For several years I thought pie dough was a complete mystery. I had no idea – and thought I had no hope – of making a decent pie. From my perspective, there’s two tricks that will take a mediocre pie and make it exceptional.
The secret to great pie crust is mixing the flour and fat into a dough without melting the butter into the dough. This is a key principle – you want to join the two together without melting them into a consistent mess. Both trick help this:
- Start with frozen butter and grate it (we shared this back in 2011 but it’s worth repeating). After grating it, I chill it in the freezer again for a few minutes.
- Avoid touching the dough with your hands, especially at the start. Distribute the dough by tossing in a bowl and use the handle of a wooden spoon to start to bring the dough together. When it won’t come together any further, chill your hands under very cold water before forming it into a ball while handling as little as possible.
Here’s a few shots of the process, followed by the recipe. First, the grated butter (you could also chill the bowl if you wanted):
The butter was just tossed with the flour. Almost a third of the flour attached to the butter at this point:
I added a small bit of ice water and tossed it some more (the dough is almost together and had not been touched or stirred yet):
The dough – if you look closely you can see it almost looks camouflaged (there are separate pieces of butter and flour) yet it’s very much a ball:
The rolled out crust on top of a pizza stone (this just made it easier to transfer the tart I was making):
If you’re making a covered pie, double the following recipe. If you’re making a pie without a top of a large tart, a single batch will easily do:
Pie Dough – Ingredients
When it comes to baking, I weigh most of the ingredients to create the best results. A small kitchen scale is very affordable and extremely useful when baking, fermenting and cooking in general:
- 5 ounces (140 grams) all-purpose flour
- 2.5 ounces (70 grams) frozen butter, grated
- 0.25 teaspoon salt
- 2 ounces (56 grams) water
Pie Dough – Instructions
- Mix the salt and flour
- Grate the butter into a large bowl. Add flour (you may want to do this in 2-3 parts) and toss until the butter won’t absorb any more flour.
- Scatter 25% of the water across as much surface area of the butter as you can (it will attract more flour). Toss for the butter to absorb as much of the flour as possible and repeat with the water.
- When the flour and butter stops mixing in, use the back of a spoon to mix it together (a few quick stirs will result in most of the flour forming into the dough). Don’t overwork.
- Dump the dough onto a floured surface. Chill your hands in cold water, dry them and form a ball while touching the dough as little as possible.
- Cover the dough with a cloth and place in fridge for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.
And that’s it!
Do you have any secrets for making dough?