I’m 35 years old and I’m intimidated by making pie.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, you’ll understand why there is such a paucity of pie recipes on this site. Oh sure, there was this strawberry rhubarb pie a few years ago and this sour cream apple pie as well. There were also a few things I’ve made with homemade pie dough: galettes, hand pies, empanandas, and tarts.
But pies themselves…I don’t know. I feel like it’s a two-fer that can go wrong – both the filling and the dough need to be great, right?
So that’s where this pie dough comes in. After all of the dough I’ve made in the past, this one was, by far, the best.
It’s an all butter dough made with cold water – no vodka here – and now that I’ve seen the super flakey results of this dough, you’ll never be able to convince me that shortening in pie dough is better. This dough yields such a flakey crust that my mom thought I made dessert with puff pastry over the weekend.
And she’s been around the dessert block once or twice.
Pie crust that looks like puff pastry? Heck yes, friends. The reason is the big chunks of butter suspended throughout the dough, a result that can only happen from making pie dough by hand.
Use your fingers, two knives, a pastry cutter – whatever. Just skip the machine, as tempting as it is. Not only do I find it amazingly gratifying to make such a simple and timeless kitchen staple by hand, but I have complete control over how big I leave the chunks of butter; whereas machines often over process the butter.
Bigger chunks of butter = really flakey pie dough.
The only other thing to consider, which you would already know if you’ve ever made any kind of pie dough, is to keep the dough extra cold before you bake it. If that means that you stick your unbaked pie or tart in the freezer for a couple minutes before baking it to chill a warmed dough that you’ve just rolled the heck out of, then do it.
When the oven heat hits the cold butter, water in the butter evaporates, creating pockets in the dough and that gives you your flakey crust.
So go on. Make a few batches of this dough for your upcoming holiday celebrations. Even if you make it now and freeze the dough for your Christmas pies, you’ll be ahead of the game.
Which means you’ll have more time to bake cookies. And nobody ever complained about having more time to make cookies, have they?
How I’ve Used this Pie Dough:
All Butter, Really Flakey Pie Dough
2 ½ cups (315 grams) flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp table salt
2 sticks (8 ounces or 1 cup) unsalted butter, cut into chunks and kept very cold before using
½ – ¾ cup very cold water
Measure the flour into a large, wide bowl. Whisk in the sugar and salt. Toss in the butter cubes and coat them all with the flour. Using your first 3 fingers of both hands, mash up the butter into smaller pieces, just bigger than the size of peas. You can also do this with two knives or a strong pastry blender. I prefer using my fingers.
Once the mixture looks sort of uniform, slightly crumbly, and the butter is broken up, stir in a ½ cup of water with a rubber spatula until the water is absorbed and the dough starts to come together. If the dough is still dry and crumbly, add the remaining ¼ cup of water. Bring the dough together with your hands until it forms a soft and almost loose ball.
Divide the pie dough in half and transfer one half to a sheet of plastic wrap and mold it into disk, about 1-inch thick. Use the plastic wrap to help bring the dough together, if needed. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Chill the dough disks in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before using. You can keep this dough in the fridge for up to a week or up to 2 months in the freezer before using.
Roll the dough directly from the refrigerator (do not allow it to come to room temperature – remember you need to keep the butter really cold) or if frozen, allow the dough to rest in the fridge for one day before rolling.
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
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