It’s just not Thanksgiving without a piecrust made from scratch. That rich, buttery flavor and flaky texture makes for a happy memory that stays with us all year long. Whether it’s apple, pecan, or pumpkin pie, a homemade piecrust is an essential part of the holiday season.
For some reason, it seems like people get nervous and shy away from dough, maybe thinking it’s harder to make than it actually is. Well fear not, friends, for it’s time to cure your pie-dough-phobia with this simple how-to tutorial!
1. Gather all your ingredients and measure everything out. Make sure you have everything you need before you get started. There’s nothing worse than starting a recipe before realizing you’re out of sugar.
It’s important that your butter and shortening (the fats) are very cold and cubed into small chunks. If working in a hot room (often the case during the holidays with all the cooking and baking that’s going on), it’s helpful to make sure that all your ingredients (and even the equipment you’re using) are nice and cold. If necessary, you can place everything in the fridge to chill.
2. Begin by pulsing together the flour, sugar, and salt in the chilled bowl of a food processor. Next, add the butter (and the shortening, if you’re using it). Pulse only until you have coarse crumbs, around the size of peas. The picture shown here illustrates the correct texture. The secret is to not overwork the butter or to pulverize it to bits. You want the little chunks of cold butter because they will create layers in the dough, so when the butter melts in the oven and makes steam pockets, you end up with that wonderful, flaky texture.
At this point, you’re ready to add your cold water. For safe measure, add a few ice cubes to the water in your measuring cup to make sure it’s extra cold. If we haven’t emphasized this enough, cold is the key to your flaky success!
Now, slowly add the very cold water and pulse until the dough just comes together. You’ll know when it just holds together when rubbed between your fingers. It should not be pulsed to the point where it all comes together in a ball. This should not take more than 20 seconds. The mixture should still be slightly crumbly.
3. Remove the dough from the food processor, flour your work surface, and knead just for a few moments. Divide the dough in half, and form each half into a flat, round disc. Be careful not to overwork. Wrap in plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.
Paula’s Perfect Pie Crust
Makes 2 (9-inch) pie crusts
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon fine salt
3 tablespoons granulated white sugar
¼ cup vegetable shortening, cold
12 tablespoons butter, cold and cubed
¼ cup to ½ cup ice water
In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, salt and sugar. Add the shortening, and break it up with your hands as you start to coat it all up with the flour. Add the cold butter cubes, and work it into the flour with your hands or a pastry cutter. Work it quickly, so the butter doesn’t get too soft, until the mixture is crumbly, like very coarse cornmeal. Add the ice water, a little at a time, until the mixture comes together forming a dough. Bring the dough together into a ball.
When it comes together stop working it otherwise the dough will get over-worked and tough. Divide the dough in half and flatten it slightly to form a disc shape. Wrap each disc in plastic, and chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. On a floured surface, roll each disc out into a 10 to 11-inch circle to make a 9-inch pie.