Soon the Pacific Northwest will be resplendent with beautiful local fruits and berries. For me, this means pie-making season. But before that all begins, I wanted to review some "foolpoof" pie crust recipes and demonstrate one of them (an all-butter crust).
All these recipes aim to achieve what can be a tricky proposition: a dough that's easy to handle and that consistently produces a tender, flaky crust. To accomplish this, most rely on an ingredient that inhibits gluten development (which can make a crust tough): vinegar, yogurt or sour cream, alcohol, or cake flour...
Vinegar and Egg
The vinegar-and-egg crust is one I have made on many occasion through the years. You can see it very finely demonstrated by the Pioneer Women. The resulting dough is sturdy and great for double-crust pies.
Another great, easy-to-handle crust is the Easy Pie Crust from Bon Appetit. This relies on cake flour to inhibit gluten development--and also works particularly well for double-crust pies.
Cooks Illustrated is of course all over the perfect pie crust recipe. Its most recent entry is the vodka crust. Like vinegar, the (flavorless) alcohol inhibits gluten development. But vodka also has the advantage of evaporating during cooking, which means you can add more liquid initially. The moister dough, the easier it is to handle and roll out. You can check out how to make this crust on Smitten Kitchen. I've not yet tried this, but it seems to have many fans.
Cook's Illustrated also offers up a "no-roll" recipe, where you mix a cream-cheese-containing dough and then press it into the pie plate.
I've not tried this yet either, but for roll-a-phobes it could be a perfect solution. Update: see how to make this easy and delicious crust here.
Baking Powder Pie Crust
The fine folks at King Arthur Flour have a "thoroughly reliable and tasty" pie crust that uses baking powder, which lifts and aerates the dough slightly without weakening it. It also uses buttermilk powder and a teaspoon of vinegar, providing acidity to minimize gluten development.
Here are the ingredients for the crust I'm going to demonstrate: an all-butter crust made in a food processor. It uses some yogurt for part of the liquid, which adds a bit of acid (but as much as using vinegar). This is the recipe I used happily last year for my summer pies.
I'll use a assistive device you might find handy--the pie crust-making bag. It helps me roll dough out more easily into a perfect circle. I'm using the 14" model, which works perfectly for a 9" pie crust. I also use a glass pie pan, which lets me see how the crust is progressing as the pie bakes.
~ Meanwhile, we'll get the other ingredients ready ~
7) Give the butter/flour mixture 6 to 8 one-second pulses. For a flaky pastry, you want some pea-sized pieces of butter remaining (as I'm trying to show here). If you over-process the butter, the crust's texture will be more like shortbread.
8) You can barely see it in this photo, but I've added a couple of ice cubes to the liquid to make sure it's cold when I incorporate it. Update: To clarify, I do not put the ice cubes into the food processor - they are just there to keep the liquid cold.
Drizzle in about half the liquid and give the mixture 3 one-second pulses.
Drizzle in the remaining liquid and repeat the 3 one-second pulses...
...when the dough has the right amount of moisture it will have a texture similar to that of wet sand. Pinch some of the dough together with your fingers: it should just hold together. If it doesn't hold together, add an additional tablespoon of water and repeat the 3 one-second pulses.
...and form into about a 6" disk. Wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. You can store the dough up to a couple of days like this; if so, let the dough soften a bit at room temperature (15 to 30 minutes) before rolling it out.
While the dough is chilling, we can get the 14" pie crust-making bag ready. Using the pie crust bag is completely optional, but because I find it handy that's what I'll show here. You might also consider:
- Rolling the dough out between sheets of parchment (as demonstrated with the savory cheese and sesame pastries)
- Or, simply, on a floured counter (the way my mother-in-law has been rolling out superb pie crusts for decades).
12) The photo doesn't capture this clearly, but what I've done is unzipped one side of the bag, put that on the pie pan, and now I'm peeling off the other side. If you purchase a crust-making bag, the instructions include drawings that show this more clearly.
14) Fold down the overhand of the dough to make a clean edge. Because the bag helped me roll out such an even circle, I don't need to trim this up at all. But if I did need to clean it up, I'd use some kitchen shears.
At this point, I normally chill the crust again in the fridge, wrap it in plastic wrap, and then store it until I'm ready to use it (up to a couple of days). If I plan to store the crust longer, I'll freeze it (in which case I wrap it in both plastic and foil).
All-butter Pie Crust
Makes a single 9" pie crust
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon yogurt
3 tablespoons cold water
- Cut the butter into 1/2" prices and freeze the pieces for at least 10 minutes.
- In a food processor, combine the flour, salt, and sugar. Process for a few seconds to combine.
- Mix together the yogurt and cold water in a small measuring cup.
- Into the food processor, add the chilled butter pieces. Give the flour/butter mixture 6 to 8 one-second pulses. You want some pea-sized pieces of butter remaining for a flaky crust (over-processing will result a shortbread-like texture).
- Add a couple of ice cubes to the liquid ingredients.
- Drizzle in half of the liquid into the food processor. Give the mixture 3 one-second pulses.
- Drizzle in the remaining liquid and repeat the 3 one-second pulses.
- Check the consistency of the dough. The texture should be similar to wet sand. Pinch a bit of the dough together with your fingers. If it holds together on its own, it has enough moisture. If it doesn't hold together, drizzle in an additional tablespoon of water and repeat the 3 one-second pulses.
- Turn the dough out on a work surface. Form into a 6" disk. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour (or up to a couple of days).
- If refrigerating the dough for more than a couple of hours, let stand at room temperature to soften a bit (15 to 30 minutes) before rolling out.
- Roll the dough out into a 12" circle and fit into a pie pan.
- Turn edges over and crimp decoratively.
I hope you enjoyed this recipe! To view more step-by-step recipes, see the complete recipe index.
If you'd like to subscribe to future posts, you can do it here.