Serves: Makes 1 (9-or 10-inch) pie shell
- 1 stick (4 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
- 3 to 4 tablespoons cold water
- 1¼ cups (6¼ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons sugar (omit for a savory crust)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
Procedures:Many bakers are so intimidated by the idea of making flaky pie crust that they either settle for the prepared dough from the grocery store or don't make pie at all. But, like all baking, pie crust is quite straightforward once you know how the ingredients work together. If you're new to pie dough, be sure to read the primer; then take a deep breath and follow the steps below for a beautifully crisp, golden brown, flaky pie crust. This recipe doesn't call for shortening, as the flavor, aroma, and color of an all-butter crust can't be beat. The drawback to butter is that it can soften quickly at room temperature, which is why it’s best to use the food processor to ensure great results every time. Weigh your dry ingredients if you can, but if you don't have a scale, you can measure by the dip-and-sweep method.
Place the butter pieces in a bowl or on a plate and freeze for at least 20 minutes. Refrigerate the water in a small measuring cup until needed.
Mix the dough: Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of the food processor. Process for 10 seconds to blend the ingredients. Add the frozen butter pieces and pulse 6 to 10 times (in 1-second bursts), until the butter and flour mixture looks like crushed crackers and peas.
Immediately transfer the butter-flour mixture to the large bowl. Sprinkle a tablespoon of the cold water over the mixture and fluff it in, then add another, and another, until 3 tablespoons have been added. Continue to fluff and stir 10 or 12 times. It will not be a cohesive dough at this point but a bowl of shaggy crumbs and clumps of dough. Before bringing the dough together, you need to test it for the correct moisture content. Take a handful of the mixture and squeeze firmly. Open your hand. If the clump falls apart and looks dry, remove any large, moist clumps from the bowl then add more water, one teaspoon at a time, sprinkling it over the top of the mixture and immediately stirring or mixing it in. Test again before adding any more water. Repeat, if needed. The dough is done when it holds together (even if a few small pieces fall off). If the butter feels soft and squishy, refrigerate before continuing. If the butter is still cold and firm, continue to the next step. (Note: Adding the liquid may also be done on low speed in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment-add three-fourths of the liquid, test for moistness, then add the remaining liquid if needed.)
Knead and chill the dough: Turn the dough onto a work surface and knead gently 3 to 6 times. If it won't come together and looks very dry, return it to the bowl and add another teaspoon or two of water (one at a time), mixing in as above, and try again. Flatten the dough into a 6- or 7-inch disk, wrap in plastic or parchment paper, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. This allows time for the dough to hydrate fully and for the butter to firm up again.
Roll the dough: If the dough has been refrigerated for more than 30 minutes, it may be very firm and hard and will crack if you try to roll it. Let it sit on the counter for 10 to 15 minutes until it is malleable but still cold. Dust your work surface generously with flour and set the disk on the flour. Dust the top with flour. Roll, turning the dough, until you've got a 14- to 15-inch circle about ⅛ inch thick. If at any point the dough becomes warm and sticky, gently fold it into quarters, unfold it onto a baking sheet and refrigerate for 15 minutes, or until the butter is firm again.
If a crack or hole forms while rolling, brush any flour away and patch the area.
Transfer the dough: Fold the dough circle into quarters, brushing off any excess flour as you fold. Put the point of the folded dough in the center of the pie pan, tart pan, or baking sheet and unfold the dough, lifting it slightly as necessary to ease it into the crevices of the pan. Do not stretch or pull the dough, which can cause thin spots, holes, and/or shrinkage during baking.
Trim the dough: Use a pair of kitchen scissors to trim the dough so it overhangs the edge of the pan by 1 inch. Fold the overhanging dough under itself around the pan edge, then crimp or form a decorative border. Chill for 30 minutes before baking.
Storing: The dough can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 days, or double-wrapped in plastic, slipped into a freezer bag, and frozen for up to 1 month.