All-Purpose 3-2-1 Dough

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes enough dough to fill


    pie shells

Appears in

This dough works every time if you weigh your flour; if you measure flour by the cup, you may need to add a little extra beyond the 2 cups recommended. But as long as it rolls out nicely without too much sticking, that’s all that matters.

“3-2-1” refers to the proportion of flour to fat to liquid, in that order. Thus, 12 ounces flour, 8 ounces fat, and 4 ounces water, an easy ratio if that fat is in the form of lard or shortening (or in a close metric version, which is even easier and shows the beauty of metrics as well as of ratios: 300 grams flour, 200 grams fat, 100 grams water). If those 8 ounces/200 grams of fat are butter, you need to take into account that butter contains roughly 15 percent water, a little more than an ounce, so you need to add less water, roughly 2½ ounces/70 grams, or just enough to bring the flour and fat together.

Doughs happen because of the gluten in flour, the protein that extends into long elastic strands, which link up to form bread dough and pasta dough. Fat shortens those strands, preventing the gluten from linking up, to give us something tender rather than chewy, crust rather than bread. Working the dough is necessary because you need some gluten formation so that it holds together; this is why dough must be so thoroughly kneaded. But work this dough too much, create too much gluten, and you can toughen the crust. Using ice water helps keep the fat in a solid rather than a liquid state.

But it’s really as simple as 1, 2, 3.

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  • 15 ounces/450 grams all-purpose flour
  • 10 ounces/300 grams unsalted butter, lard, shortening, or any combination thereof, cut into small pieces, cold or even frozen
  • 5 ounces/150 grams (¼ to ½ cup) ice water (this quantity depends on the fat—whole butter has water in it, so you need only ounces/70 grams; shortening and lard do not contain water so you need the full 4 ounces/100 grams)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt


Combine the flour and cold fat in a mixing bowl and rub the fat between your fingers until you have small beads of fat and plenty of pea-size chunks. (If you’re making a bigger batch, this can be done in a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, but remember not to paddle too much after you add the water, just enough so that the dough comes together.) Add the ice water gradually, and the salt, and mix gently, just until combined—if you work the dough too hard it will become tough. Shape into two equal-size disks, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes or up to 2 days, until you’re ready to roll.