Friday, June 22, 2012

The Perfect Pie Crust

A few months ago a took a pie making class and learned how to make the perfect, basic pie crust that comes out delicious every time. This recipe is so easy to make and comes together in about 20 minutes.  It definitely conquered my fear of making a homemade pie crust from scratch! It's buttery, light, and flaky, and it makes a great base for sweet or savoury pies, quiches, tarts, or turnovers. The best part about this recipe is that it makes enough dough for 4-5 pie crusts, so you can store your leftover dough in the fridge or freezer until you're ready to whip up your next pie and save yourself some time!

Now let's make some pie...


5 cups all-purpose flour
1 lb. unsalted butter (4 cups or 2 blocks), slightly cold or at room temperature - I am not a fan of using shortening in baked goods as I find it bland and greasy, and I would rather use all natural butter. 
2 tsp. salt - If you use salted butter then omit the salt from the recipe
1 egg, plus enough cold water to make 1 cup

Step 1: Crack your egg into a liquid measuring cup and whisk until it is beaten. Add enough cold water into the liquid measure until it reaches 1 cup. Whisk to combine and set aside.

Step 2: In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Cut your butter blocks into smaller cubes and add them to the flour.

Step 3: Cut together the flour and butter with a pastry cutter or two butter knives, until the mixture is crumbly. There should be no large chunks of butter remaining. You may find it easier to use your hands to break down larger chunks of butter and feel when the mixture is crumbly, just make sure they are not too warm that they start to melt the butter.

This is what the finished flour and butter mixture should look like.

Step 4: Make a well in the flour/butter to add in the liquid. By making a well in the dry ingredients to add the liquid ingredients into, you increase the surface area and shorten the time it takes to mix the two together. This is especially important when making pastry because you don't want to overmix it.

Step 5: Pour the egg/water mixture into the flour/butter. Stir gently with a wooden spoon until a wet dough is formed.

Step 6: Use your hands to continue mixing together the dry and wet ingredients until it just comes together loosley. Don't knead like you would a bread dough, just gently "wipe" up the egg/water with the dough. If it is too dry, then add in a tiny bit more cold water.

Step 7: Take out one small grapefruit-size ball of dough per pie crust. This recipe will make enough dough for 4-5 pie crusts.

Step 8: Wrap each dough ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight before rolling out for a crust. If you aren't planning on making a pie right away, and to store the extra balls of dough, then place the plastic-wrapped balls in a freezer bag, or already rolled out into a pie plate, and freeze for up to 6 months. Defrost the dough completely before using.

Step 9: Sprinkle flour generously over your counter or work surface and rolling pin. I like to use a marble rolling pin because the dough doesn't stick as much to it and it's really heavy so it makes rolling easier. Place the chilled dough onto the surface and lightly dust with flour.

Step 10: Gently roll out the dough in an up-and-down motion. Flip and lightly flour the other side, then roll out again. You should be able to see streaks of butter in the dough at this point.

During this step you can also add some extra flavouring to your dough depending on the pie recipe you will be making with it. You can flavour pie dough for a sweet pie with finely zested lemon or orange rind, cocoa powder, cinnamon, or icing sugar, and for a savoury pie you could use basil, dill, cracked black pepper, finely grated parmesan cheese, etc. Simply sprinkle 1-2 tsp. of your desired flavouring/seasoning evenly onto the pie dough while you are rolling out and it will become incorporated into the dough.

Step 11: Fold up the dough into thirds. This will help to achieve a light and flaky pie crust by making layers of butter and flour in your dough. Lightly flour and roll out the folded dough again, and repeat the folding into thirds process 2-3 times in total.

Step 12: After all the rolling the pie dough should be light and thin, but strong. It should feel like cloth when you pick it up and hold it in your hands and there should be no large streaks of butter left in it. Roll it out in a big enough, circular piece so that it will fit into your pie plate. I usually put my pie plate onto the dough to measure. The dough should be at least a 2-3 inches bigger than the pie plate.

Step 13: Place your rolled out dough into your pie plate, pressing it evenly into the seams. There should be a 2-3 inch overhang of dough all around the pie plate. If there is extra dough overhang then just gently trim it off with a butter knife. If the dough is uneven or there isn't enough overhang in places, then use extra dough and patch it onto those spots by brushing each piece with a glue of whisked egg and water and pressing it on. I like using glass pie plates because it allows you to watch the crust as it bakes and check for an even golden brown.

Step 14: If you are making a single crust pie - one that doesn't have a top crust - then you will have to finish the edges of the crust now. If you were making a double crust pie then you would leave the overhang to be attached to the top pie crust. I was making a single crust pie with this crust, so to finish you use a pastry brush to brush a glue of whisked egg and water around the edge of the pie crust, on the side that is touching the pie plate (pictured). Fold the overhanging pie dough under (towards the outer edge of the pie plate) so that a smooth edge is formed. 

Step 15: Finish the pie crust by crimping the edges to your liking. I just used my thumb and two fingers to press all the way around the pie crust to create a ripple. You could use the tines of a fork and just press all along the edges of the pie, or leave it without any crimping for a more rustic look. You want the crust to be inside the pie plate and not overhanging the edges too much otherwise it will cook too fast and you will end up with burnt pie crust edges.

Now you're ready to fill and bake your pie using a recipe of your choice!

*Recipe from Jennifer Babcock

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