Perfect Pie Crust

Making the perfect pie crust used to be intimidating. Please note, used to be. I grew up watching Food Network and was so intimated by the way the chefs would speak of the pie dough and all the ways it could go wrong. It’s too tough, it’s under baked, its over worked, it could go on and on. There were competition shows with all these grandmothers with their unique recipes and techniques on how to make their version of perfect pie crust. If you go online and search “pie crust” or “pie dough,” you get a myriad of websites that share with you their secrets. Maybe that’s how you landed on this post and I suppose this post will just be another one among thousands out there.

Yet as intimidating as it seemed, I decided to finally give it a try. Since then, pie crust has been one of those recipes I can throw together without much thought. I use it for my Earl Grey Pie, my Apple Pie, and everything in between. And every time, it comes out beautiful and perfect. I can put together a pie crust in less than 5 minutes; it takes me longer to was the dishes after than it does to make the actual dough! The reason for that is you want to handle the dough as little as possible. Work fast, and keep it cold. That is the trick to the best dough.

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To start out, measure out the water and salt in a pyrex cup. Put it in the refrigerator to lower its temperature. On a cutting board, cube the butter into small pieces. I am making four pie crusts so the quantities you see in the photos are multiplied of what you would actually use. Remember, work fast to keep the butter cold. After cubing, I often move the butter into a bowl and back into the refrigerator to get the temperature down again. While it’s in the fridge, you can measure out the flour.

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Once the temperature of butter has been lowered, use a pastry cutter to cut in the butter to the flour. I use a pastry cutter as opposed to a food processor because you have more control over the dough when you are using a pastry cutter. A food processor can easily overwork the dough.

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Here, I am about halfway into the cutting in process. The butter should become smaller pebble sized as it is being worked into the flour. Remember, work fast, and keep it cold. You don’t want to use your hands as your body temperature will melt the butter.

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Once the butter resembles small pebbles, it is time to add in the water and salt. Pour it over the flour mixture and use the pastry cutter to mix the two to form a dough.

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This is what it looks like after. As I quadrupled the recipe, I have four pie doughs (one dough ball makes two pie crusts). You can still see chunks of butter within the dough. Those chunks are what will give the crust its flakiness.

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Wrap tightly in saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours before using.

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When the dough is set, unwrap and place on a floured surface. I am using this dough for tarts.

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Roll the dough out to about 1/8 inch thick. You can slightly see the marbled pattern that the chunks of butter creates throughout the dough. Beautiful. 

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Press the dough into the molds and cut off any excess. If the dough is still cold, you can always re-roll the excess into a dough ball, refrigerate it to firm up, and roll it back out. If the dough has already reached room temperature, it will not work as well.

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Once it is in the molds or pie tin, place it back in the refrigerator to firm up again. The pie dough needs to be really cold before baking.

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Right before you put the crust into the oven, prick the bottom with a fork. This will allow for even baking and for steam to be able to escape. If you are going to fill the pie for baking, you would do so now. However, with this one, I am blind baking it.

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To blind bake the pie, cut parchment paper squares to line the inside of the pie. I find it easiest when the parchment is first crumpled into a ball, then unrolled. This will give the paper more flexibility to fit into the crust. Fill the crusts with baking beans or rice, then bake.

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When the edges are golden brown, remove the baking weights and parchment paper. Put it back into the oven for an additional 5 minutes, until the inside of the pie is also golden brown.

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Now that is how a perfect pie crust should be.

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Look at all those layers the butter has created!

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And it’s golden brown all around, even on the bottom of the tart. Once it has slightly cooled, you can remove it from the molds and used however you would like!

Perfect Pie Crust

recipe from Tartine Bakery

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 c very cold water (I placed in freezer for 5-10 min)

1 1/2 c + 1 Tbsp flour

1/2 c + 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, cubed and chilled

Dissolve salt in water and keep refrigerated until needed. With a pastry blender, cut in the butter and flour until the butter is the size of small pebbles. Work as fast as possible. Add in the water and continue to cut it into the dough until it loosely holds together. Roll it together so that it holds, wrap in saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or overnight.

When ready to use, roll the dough out onto a floured surface. Press it into the pie crust or molds, then trim off any excess. Return to the refrigerator to firm up for 5-10 minutes. Then, prick the bottom of the pie with a fork to form small holes. Line the pie crust with parchment paper and fill with pie weights. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. Remove the pie weights and parchment paper and place back into the oven for 5-10 minutes, until the inside crust is browned and dry. Use as desired.