We want to put a stop to pie-dough-related anxiety.
Requiring a handful of ingredients and a tiny bit of technique, piecrust only seems difficult. And homemade is light-years better than the store-bought alternative.
Shortening vs. Butter: We prefer to use butter--or a combination of butter and lard--for one very important reason: flavor. Shortening makes for a flaky crust that's easier to roll, but that's where its appeal ends. Lard accomplishes a similar feat, but tastes much better doing it. If you want to spurge, get high-fat European-style butter.
Keep It Cold: Before starting, chill everything: the mixing bowl, the flour, the cubed butter and the water. If the ingredients get too warm you'll end up with a homogeneous mass and, in turn, a leathery crust (yuck). Wrap the finished dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight. This gives the gluten time to relax and solidifies the butter (adding a small amount of vinegar also aids gluten relaxation). After you've rolled the dough and transferred it to the pie plate, let it refrigerate again for 15 minutes before baking.
Pastry Cutter vs. Food Processor: We've successfully made pie dough with both, but for fledgling dough makers, we prefer a pastry cutter.
Rolling: Though in a pinch you can roll dough out with a chilled bottle of wine (we've done it) or pick up a sturdy wooden dowel from the local hardware store, a French-style rolling pin is an affordable investment. Transfer the chilled disk of dough to a well-floured work surface and, working from the center outward, roll the dough into a thin round.
Tasting Table's recipe for flaky, buttery pie dough
Yield: Enough dough for 1 single-crust pie
Cook Time: n/a
All-purpose flour, 2¾ cups, plus extra for rolling
Granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon
Kosher salt, ¾ teaspoon
Cold unsalted butter, 10 tablespoons (cubed)
Cold rendered leaf lard, 5 tablespoons
Ice water, 3 to 4 tablespoons
Cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon
1. Make the crust: In a large bowl, combine the
- All-purpose flour
- Granulated sugar
- Kosher salt
2. Add the
- Cold unsalted butter cubes
- Cold rendered leaf lard
Using the pastry cutter or your fingers, work the butter and lard into the flour mixture until pea-size lumps form.
3. In another bowl, mix
- 3 tablespoons ice water
- Cider vinegar
Sprinkle the water-vinegar mixture over the flour mixture and use the wooden spoon to stir together until a dough begins to form (it will come together in large, shaggy shards--when you squeeze a small amount in your hand, it should hold together); add the additional tablespoon water if the dough looks dry. Turn the dough onto a large sheet of plastic wrap. Wrap the dough tightly with plastic wrap and press and lightly knead it into a round 1-inch thick disc. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up 3 days.
4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a round about 12 inches in diameter and ⅛ inch thick. Use in your favorite pie recipe.
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