pie dough

Butter Dough

I think pie dough is one of those things that people are really intimidated by. I always was. My dad made many a pie growing up, and always worked so quickly, frantically even, while making the dough. He stressed to me from an early age that you must always keep your dough cold. I can’t imagine that he ever measured a single ingredient, or that the dough was made the same twice, but I do remember that whatever he made was always stellar. Well, almost everything, with the exception of the avocado cheesecake he made for an avocado cooking contest. I know! I questioned it too; and I was only 7.

While there is a very simple 3-2-1 ratio to a perfect pie dough, it seems that every little old lady has her own “secret” technique or recipe, that she couldn’t possibly give away. I used to work with a friend who insisted that her mother made the best pie dough…with lard. Now, I’m no stranger to pork products; really I’m a huge fan. I came a little too close to actually getting the word ‘bacon’ tatooed on my inner arm, inside of a heart, and I wasn’t even intoxicated. In fact, that tatoo still hasn’t been totally ruled out.

But back to the pie dough… While I can appreciate the sly and clever use of a pork product like lard in a dough, if you are even slightly concerned with the state of your arteries, you might just want to go with good old fashioned butter. I do.

My dough making skills have surely evolved over time, through much trial and error. One of the very first pies I made recieved the following comment from an old lady (my competition and toughest critics): “That pie you made was great. But the crust wasn’t very flaky…”

Oh, no she didn’t. That was the last time I ever heard that, because I pretty much didn’t leave the kitchen until I got it right. You know, to where my Grandma would be proud. Aside from the actual ingredients that go into it (in my case butter, flour, salt, and water), it’s really all about how you make it.

Although I realize that there are all kinds of wonderful inventions like kitchen aids and food processors ou there, I still like to make some doughs completley by hand.In fact, I’ve been know to make croissants and danishes without the use of any machinery, but that is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone, and I only did it out of what I considered to be complete neccessity: My mixer had broken (due to repeated ass kickings from the aformentioned doughs) and I had regulars at the farmer’s market that were waiting for their Bucheron, portabello and basil croissants! I’ll be damned if was going to let them down.

In my kitchen, pie doughs and biscuits never see the bowl of a mixer or food processer. I highly recommend making this dough completley by hand, as it is crucial to the flakiness of your future dough, makes your biceps and pectoral muscles enviable, and makes you feel like you really know what you’re doing. Also, if you have it, use 1/2 cake or pastry flour, and half all purpose flour. This combination will make the flakiest crust. This recipe is big because I like to roll out the dough and freeze it for a pie on the fly…

Pie Dough:

Makes enough for 2 deep dish pies

  • 1# unsalted butter
  • 1 cups ice cold water
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 12 oz. all purpose flour
  • 12 oz cake or pastry flour
About a half hour before you start, cut up butter into 1″ cubes and put them in the freezer. Fill a bowl with ice, and pour water on top. Set aside.
Sift all of the flour onto your work surface. Spread it into an even rectangle, about 1/3″ deep. Scatter frozen butter on top of flour, and top with a little flour from your work surface so that the butter doesn’t stick to the rolling pin. Begin rolling. It won’t be easy at first, but eventually all of the butter will start flattening into long, thin pieces. Use a bench scraper to fold the flour/ butter back into a rectangle and continue rolling until most of the butter is flattened out. Make a well in the center and pour 1 cup of the ice water into the well. Using the bench scraper again, scoop the sides of the dough into the middle, cutting and mixing until the dough is a big shaggy mess. Pat into a rectangle and sprinkle the top with flour. Roll dough into a rectangle twice as large as what you began with, and make a business letter fold. Continue rolling and folding until dough is cohessive. It may not look totally done, but trust me it is. The less you handle the dough, the flakier it will be. Chill before using. Roll to 1/8″ thickness.

57 Responses to “Perfect All Butter Pie Dough”

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