Pie crust is one of those things that causes irrational fear. Even certain seasoned cooks I know quail at the thought of making one by hand, when it can be pulled together almost instantly with a food processor and only a little longer without. All you need is super-cold butter and water and you will not fail.
Now, some swear by a mixture of shortening and butter, and there are some Southern purists who will seek out lard. I use shortening so rarely that it goes bad in my pantry before I finish the tub, so I rely on the following all-butter recipe, taken from Ms. Martha Stewart. It makes two crusts, perfect for anything sweet or savory. Dare I suggest a chicken pot pie?
Foolproof Pie Crust
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, chilled (I cube the butter, then stick in the freezer for five minutes)
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- small bowl of ice water
- 2 gallon-size Ziploc bags
If you have a food processor:
Whir the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of the processor a few times to sift. Add the chilled butter cubes and pulse three seconds on, three seconds off about ten times or until the dough resembles moist cornmeal. Add 1/4 cup (that’s also 4 tablespoons) of ice water through the feed tube while continuing to pulse. The mixture will begin to clump; add 1 or 2 tablespoons more water if it’s still dry and crumbly, pulsing a few times between each addition.
If you don’t have a food processor:
Mix the flour, salt, and sugar with a fork in a large bowl. Add the chilled butter cubes and smoosh between your fingers into the flour until the butter chunks are the size of small peas. If you have a pastry blender, this speeds up the process, but I’ve done it by hand numerous times—don’t go out and buy one on my account. (Save up for the food processor instead; it’s infinitely more useful!) With this method, there will still be small bits of butter amongst the wet cornmeal-looking flour.
Using the bowl of a tablespoon, make four indentations in the flour/butter mixture and fill each of the indentations with 1 tablespoon each of freezing cold water. Use a fork or your hands to gently mix all together, drizzling more water over the dough just a little bit at a time until the dough holds its shape when you squeeze it with your hand.
Once the dough has come together:
Divide the dough into two equal portions for each of the Ziplocs, flattening and shaping into discs inside the bag. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour. (If you are freezing a portion of the dough, sometimes it’s easier to wrap in plastic wrap instead of Ziploc. Make sure there’s no air in the bag/make sure the plastic wrap is tight and then wrap in foil. It will keep in the freezer for about three months; thaw in the fridge the day before you roll it out.)
When it is time to roll out the crust, I like to use my Roul’Pat, but the reason for the plastic bag is thus: Cut the two long sides of the bag and sprinkle each side of the disc with flour. You can then roll out the crust within the bag, with no fear of it getting stuck on the rolling pin or tearing under its weight. We can all thank Alton Brown for this clever tip.
I rotate the crust every few rolls or so to keep it spreading evenly and thinly. Once it’s as big as you need it to be, you can lift one side of the bag up and gently dump it into your pie plate. Repeat with the second crust if you’re doing an enclosed pie.
Now go off and impress all your loved ones with your newfound skills—and don’t let me catch you skulking around the Pillsbury pie crust aisle ever again.