We admit it, we’ve gone a little overboard in recent years in search of the perfect pie crust.
We’ve experimented with the food processor, resorted to adding vodka instead of water to our dough, all in the quest for perfection. We’ve come full circle back to a humble basic pie dough.
The method relies on a hands-on approach to work the butter into the flour and hand patting and turning the dough to create layers without over working the dough. The results are a tender-tasty-flaky crust — every time. And, importantly to us — it’s a method that is as friendly to first time pie makers as those of us looking to return to a simpler method with consistent results. No fancy gadgets required. All you need is a bowl and a plastic scraper. Easy cleanup (woohoo!)
Basic Pie Dough
Makes one 9-inch double-crust pie shell
Want an easy way to remember our recipe without having to look it up again? 3 + 2 + 1! 3 parts flour 2 parts butter 1 part ice water.
2 sticks (½ pound) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and frozen for 15 minutes
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
½ cup ice water
Place the flour in a large mixing bowl, add the chilled butter and toss to coat the butter with flour. Quickly rub the butter with the flour between your fingers to make flat pieces of butter. Take care not to overwork the butter – you want to work each piece, but should still have pea-sized lumps of the butter in the flour. Sprinkle in the salt and sugar and toss with your fingers to mix. Add the water and using a plastic scraper and a quick a folding motion, mix the dough just until it begins to clump together. The dough will look sandy and lumpy at this point and that’s okay.
Turn the dough out onto a work surface dusted with flour and gently pat out the dough into a flat disk about an 1-inch thick. Fold the dough in on itself until the dough just begins to hold together and is no longer sandy on the edges. Once the dough begins to come together, fold dough in half, turn it a quarter-turn and pat it out flat again to an inch thick. Repeat this process 4 to 5 more times. Butter will still be visible in the dough — it’s these pieces of butter that result in a flaky dough! Divide the dough in half and flatten each piece into a disk one more time and wrap them in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to an hour before rolling out.
Always use cold ingredients — ice cold butter and ice water are your friends in pie dough making.
Don’t skimp on the refrigerator time required in the recipe before rolling out. While the dough rests in the fridge the water is absorbed in the dough and the butter firms up. A properly rested and chilled dough relaxes, making it easier to roll out.
To make pie making easier, we usually make the dough the day before we plan to make pies to spread out the work. Dough tightly wrapped in plastic wrap will last in the fridge up to 2 days (after that it becomes an unappealing gry color) or throw it in the freezer for up to 3 months. Want to get a jump on the Thanksgiving feast madness? Make pie dough this weekend and store in the freezer until ready to use. Allow dough to thaw in the fridge before rolling.
Ready to Roll?
Less is more when it comes to the amount of flour used to roll out the dough. You need just enough so the dough doesn’t stick to your board or your rolling pin. Brush off excess flour with a pastry brush (or your hands) before placing your dough in your pie pan.
If dough becomes too soft and floppy to work with while you are rolling out (first time pie makers sometimes have this problem) put the dough on a baking sheet and return it to the fridge until it becomes firm enough to work with. The butter in the dough needs to remain firm (not melted and completely incorporated into the dough) for flakiness.
Keep the dough moving! After every couple rolls give the dough a quarter turn. Every quarter turn is an opportunity to make sure the dough is not sticking to your work surface. Dough stuck to the rolling pin? Rub off the stuck dough with a little flour until it is clean and then add a light sprinkle of flour to the top of your dough. Your dough is stuck to your work surface? A long metal spatula is a pie rookie’s best friend. Using short strokes run the spatula between the dough and the work surface until it releases. Dust the work surface with flour and continue rolling.
Hey, don’t throw away those leftover bits of dough. Here’s a fun delicious Pastry Cookie you can make from the scraps!
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