Once upon a time, I had no idea whatsoever how to make a pie that didn’t:
- Taste like salt
- Roll out
- Transfer to the pie plate
- Stick to the roller
- Generally fail in every way imaginable
Here is what I’ve learned about pie crusts and baking in general. It’s not like cooking. Stove top cooking, dutch oven cooking, soups, stews, stir fry, grilling, and sautéing, all that …it’s more of an art. That means you get a lot of liberal license to add a little more salt or pepper, maybe even sugar. You can cook some of them a little longer, slower, at higher temperatures. Basically, there’s some wiggle room.
Baking is more like chemistry. There is a formula. There are only so many formulas. You need PRECISE measurements, PRECISE temperatures, and you really do need to follow the instructions as closely as possible or else it will FAIL and you will hate it. Some alternative techniques are okay to work and I’ll explain that later. For now, just take this to heart. This is one of those areas that you want to follow really close until you are just in the mood to experiment because there is a slim chance that you might get lucky.
First off, you need some tools.
A big fat wooden rolling pin.
A pie plate worth using. Try not to buy into the Williams of Sonoma pretty deep dish pie plate. Your best bet here are the Pyrex pie plates.
Without these 4 items, don’t drive yourself nuts. Yes people make crusts without these all of the time. I never ever could. If you proceed, I can’t guaranty you’re safety…er…sanity.
2½ cups of All Purpose Flour (325g) preferably Gold Medal.
⅓ cup of Sugar (granulated) (67g)
¼ tsp Salt (regular table salt, not Kosher salt)
¼ cup of ice water (the pure stuff not the stuff from the faucet)
1 cup COLD UNSALTED butter cut into ½ inch dice pieces (that’s 2 sticks of butter boys)
(Graham did I ever tell you about the picture of you playing with a big bowl of batter? That’s a pie crust that Mama put only 1 butter stick in – it became edible playdough)
1 egg, beaten (optional for double-crust pie like cherry or apple)
That’s it. Not a lot here. But there are steps. So read on.
First of all. Measure it well. I’m sure by now you’ve seen that there’s about a dozen ways to measure out a cup of flour using a measuring cup. Like a dummy I used to a volumetric measuring cup, not knowing the problem (that’s the clear glass ones!) with measuring solids vs liquids. So switching to the metal measuring cups, I’ve seen where I’ve been told to hard pack the flour into the cup, to pour it into the measuring cup, to sift it, to poke it with a knife, etc. Basically, what you want here is quantity of flour grains, not bulks of air.
I suggest using Gold Medal flour.
Because that’s what Nana said to use, that’s why. Look up different flour weightsand it’ll make more sense.
If you want to use the measuring cup, the best advice I’ve seen is to use a spoon and gradually fill the measuring cup. When it is heaping, use the back side of a butter knife to flatten the top. Conversely, use the kitchen scale. I’ve included the weights here. This is actually pretty fast, and you don’t run into the problem trying to remember how many cups you’ve already put in. This is especially true if your 1 cup measuring cup is dirty, so you use the ½ cup and you have to count to 5 and about that time, someone needs a drink of water/go to the bathroom/wants a kiss/has an owie…
You don’t have to be as picky with small quantities like the salt here. Just use your ¼ tsp measuring spoon and scrape the top with the knife again.
You just want salt here. Not Kosher salt, not coarse salt, not weird colored salt. Pacific sea salt is fine. Just regular Morton’s Salt will do the trick here.
With the water, measure out a ¼ cup in the glass measuring cup. Put an ice cube or two into it. You want it to be cold. You will not be putting the ice in the crust.
Use unsalted butter. Unsalted. And if I forgot to say it. UNSALTED butter. Seriously. Don’t try to say,” I’ll just skip a step and not put the ¼ tsp salt in”. Don’t. Just don’t.I’m not picky about the brand here. Just don’t use the tubs. You want the butter sticks. You’re going to need 2 of them. Stick them in the freezer for about 10 minutes to get them cold.
Put the flour, the sugar, and the salt into the food processor fitted with the metal blade attachment. Pulse it a few times to mix it up.
Add the butter pieces. Pulse it a lot. The mixture will look like crumbs really quick.
Add the water (not the ice cubes). Pulse this several times. You might have to hold down the button and let it run for several seconds at a time. What you are looking for is the dough coming together. It will clump into a big ball that is being pushed around the entire food processor.
Unless you have a really hot kitchen you can roll this out right away without having to chill it.
Taste a small piece of it. Is it sweet? Salty? Bitter? If it’s done right, you will like the flavor. If it tastes salty now, it will taste much saltier after it cooks. Don’t proceed. Just start over.
Remove the dough, divide it in two, and shape each one into a disk.
Rolling it out.
- Flour the wooden board and the wooden rolling pin. (or the pastry cloth)
- The dough will feel sticky at first, but when it comes in contact with the flour, it will soften up and quick sticking to you. If it’s still sticky, add more flour to the surface. If ever it sticks to the wooden rolling pin, re-flour the pin.
- What you want to do here is roll from the center outwards going “around the clock”. There’s no real science here. You just want to get it relatively consistent. Remember to keep dusting the top with flour if it starts getting sticky.
- You do not want the crust too thick. It will get thicker when it bakes.
Getting a rolled out pie crust into the pie plate can be challenging. Some people fold it over the rolling pin. Some peel up the corners and fold them onto themselves in the center creating something small to pick up and move around. I actually do this one more. Using the rolling pin always has a way of getting sticky and caught on a surface on the pie plate and tearing it. That’s annoying.
Coat the pie plate in cooking spray. Lay the dough in the pie plate. Unfold it. You want to be sure that there’s plenty of dough around the base, but uniformly so. You don’t want to press an extra half inch of dough in here but you don’t want it going thin either. Otherwise it won’t dish out well later.
Create the sides. I use the two finger tucking method. This is one of those areas where there is some play in the technique. Just get it uniform around the rim of the pie plate.
There you have it. The pie crust. You already know it’s going to be good so don’t be scared. The real scary part is in the cooking. Filling for this pie crust is pretty easy to put together. To date, I’ve done Pumpkin, Pecan, and Cherry pretty well. I’m having a problem getting my apple pie to not be runny. If I ever figure that out, I’ll write it out for you here.
Just be sure that when you cook it, you make 3-4 aluminum foil covers – kind of like putting a fort around the top of the pie. Don’t buy the easy button pie crust cover. Mine never worked well and only caused the crust to burn faster. Aluminum foil loosely sitting over most of the crust will do the trick. Pull it off 15 min before you plan to pull it out.
I have to be honest. I haven’t tried it yet, but I plan to soon. If it works out, I’ll let you know.
I hope this helps you boys. I hope you can see some memories pop off of the screen here as I’ve written the steps. One day I’ll bet you surpass my baking knowledge and show me something incredible. I can’t wait to see how all of this unfolds. Just know you are loved.