Monday, November 03, 2014

Pie Crust

There are many ways to handle the need for a pie crust. Pillsbury makes rolled out pie dough circles that are pretty good in a pinch. The really old way is to use lard, but most lard available is hydrogenated and I suspect that hydrogenated lard is no better for us than hydrogenated vegetable oil (like Crisco) due to probably trans fats. Julia Child would recommend butter and that is the way I usually go if I'm making pie dough from scratch.

When I was about 9 or 10 years old I wanted to make pies. Pie was my Dad's favorite dessert after all. Before I even set foot into the kitchen, my Mom had me read the four or five pages, with photo illustrations, on how to make a good pie crust. I think the book was the Fannie Farmer one.

I remember that attention was paid to using ice water, being gentle in handling the ingredients, cutting the shortening into the flour mixture until it looked the size of dried peas and sprinkling on the ice water a tablespoon at a time while gathering the moistened flour bits with a fork. It does make a nice flaky crust.

Recently, within the last few years, I've been using a Martha Stewart recipe that uses very cold butter, cut into very small dice, with part frozen and part not, and it uses a food processor. It makes a delicious and flaky crust that browns nicely. Some of the butter bits end up being tiny and some are larger than those dried peas of old, but it ends up producing a crust that gets raves.

Since this is the holiday season, you may want to bookmark this for those holiday pies.

Food Processor Pie Crust from Martha Stewart Test Kitchen
makes 2 disks

2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces, divided
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup ice water

Freeze 3/4 of the butter pieces in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet until hard, at least 30 minutes. Refrigerate the other 1/4 of the pieces. The frozen pieces stay chunky after being pulsed, creating steam pockets when baked (the key to flakiness) and the refrigerated bits get worked into the pastry, giving it a tender texture.

Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor work bowl. Add refrigerated butter (the smaller amount of the butter bits). Pulse to combine, about 10 times. Add frozen butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with some blueberry-sized clumps.

With the processor off, add the ice water. Immediately pulse until water is just incorporated, about 10 times. Squeeze a small amount of dough to make sure it holds together. Pulse a few times more if needed. When you squeeze the dough it should remain crumbly, but come together. Don't pulse it so long that it forms a ball. Adding water while the processor is running  and over-pulsing are bad ideas... could lead to tough dough.
Lay out 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Empty half the dough onto each piece. Bring edges of wrap together to gather dough and form a round mass. Press the dough this way to form a rough round mass, and press on top of the wrap to form a disk. The processed dough should resemble uneven crumbs. When you empty the mixture from the processor bowl out onto the plastic wrap, some pieces will be tiny, others will be in clumps. That is perfect! The gathered plastic wrap method of forming the disk simultaneously has you gathering the crumbs into a cohesive dough and shaping it.

Roll out disks, still wrapped in plastic, to 1/2 inch thick rounds, about 8 inches in diameter. Rounds this size will chill more quickly that hockey-puck sized ones and will soften more uniformly when removed from the refrigerator.

Refrigerate at least 45 minutes and up to 2 days. Dough can be frozen up to 1 month. (Note: I froze half of the dough for a week and a half. By the time it had thawed, it was a bit gray, but it baked up golden, flaky and gorgeous.)


  1. I will bookmark although I tend to distrust Martha recipes.... but if you say its good I trust you !
    I conquered my fear of pie crusts so looking forward to try this one !

  2. I understand. After the Daring Baker chocolate crepe cake fiasco I try her stuff with trepidation, but I've made this one three times now and it is a good one.

  3. I'm with Baking Soda; I don't love M.S. recipes because I think she cooks in another dimension in which there is always nice music playing and Optimum Conditions. My life is never like that - and making a good pie crust is hard enough. However, it sounds right...

    I like hot water crusts these days, too, though. Those are quicker.