I’m pretty sure all home cooks are thoroughly confounded by some recipe, technique or kitchen task.
It could be working with yeast dough, deep frying, or pressing a candy thermometer into action. We all have them, these pesky little kitchen nemeses that we either can’t seem to get right or that we never even attempt because we’ve become convinced we’ll just screw it up anyway.
Mine is making hot chocolate (don’t ask) but I’m willing to bet that for at least some of you it’s pie crusts that have you stumped.
If you avoid baking pies because you don’t want to bother with the crust, scrap your old recipe and give this one a try. I don’t toss around superlatives lightly, so I mean it when I say that this pie crust recipe really is the only one you’ll ever need. It produces a buttery, flaky crust that is incredibly easy to work with.
Somewhere along the way, flaky pie crusts became synonymous with lard or shortening but this crust is all-butter and definitely the better for it.
Otherwise, the ingredients here aren’t anything unusual. It’s the technique that forms a tender crust with lots of flaky layers.
First, rub the butter into the flour by hand to create flat, little shards of flour-coated butter, adding just enough water to bring the dough together.
Don’t try to shortcut things by using a food processor or pastry blender. Instead, work the butter into the flour by making a sort of snapping motion with your fingers. This results in flakes of butter as opposed to the pebbled or sandy texture often described in other recipes.
Next, fold and roll the dough repeatedly, almost as though you were making puff pastry, to create those coveted layers.
If you’re like me, you are no stranger to pie dough that tears and needs patching or pinching back together. The folding and rolling process for this dough helps to prevent that, making for a supple dough that rolls out evenly and is a cinch to slide into the pie plate.
Another tip: don’t stretch your dough to fit the pie plate. Roll the dough out a little larger than the pie plate and then ease it into place. Once it’s positioned over the plate, I like to lift the edge of the dough with my right hand (I’m a leftie) then gently nudge it into place using the back of my left forefinger.
This dough doesn’t take long to make, but it does need a little time to chill before using. Don’t skip this step. I know it’s tempting, but the dough needs to rest.
If you’re making a single-crust pie and blind-baking the shell, chill the crust again after transferring it to the pie plate but before baking. This helps to prevent the crust from shrinking down into the pie plate.
If you’re making a double-crust pie, consider brushing the top crust with a little egg wash for a glossy finish to your pie.
Either way, don’t skimp on baking time. For maximum flavor, the finished crust should be a deep, golden brown, probably just a little darker than you think it ought to be.
Because this crust has no sugar, it works well for both sweet and savory pies. You can always sprinkle a little sugar across the top before baking if you want or try incorporating a bit of citrus zest or fresh herbs to the dough, this crust is a winner even without those extras. Stash an extra batch of dough in the freezer and baking pies will suddenly be as easy as, well, you know.
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks and Chez Pim. This recipe works well with different types of whole grain flour. Here, I've used a mixture of all-purpose and rye flour, but definitely play around with other types.
Extra pie dough with keep, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator for a few days or in the freezer for several months.
- scant 2/3 cup (75 g) rye flour
- 1 1/2 cups (175 g) all-purpose flour
- scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (8 oz) cold unsalted butter, cubed
- 1/3 cup (80 ml) ice-cold water
Mix both flours and the salt together in a medium sized mixing bowl. Add the butter cubes to the bowl and toss to coat with flour. Using your hands, cut the butter into the flour by making a snapping motion with your fingers. You are aiming for flat, little flecks of butter.
Next, add the water to the flour-butter mixture a little at a time, using a fork to gently combine everything together. You may need slightly more or less water depending on your particular flour, the humidity, etc. Add just enough to create a slightly shaggy, somewhat stiff mass of dough, making sure to get all the flour bits off the bottom of the bowl. You may need to use your hands to finish bringing everything together into a single ball of dough.
Flatten your dough ball slightly and wrap it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator (if it has been more than 30 minutes you may need to let it sit on the counter for a few minutes to soften slightly) and place on a floured cutting board. Roll the dough into rectangle, then fold the rectangle into thirds as though folding a letter to fit into an envelope.
Turn the folded dough packet 90 degrees so that the seams are on the sides and the rough edges are at top and bottom. Roll the dough into another rectangle, making sure to lightly flour your board and rolling pin as necessary.
Repeat the folding and rolling process at least two more times. Your dough should become increasingly more supple and easy to work with.
When you have folded and rolled the dough at least three times, cut the dough into two pieces and shape each into a rounded disk. Wrap both pieces of dough in plastic and pop them back into the refrigerator for another 30 minutes.
After the dough has rested, roll one portion into a circle roughly 12" in diameter. Transfer the dough to a pie plate and use the back of your forefinger to very gently fit the dough to the contours of the pan. Trim off any excess dough.
Add your filling, then roll out the second portion of dough and center it over the top of the pie. If you have a lot of excess dough, you can trim it with scissors. If you have just a little excess, simply fold it under the edge of the bottom crust. Press and crimp the top and bottom crusts together to seal them.
Brush the top of the crust with egg wash, if using. Cut a few slits into the top of the pie to allow steam to escape and bake.
The time and temperature will vary according to the type of pie but, in general, your finished crust should be a deep, golden brown.