My grandmother made great pies. The best. Her crust was without compare. And my mom felt she never lived up to my grandmother’s excellence. To this day, she is now definitely in grandmother status and she holds her mom’s crust above her own. Now, I suspect this might have to do with how some things become better and more amazing over time. It’s said once, it’s said a dozen times, and then it becomes the lore in the family, i.e. Grandma made the best pie crust ever.
So that could be happening, but also, perfecting pie and pie crust in paticular is one of those things that has taken years for me to feel comfortable with. And with all that pressure, who can blame?! Never the less, it’s caused me to do a considerable amount of research into what makes a good crust. And on the Riggin, I had nearly a life long opportunity to perfect the craft and art.
Here’s what I know:
1. Everything has to be cold. I’ve even heard of chilling the flour, but I don’t go that far. Mostly we are talking cold butter and ice water.
2. Pulsing the flour and butter in a food processor is the easiest method I’ve found, although it can be done by hand as well.
3. Incorporating the water in a separate bowl with a spatula does two things. a) Prevents overmixing. b) Keeps the warmth of your hands away from the butter as long as possible.
4. Both vodka and/or vinegar do work to prevent the development of gluten, but I don’t always have vodka on hand and I dislike the feint taste of vinegar in the final product.
5. It’s a must to chill the dough once it’s shaped or partly rolled. Period.
6. When rolling use as little flour as possible but enough to keep things from sticking.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup ice cold water (or more)
Pulse the flour, salt, and butter in a food processor until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 30 seconds. Alternately, with your hands, combine the flour, salt, and butter on the countertop by using the palm of your hands to smear the butter into the flour. In the end, it should resemble a coarse meal with no big patches of butter.
Transfer to a medium-sized bowl and add the water. Combine with a wooden spoon or spatula by folding in from the edges until the dough just forms a workable ball. Adding more water is better than less. Form into two discs, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 30 minutes or overnight. Follow instructions for the specific recipe to either blind bake the crust or bake with the pie filling.
Makes 2 crusts
For pie recipes on the blog, try a couple of savory examples like Beef and Guinness Pie or Chicken, Musthroom, and Kale Pot Pie. Or for the fruity side of life, here’s a Fresh Berry Pie.
Soaking up every last bit of the summer weather… See you outside!