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How to Make Pie Dough (and why)

This is one of the basic skills necessary to become a good cook.   Learn this and you are on your way to greatness.

Why

Why, you ask.  Because I told you to…. Oh, sorry I digressed to my teen years and flashed on my father.  I’m thinking that we all should be able to make a killer pie crust from scratch with out looking at a recipe  in case we are unexpectedly on a cooking show?  No, how about, because it is way better than store bought dough in a tin pan and scratch pie crust “makes” a pot pie great, or a cherry pie amazing, or a hot apple pie melt in your mouth.  But I’m going to go with “Because I told you to…..

How it should end up

Are you used to your pie crust tasting like freezer burn?  Does it crumble into tiny pieces when you touch it with a fork?  Is it the last thing sitting on every one’s plate?  If you answered yes to any of these then you have been using store bought pie crust.

Your crust should be flakey not dry and it should melt in your mouth and enhance the flavor of your pie.  If you are thinking that every attempt you’ve made at your own pie crust has turned out tasting like cardboard, then you are trying too hard.

Method

Pie crust is only flour, butter, salt and water.  The rest is up to you.  The only way to screw this up is by overworking the dough or using ingredients that are too warm.

side bar – flour by its very nature contains a protein called gluten.  When the flour gets wet with any liquid, those glutens link together to form chains.  Those chains are great when you make bread because the more you work the dough, the more chains of gluten proteins are formed and those chains trap gases in the dough making it rise during cooking.  Bread flour has even more gluten in it making the bread dough rise more easily.  We don’t want our pie crust to rise at all.  We want it to be flaky and tender, not chewy and soft.  So…… don’t work the pie dough more than it takes to mix it together.

The butter – If you bake, you might soften your butter before you incorporate it into the batter.  DO NOT soften the butter with a pie crust.  In fact you want your butter as cold as you can get it and still cut it.  I have been known to slice my cold butter then put it in the freezer before cutting it into small bits that I barely distribute by mixing  thought out the  dough.  Your pieces of butter should look like small yellow peas in the flour.  These pieces of cold butter will melt and expand when cooked to make your pie crust flaky.  So chill all of your ingredients and the bowl before making your dough.

Ingredients – to make a double pie crust, or two single crusts, use

  • 2 1/2 cups of all – purpose or pastry flour
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter cut into pats
  • 1 t of salt or a little less, not more
  • 1 cup of ice water – you won’t need it all
Directions-
  • Chill all your ingredients and the work bowls in the freezer for 10-15 minutes
  • put the flour salt and butter pats into a chilled food processor bowl
  • Pulse until the butter is the size of small peas 10 -15 pulses- they don’t have to be consistent – less is more
  • Pour about a tablespoon of the ice water through the feed tube of your processor while pulsing once or twice
  • Depending on the conditions in your kitchen you will now need anywhere from a few tablespoons to 1/2 cup or more of the ice water
  • open the lid and squeeze some of the flour mixture in your hand.  If it sticks together you are done.  If not add a tablespoon or two of water and test again
  • when it “just” sticks together
  • dump the work bowl onto a large sheet of plastic wrap on your work bench
  • bring the sides of the plastic together and squeeze the dough
  • if at any point the mixture seems to be warming up or the butter is melting, put it back in the freezer for a few minutes
  • repeat bringing the plastic up from several sides until the dough comes together
  • Wrap the dough ball in the plastic tightly and put it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or more.
  • You are now ready to roll out your dough to make the crust
  • dust your work surface lightly with flour and turn out the dough
  • roll it out until it is just less than 1/4″ thick and about 2 inches bigger than your pie pan
  • use scissors or a knife to trim the extra dough
  • then pinch with your thumb and forefinger to crimp the edge

You can now finish your pie and feel secure in the fact that you are now a “scratch” baker – jughandle

In the following video the recipe is a little different from mine above.  I don’t use sugar and I use more butter.