The days are cooler. The leaves are changing color in preparation to fall from the trees. Fall is definitely here Up North. Well, I guess maybe technically fall won’t be here for a couple more days, but that little fact has seemingly escaped the notice of my fall cravings. I’ve baked my last cherry cobbler for awhile; now is the time to move on to pie.
Pie, with all of its crust-laden glory, demands center stage once the seasonal winds of change blow cooler. Because for me? A pie is only as good as the crust. I’ll eat pretty much any filling inside of a pie, so long as it is enveloped in a good, flaky crust.
Well, that’s not totally true. I’ll eat pretty much any kind of pie, as evidenced by my penchant for the gas station variety in college. But now that I’m
older more mature wiser infinitely cooler than I was then, a good, homemade crust never hurts matters.
Now, I realize that the thought of making your own, homemade pie dough may sound kind of redundant, what will all of the store bought varieties available. And I’m certainly not knocking store bought pie dough. Not at all. Store bought dough is good in a pinch–I usually have some tucked in the freezer for emergencies. But believe me when I tell you, the effort necessary to make homemade pie pastry is so worth it for no other reason than the taste is just. so. good!
This particular recipe comes together so quickly, that you really have no excuse not to try to make your own. Oh! Did I mention that you don’t need a pastry blender or have to criss-cross knives or any of that funny stuff? No. Excuses.
None. Zilch. Nada. Excuses begone!
Besides! This super easy version of homemade pie dough has only four ingredients. Four. You’ll need all-purpose flour, unsalted butter, salt, and iced water.
Start by quartering the sticks of cold butter by cutting them in half lengthwise. Then hold both pieces together, and turn them over a quarter turn.
Cut the butter in half lengthwise again, this time perpendicular to the first cut, making 4 long strips of butter.
Cut the butter quarters widthwise into 1/2-inch cubes.
Place the butter cubes into a bowl, and pop it in the freezer for about an hour. Freezing the butter keeps it from melting from the centrifugal force of the food processor, which is a good thing; cold fats in pie dough amplify the flakiness factor during the baking process.
Once the butter cubes are frozen, pull out your food processor. If you’re like me, you’ll “borrow” one that hasn’t seen the light of day since the ’80′s from your mom. Pretty snazzy, eh? I really don’t believe that anyone should ever have to buy a brand new food processor. If you don’t have one and your mom doesn’t have one lying around–no worries! Just ask a friend or neighbor to borrow their idle appliance, or pick one up at a thrift store or garage sale. Barely used food processors are lurking everywhere.
Dump the flour and salt into the bowl of the food processor. Be sure fluff the flour up a bit with a fork or whisk before measuring it. Place the lid of the food processor, and pulse the flour 2-3 times to distribute the salt.
Add the frozen butter cubes to the flour mixture.
Use a fork to gently toss the butter in the flour mixture to coat.
Continue pulsing the food processor to work the butter into the flour mixture, until the butter is the size of peas or smaller. My vintage food process can accomplish this in around 8 to 12 pulses.
Turn the food processor on high, and slowly pour the iced water into the feed tube, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together.
Whatever you do, do not add more than 4 tablespoons of iced water. The dough may take a few seconds to come together after the last of the water is added. Believe me, I sweat it every time thinking that this will be the time it doesn’t work, but it always does. As soon as the dough clumps into a big ball, turn off the food processor.
Ta-da! Thank goodness for semi-modern appliances.
Place the dough onto a clean, floured surface.
Divide the dough in have with a bench cutter or sharp knife. Gently roll each half into a ball.
Gently flatten each ball of dough into a 1/2 -inch thick disk.
Wrap each disk tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Refrigeration at this point serves 2 purposes:
- It gives the butter time to firm up again after being warmed in the food processor and by the heat of your hands, and
- The chill time allows the flour to absorb the water added to the dough.
Once the dough has had time to chill-out a bit, it is ready to be used in a favorite pie recipe. Unwrap one disk and place it onto a floured surface and sprinkle a little extra flour on top.
To roll the dough into a (fairly) even circle, start with the rolling pin in the center of the disk, and roll outward away from yourself.
Turn the disk one-quarter turn clockwise, and roll from the center out again. Then repeat the process until the disk is rolled out to the desired size.
A good general rule for pie dough is to roll the pastry between 1 1/2 to 2 inches wider than the pie plate.
Place the rolling pin near the edge of the dough, and gently roll the dough over the rolling pin so that it can be easily picked up and transferred to the pie plate.
Hold the rolling pin and pastry over the pie plate, and allow it to unroll over the plate to line it.
See how the dough is draped in the pie plate, but not hugging the contours of the plate? I need to fix that or else the pastry will rip when I fill it.
Gently lift up the edges of the dough all around the pie plate, letting the weight of the dough bring it to the bottom of the plate.
Once the dough has filled the contours of the pie plate, it is ready to be filled and baked according to your recipe.
See how easy that was? You can totally do this! After a few pies, you’ll be a pro!
Then you won’t need to have store bought pie dough stashed in the freezer, because you’ll be able stock the freezer with your own. Just make the pie dough, wrap it in plastic wrap, seal it in a zippered freezer bag, then pop it in the freezer for up to two months. To use it, let the dough thaw in the refrigerator overnight, or on the kitchen counter for an hour or so before rolling out.
No Excuses Pie Dough
Enough for a generous 9-inch Double Crust Pie, a 10-inch double crust pie or two 10-inch tarts
1 ½ C. all-purpose flour
¾ C. (12 Tbs.) unsalted butter
½ tsp. salt
4 Tbs. iced water
- Cut butter into ½ inch cubes and freeze for at least one hour.
- Place the flour and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 2-3 times (1 second pulses) to mix.
- Add the frozen butter cubes to the food processor bowl, and toss with a fork to coat. Continue pulsing to work the butter into the flour mixture, until the butter is the size of small peas. (‘About 8-12 pulses, depending on the size of the motor on the food processor.)
- While the food processor is running on high, slowly add the iced water through the feed tube, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together, and a stiff dough forms. (This process usually takes 15-20 seconds total in my ‘80’s era food processor.)
- Dump dough onto a clean, floured surface. Divide dough in half. Lightly shape each half into a ball, and then pat the ball into a ½ inch tall disk. Wrap the disks snugly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes before rolling out.
- Once dough has chilled, roll out dough on a lightly floured surface and use in your favorite pie recipe. OR keep the dough disks tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, and then place them in a freezer bag. Dough can be frozen for up to a month. Just let dough thaw overnight on the refrigerator before rolling out.