Ina Garten's Method To Keep Butter As Cold As Possible When Making Pie

Pie is one of those classic dessert options that never seems to get old. Whether your choice is a banana cream pie towering with whipped cream, a rustic Dutch apple pie packed with fruit, or a decadent peanut butter pie loaded with smooth, nutty filling, it's pretty hard to go wrong. It's often one of those desserts we tend to pick up at our local bakery, as the dessert can be a bit trickier to make at home than other options like cake or cookies. But baking a pie at home can be a delightful activity, as long as you've got some of the basics down. 

When it comes to successful pie-making, one area that deserves some attention is the crust. You're going to want to make sure it comes out delicate and flaky, as opposed to leaden and sodden. And as you may know, the best pie crusts are those that call for super-cold butter. Very cold butter, according to King Arthur Baking, stays in layers when incorporated into a crust, as opposed to melting into it immediately, which helps create flakiness as the butter releases steam in the oven. There are various tips and tricks one can employ to keep the butter cold right up until the moment when it's incorporated into the flour, but cooking show host and cookbook author Ina Garten employs one method that's easy and practical.

Garten dices her butter, then places it back in the fridge

One of the trickiest parts of making a pie can be turning out a flaky, golden crust. All too often, according to CBC, pie crust can turn out soggy, which detracts from the overall yumminess of the dessert. Some ways to ensure a flaky crust include blind baking it, brushing it with egg wash, and using thickeners such as cornstarch in fillings, but another indispensable step is using very cold butter in your crust, as opposed to room temperature. As explained by King Arthur Baking, cold butter will hold together when worked into the crust's other ingredients, until it hits the oven. 

There, it will release its moisture content as steam, creating tiny air pockets in the dough that result in flakiness once the crust is fully baked. It's important to maintain the butter's chill, a task achieved by pulsing the dough together in a food processor as well as chilling the dough again once it's been rolled out and placed into the pie tin. But Garten has her own trick. In a YouTube clip demonstrating an apple pie recipe, the Barefoot Contessa explains that she cubes the butter that she needs and places it in a bowl, and returns it to the fridge while she's getting the rest of the pie together. Then, when she's ready to make the crust, she simply grabs the cold butter. The result? A flaky, non-soggy pie crust — without too much fuss.