Last year, I decided, that in a world obsessed with cupcakes, I was going to become a master of pie. And all great pies start with a perfect, buttery, crust.
This mission was personal to me; a way of compensating for something I should have done when I was younger. When I was growing up, my grandparents had elderly neighbors named Frank and Esther. They came to all of our family gatherings and Esther always brought pie. She made so many different flavors, and all from scratch: Cherry, Apple, Lemon Meringue, Raisin Cream, Pumpkin, Frozen Lemonade. They were truly from another galaxy. Her crust was always perfect… melt in your mouth and crumbly. I know I will never taste pie like she made ever again.
When I was a teenager, all of the adults in my family would mention to the grandchildren that someone (anyone!) should go to Esther’s house and learn how she made her pies. None of us ever did. As an adult, it’s something I have always regretted.
I tried to make pie dough from scratch when I was in high school. It was a taste-less, soggy disaster. And since then, I hadn’t ever tried again. Now our family gatherings never have the excitement about dessert that they once did. It’s my goal to change that.
Baking, like most things in life, is something that becomes easier with repetition. So, I just decided, I’m going to make pie crust until I just know how. Until it’s easy.
I’m fairly certain that Esther made her crust with lard. I wasn’t prepared to do that, but I also didn’t want to use Crisco… because any food that doesn’t spoil just gives me the willies. *blaughewwwww*. That’s the noise I make when something grosses me out.
I’ve gotten good reviews from family and friends, but I still have a long way to go. (I need to attempt a meringue topped pie next.) For now, I am confident in sharing my technique for making a No-Fail All Butter Pie Crust. See below – and be sure to ask me any questions!
- 2 1/2 cups flour (can use gluten free flour)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, diced into small pieces, and refrigerated
- 6-8 TBSP cold water, in freezer
- Ideally, you will chop your butter and place it in the refrigerator, then measure your water and place it in a small bowl and put in the freezer before you begin dealing with the dry ingredients. To achieve a flaky crust, it is very important that the fat (butter) stay cold and not melt during the mixing process. By keeping these two ingredients as cold as long possible, you are on your way to ensuring success.
- In a large mixing bowl, mix the flour, salt and sugar. Get your butter and dump it into the dry ingredients. Toss the flour around to lightly coat the butter (I find this makes the next step easier).
- Now, get in there with your hands. You will read recipes where people mix dough in a food processor but I don't believe in that method. You need to know how dough feels, to judge when it's mixed. Combine the butter and the flour by rubbing them together with your finger tips... once the larger pieces are broken up, take handful and rub your palms together to break up the butter further. Remember, you don't want to the butter to melt so work quickly. You want a consistency like soft sand, or cornmeal.
- Now get the water. To start, add 4 Tbsp to the flour and mix with your hands. The dough should not be damp, it should only stick together. Add more water, slowly, in small amounts, until all of the flour comes together in one ball.
- Separate the dough into 2 equal sized balls, wrap them in cling wrap, and let rest in the refrigerator a minimum of 30 minutes before rolling out for crust. Roll out and bake as directed in any pie recipe.
- The dough can also be frozen for up to 1 month. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before use.