Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Basic Pie Crust 101

It’s almost holiday pie season! If, like me, you’re in charge of baking pies for holiday gatherings, you probably already have your own tried and true pastry and pie recipes down to a science. If not, and you want to create pies that will make you a pie queen amongst your family and friends, read on. I will share with you my favorite crust recipe and, in the coming weeks, most requested pies of the season.

First things first. Let’s build a pie from the crust up. You have to have a flaky, flavorful crust to hold the filling in place, so let me help you master this.


Here are a few things you’ll NEED to create what I consider the perfect pie crust: 

• Cold Unsalted Butter
• Unbleached flour
• Salt
• Ice Cold Water
• Food processor
• Plastic Wrap
• Pastry cloth and rolling pin
• A good pie plate (I like Emile Henry pie plates, they’re a little pricey, but totally worth it. They bake very evenly, and can go from fridge or even freezer directly into a preheated oven without breaking.) 


I like to make two crusts at one time. Even if I don’t use both of them right away, I’ll have a spare to use later. During the holidays, I like to have extra on hand for those last minute invites. This recipe is for a double crust. You can easily cut it in half.  

Measure out 2 cups of flour and pour it into the food processor.

Add 1 teaspoon of salt and pulse for about 5 seconds.

Cut 2 cubes of cold unsalted butter into small pieces and add them to the flour/salt mixture.

Pulse in 5 second intervals about 4 times, or until the mixture is the consistency of small peas.

Place cubes of ice into a large glass measuring cup and add some water. Stir it around to make sure the water is icy cold. From the measuring container, measure out 1/4 cup cold water and add it slowly to the mixture through the tube of the food processor.

Turn processor switch to the ON position and mix until the dough starts to form a ball. It will take about 20 seconds before this happens. It should look like the dough in the above photo. Be careful not to over-mix.

Gather the dough together into 2 equal balls and place each one onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Flatten the balls into a round disc, wrap them up, and refrigerate for at least an hour, or up to three days. You can also freeze it for several months.

Take the dough out of the refrigerator or freezer and let it sit for several minutes, until its soft enough to work with, but still fairly cool to the touch.


Spread 3/4 cup of flour over the pastry cloth and rolling pin. Roll dough into a circle until it measures about 2-3 inches larger than the pie plate. Make sure the pie plate you will be using is close by.

Once you have rolled the dough out to the correct size, carefully roll it onto the rolling pin for transport to the pie plate.

Carefully drape the dough as close to the center of the plate as possible. You can easily shift it one way or the other into position once you have it in the plate.

Press the dough into the sides of the plate and flute the edges using your thumb and first two fingers.

Voila! You are now holding a perfect unbaked pie crust. Place a piece of plastic wrap over it and place it back in the fridge until you are ready to fill and bake. Now pat yourself on the back. Good job! If you’re not planning to bake a pie  the same day, you can freeze it until you’re ready.


Here’s the recipe:

Basic Butter Pie Crust
Makes two 9-crusts

2 cups unbleached flour + 3/4 cup for rolling out dough
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Cup (2 Sticks) Cold Unsalted Butter
1/4 Cup Ice Water

Add flour and salt to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse for 5-10 seconds just to combine. With butter cut into small pieces, add those to the flour. Pulse about 4 times for 5 seconds each time, until the mixture is the texture of small peas. Add 1/4 cup ice water slowly into the bowl through the feeder tube. (I always use 1/4 cup because I’ve determined it turns out perfectly, but the amount you need may be slightly less.) Turn the food processor on for about 20 seconds, or until the dough sticks together and gathers in large pieces. Gather the dough together into one large chunk and divide it into 2 equal balls. On a hard, flat surface, place each ball of dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and flatten them into round discs. Wrap them up and refrigerate for at least an hour before rolling out.

Come back here next week. I’ll have a fabulous pumpkin pie recipe for you to add to that crust.

pumpkin pie


jazgal said...

Nicely stepped out! I appreciate your leaving no step unrepresented - many How-Tos make assumptions that can leave you stumped! Lovely, as always!
Do you have any trouble with the gluten issue over the holidays, or just roll with it and get back on board afterwards?
I was pursuing that for awhile, and it certainly made a difference, but I'm back to my old ways (mostly) and paying the price. :(

Cindy said...

Thanks Jazgal! I may get back to gluten-free after the holidays, but I had the flu recently and all I seemed to crave was bread. I figured my body was trying to tell me something.

jazgal said...

Have to listen to that call! The latest I've heard is that it's the hard wheat that is overused nowadays that is causing the troubles with our bodies, so the softer wheat pastry flour may not have so much of an impact. I going with that for now. :) Besides, I DO want my holiday treats!