outwards.

Roll in one direction a couple of times then lift it up and rotate a quarter turn and roll. Keep rolling and rotating till you get your desired thickness.

Be patient and take your time.

If the dough is getting sticky, lift it up, sprinkle flour on the counter top, the rolling pin and lightly on top of the dough.


  • If using for a hand pie, you can add 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder as added insurance that it will hold up, I do not use baking powder.
  • Add 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg to improve the flavour of the margarine. 

This easy pie dough, a short crust pastry is used in the Nigerian meat pie, Nigerian fish pie, Easy Apple hand pie, Nigerian chicken pie, Nigeria sausage roll, Nigerian Vegetable pie and Nigerian Cornish Pasty.

What other tips for making the perfect pie dough do you know, do you have any questions or suggestions? Please leave a comment below to let me know.

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soft, tender and supple Easy pie dough

soft, tender and supple Easy pie dough

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