yes i did just say perfect pie crust.
look, i didn’t get my stripes for nothing. if there was an iron pie crust master competition, i’d get the prize. a pie crust smack-down, my paws would launch the winning smack. a project pie crust winner; me.
because first, to make the perfect pie crust you have to be a big-time pie lover. you have to prefer almost anything, sweet or otherwise, nestled within a tender-to-the-bite, melt-in-your-mouth, golden-to-the-eye crust.
and plus i’m not gonna lie; after being frustrated over and over, i went straight to the top. martha and i had a one on one, woman to cat sit down about her famous pâte brisée. (well, actually i sat down with her book, but who’s counting?). the point is, i nailed it, again and again and again and again. i’ve made a perfect pie crust so many times i could probably do it with one paw tied behind my back.
in fact, two summers ago i did it at approximately 2:00am prompted by 2 good friends, 1 husband, a large bowl of cheering blueberries, and a few too many before and after dinner drinks. they dared me. i won.
perfect pie crust.
perfect pie crust
here’s what you need for a 10 inch pie, top and bottom, or two 10 inch pies (or tarts if you must) bottoms only:
- 2 & 1/2 cups flour – you can use all-purpose for the entire lot, but my favorite is 1 & 3/4 cups all-purpose and 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour. the all-purpose can be white, or whole wheat made from soft winter white wheat.*
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) ice cold butter (just above frozen is best) chopped roughly into 1/2 to 3/4 inch pieces.
- 1/4 cup very cold water, plus more if needed
you know i’m a pilgrim, but even for me a food processor is essential to a perfect pie crust. you also need a rolling pin, room in the freezer (a cold fridge comes in 2nd) and helpful but not essential; a baking stone.
1. pulse flours and salt in a food processor.
2. add cubes of butter and pulse 5 or 6 times, just until the butter breaks up and distributes. you definitely want pieces of butter as big as a pea remaining. don’t pulse too much!
3. after the butter is broken up into pea size pieces, drizzle 1/4 cup of very cold water into the processor as you begin pulsing again. pulse just until the mixture is about to clump. add more cold water by the 1/2 tablespoonful if it is needed (with whole wheat flour i find i have to add 1 to 2 tablespoons more water). it’s crucial that you don’t over mix in this step. when it looks like this:
stop. pinch a bit between your thumb and fingers and if it sticks together, you’re golden.
4. scoop it out in equal (approximately) measure onto those two 15-inch long pieces of plastic wrap i told you to put out before we started.
don’t worry if it’s all crumbly-wumbly, that’s what is going to give your crust a tender bite. if i teach you one thing and one thing only about how to make the perfect pie crust, this would be it, and this would be the time to tell you it:
don’t fiddle wid’it!
5. just wrap those two crumbly-wumbly balls-o’-almost-dough up by gathering all the plastic wrap ends and bringing them together and giving it a little twist, dumpling style. here and only here is when you start to press the dough into a disk shape. don’t be afraid to press and shape where you need to, but do it quickly, it doesn’t have to be perfect. make a disk of dough by pressing and shaping through the plastic wrap.
until it looks like this:
6. wrap them up, like so.
and place them in the fridge for 30 minutes first, if you are going to make your pie right away. you can leave them in the fridge for up to 3 days, or in the freezer for up to a month before you make your pie. if you’re taking them out of an extended stint in the fridge, leave it at room temperature for 20 minutes before you start to roll it out. if frozen, start rolling after an hour out of freezer. **
7. basically you want your dough pliable enough to roll, but still pretty cold. sweep the rolling pin back and forth over the dough only once. give it a quarter turn and repeat, again, repeat. do this until you have a circle large enough to fit into your 10 inch pie dish with about an inch hanging over.
what i mean is; keep rolling until it’s big enough. don’t pull and stretch your dough, it should be big enough to sprawl all over your pie plate, be tucked gently into the bottom and fall peacefully over the sides. better to go a little bigger and cut off any excess with kitchen shears.***
8. i don’t obsess about perfectly crimped pie crust edges (a bit out-of the-ordinary for me, i know) which would have me going over and over the edge with my paws (ok, yes i’ve done it, in my rookie pie-making days). this, because i’d rather have a delicate crunch-melt in your mouth pie crust edge than a perfect looking hard-as-rock pie crust edge. your pie eaters will agree if you do the same, i’m sure.
this is one of those places where ‘rustic’ comes in handy.
9. if you are topping your pie, roll your top out in the same manner explained above. place the top on a large plate or baking sheet and put both in the freezer for 30 minutes, or a cold refrigerator for 1 hour. assemble a top-and-bottom pie by placing the top on (make sure it does not have a lot of excess over the bottom crust) and simply crimping both together quickly with your fingers. once your pie is filled and assembled place back in the freezer or fridge for the same length of time before baking.
if i teach you one other thing, and only one other thing only besides the don’t fiddle wid’it! ‘ thing that i taught you up there it’s all this bizness about keeping things cold! because butter that melts away only during the baking, and not a moment before, will render a perfectly flaky crust. and a cold crust going into the oven prevents a soggy bottom crust. a baking stone helps prevent a soggy bottom too, so if you have one, use it. preheat it with your oven and place your pie plate directly on it to bake.
…and that dear peeps, is the way to make a perfect pie crust!
*the photos above are of a crust made with 1 & 3/4 all-purpose soft white winter wheat flour and 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour.
**if you are in a pie crust making mood, make two batches and freeze for later. but never put both batches in the food processor at once. do them one after the other.
***don’t be alarmed by any excess. put in the freezer and make a mini pie or two when you have enough frozen up!