Looking for the perfect pie crust? Better call Paul

Looking for the perfect pie crust? Better call Paul

  • Perhaps the single most important thing you can do to ensure a flaky crust is to make sure that everything, especially the butter and the water, are very cold. If the butter begins to warm, it will soften and lose its ability to form flakes. You want those flakes. Freezing the butter for 10 minutes before you begin can help prevent it warming.

  • Dissolve the salt in the water to make sure that it’s distributed evenly throughout the dough.

  • Use a combination of all-purpose and pastry flours to help make the dough both tender and easy to handle. (You can also use just all-purpose flour, but the lower protein pastry flour gives the dough a little extra tenderness).

  • Incorporate the butter with a technique called fraisage by smearing the cold butter into the flour using a rolling pin to form long sheets of dough that cook into a flaky crust. 

Note: You should have enough dough left over to make another small pie, a few tarts, or roll a top layer. This pie crust is perfect for just about any pie filling. The pre-bake time for the crust varies, depending on the bake time required for the filling. For example, cream fillings require a longer pre-bake time than fruit fillings.

Makes two 8-to 9-inch pie crusts.

Ingredients
¾ teaspoon salt
½ cup cold water
½ pound chilled unsalted butter, preferably cultured, such as Plugra
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour combined with 1 1/3 cups pastry flour or 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups rice or dried beans, for weighing down the dough

Tools
Rolling pin, scraper (optional), 8-to 9-inch pie pan, sheet pan, plastic wrap

Instructions

1. Prep the ingredients
  • Dissolve the salt in the water and place in the freezer until well chilled, 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Cut the butter into 1-inch cubes.
2. Make the pie dough

On a work surface, dump the flour. Scatter the butter cubes over the flour and toss gently to coat the butter with flour.

With a rolling pin, flatten the butter into the flour, smearing it away from you. Using a scraper or your hands, scrape the dough back together and continue rolling the butter into the flour two to three more times.  

Make a well in the center of the flour-butter mixture. Gradually add the salted water to the well, mixing with your hands. Scoop the sides of the dough into the center, mixing until the dough comes together. Do not over mix.

Shape the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour.

3. Shape the pie crust

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough from the center to the edge, turning occasionally, to form a 13-inch circle about ¼-inch thick. Carefully fold the dough into quarters and transfer to the pie pan. Unfold the dough and gently press it into the sides and bottom of the pan without stretching. Trim the excess dough. Wrap the pie shell in plastic wrap and return to the freezer for at least 30 minutes (or overnight).

4. Bake the pie crust

Heat the oven 350ºF.

With a fork, prick the pie crust on the bottom and sides. Line the pie shell with foil and fill with rice or dried beans to help prevent the dough from blistering. Bake until light golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove the beans, let cool; then fill with your favorite filling and bake your pie.