How to Make Perfect Pie Crust

How to Make Perfect Pie Crust

Thanksgiving is the holiday known for pies. Pumpkin pie. Pecan pie. Pecan bourbon pie. Chocolate pecan pie. Apple pie. Sweet potato pie. You get the picture. Unfortunately, pie crust vexes so many people that often pies are purchased, or baked using a premade pie crust. Well, since it’s only a couple of weeks until Thanksgiving, I want to make your dreams of homemade pie crust come true. I absolutely adore pies, mostly because of the crust, if I’m being honest. (Weird, since I really only love cupcakes for the frosting. Hmm, what does this mean? Are there food psychologists out there?) Most families have a standard recipe. My mom’s recipe, from my great aunt, uses all shortening as the fat (I believe the index card actually calls for “oleo”), some recipes use half shortening/half butter, and there are some that use all butter. I have tried all of the varieties, and I never really had a preference until I tried this crust (all butter) for my blueberry pie. Talk about love at first… taste? It’s by far my favorite version and my standby.

Below is a step-by-step tutorial guiding you through preparing the pie crust. The two keys to fabulous crust are to keep everything COLD, and to work FAST. I have included two versions: how to make the dough if you have a food processor (my favorite way), as well how to do it by hand (with a neat trick for the butter!). Now, get acquainted with the pie dough because you’ll need it for the pies that you’ll find here the rest of the week! How does pecan and a slightly non-traditional pumpkin sound?

(You will find the recipe with the ingredient quantities at the bottom of this post.)

Method A: Food Processor

Step 1: Cut the butter into small cubes and place in freezer for at least 15 minutes.

Step 2: Combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor and briefly pulse to combine.

Pie Crust: Flour and salt in the food processor

Step 3: Add the butter to the flour and salt mixture in the food processor.

Step 4: Pulse approximately 10 times (1-second pulses) until the mixture resembles coarse, shaggy crumbs, with some larger pieces and smaller pieces.

Step 5: Sprinkle the ice water over the mixture and process for no more than 20-30 seconds, until the dough clumps up (you will also notice a change in the sound of the food processor). If the mixture appears too dry, sprinkle more water on a teaspoon at a time and pulse until the dough sticks when pinched together.

Important Note: I always find that it is better to err on the side of a little too much water than not enough. You can sprinkle the dough with flour if necessary when you roll it out, but if the dough is too dry to begin with it will crack and fall apart when you try to roll it and transfer it to the pie dish.

Step 6: Dump the dough out onto a clean surface, shape it into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Method B: By Hand

Step 1: Freeze the butter (in block or stick form) for at least 30 minutes.

Step 2: In a medium-sized bowl whisk together the flour and salt.

Step 3: On the small holes of a box grater, quickly grate the butter.

Step 4: With your fingers, toss the butter together with the flour mixture until evenly coated.

Step 5: Sprinkle the water over the mixture and, using a rubber spatula, fold the mixture together. Press down on the dough with the spatula until the dough sticks together, again adding additional water as necessary.

Step 6: Dump the dough out onto a clean surface, shape it into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

All-Butter Pie Dough (Pâte Brisée)

Yield: Dough for a single-crust 9-inch pie (double the recipe for a double-crusted pie)

1¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons ice water, plus more if needed

Follow the directions above for assembling the pie crust either with a food processor or by hand. Be sure to refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour (up to 2 days) prior to rolling out.

Proceed with the pie recipe you are using.

(Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook)