Dessert and baking used to be a big omission from my cooking repetoire. Now, I’m all about pie.
But a good foundation is key, so behind every good pie is a good pie crust.
I started in working from scratch, but I used a recipe that was all shortening based. I’d never used shortening before. It was weird, gelatanous, and looked remarkably healthy (yes, we’re talking about pies, but even by pie standards)! I was thrilled to have made a crust from scratch, but it seemed to be missing something. I eventually dabbled in the world of making a butter-based crust, and the outcome is noticably different. How you ask? Texture. Big time. You want your pie to stand up to you and you want it to flake and crumble when you cut into it. The shortening-based crust wants to fit in this role, it really does. But in reality, its just kind of smushy and withdrawn. Plus, you get extra cool points when you make a butter-based crust, and we all knows that’s what really matters.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
- 1.5 sticks butter, very-cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (or you could use 2/3 cup of shortening)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 3-7 Tbsp ice water
(this will make a 9-inch diameter pie crust and be kind of deep. Your needs may vary depending on your speecific pie)
Cut the butter up into smallish cubes and put into the freezer for at least 15 minutes (an hour is preferable). My first reaction was why on earth would we do that? Wouldn’t melting it down make it easier to work with? Well, yes, it would. But good things don’t come easy. The idea here is that we’re going to mix the frozen butter in kind of coarsely later. By having the dough not be perfectly homogenous and well-mixed, the pockets of butter and not-so-much butter form the flakiness that we want in the final crust. Really!
Mix flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor.
So now that your butter has sat in the freezer long enough, add the butter to the dry ingredients and pulse just a few times (remember: coarse mixture, not super thorough and fine!). It should seem crumbly and coarse. Then, add the ice water one tablespoon at a time, pulsing the food processor between each tablespoon.
Pinch the dough. If it holds together, it’s ready. If not, add more water and repeat. You don’t want to over-water the dough or it will become mushy when flaky and airy is what we’re going for. The idea is that the dough holds together just enough for you to work with but not be so elastic that you could throw it in the air and make a pizza.
Now roll the dough together into a ball and loosely wrap it in wax paper. Try not to take terribly long as the dough is cold and you’d like it to stay that way for the sake of the butter. This step can be frustrating and you may need to add a little more water to the dough if its not holding together (just throw it back in the food processor!). You can always take a time out and throw it in the fridge, too. No worries! Its as easy as pie! Once you get it into a ball, just out in the fridge for 30 minutes or more so you and your crust can regain your strength.
Take your dough ball out of the fridge, lightly flour your surface, dough, and rolling pin. Roll the dough out nice and thin and then fold it (I fold it in half and then half again) up so you can transfer it to your pie pan without it all falling apart. Then, just trim any funny looking edges and do whatever you want to make it look nice (e.g. press the edges with a fork, crimp it, folder it over, whatever). Oh, and make the actual pie. 😉