Today, we are going to talk about pie. Specifically, the pie dough portion!
Does making homemade pie dough from scratch scare you? Well, it shouldn’t. You know why? Because it has three ingredients:
The three ingredients are: flour, butter, and water. And really, water doesn’t really count, because you have that anyway.
Making pie dough should not be a scary thing. It is ridiculously simple to make and can be made ahead of time and frozen for any spur of the moment pie cravings. I *guarantee*, that if you try this pie dough once with your next pie baking excursion, you will not be disappointed. It is WAY better than those trans-fat laden “roll and go” things they pass off as refrigerated pie dough (In the cylindrical tube… you all know what I am talking about!).
So let’s get started.
First you need to some flour. For a slightly healthier version, you will need 1 cup all purpose flour and 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour. (As a future dietitian, I just had to sneak a little fiber in there somehow!)
All you do is put the flour in a large bowl… that’s it! No sifting necessary! Next, come the butter: 10.5 Tablespoons of butter to be exact!
But first, I need to talk to you all about the importance of fat in pie dough. The fat that is in pie dough, whether it be shortening or butter, if necessary in for that perfect pie dough flakiness and tenderness that everyone remembers. The more SOLID fat you have, the more flaky the pie crust will be. And the SOFTER the fat is, the more tender it will be.
Well, shortening (100% fat) will give you those perfect flakes you have always wanted. But shortening doesn’t get soft at room temperature; it stays a hard block aka: not soft. Shortening cannot give you that little bit on tenderness that is ever-so-needed in the perfect pie crust.
Butter, however, has the best of both worlds. Butter is not 100% fat. Regular stick butter usually contains a minimum 80% butter fat content (by law), and the remaining 20% is water. Therefore, with that extra water in there, butter will become softer at room temperature and can add that little extra bit tenderness to the party.
But if you REALLY want the perfect pie crust, a butter with a teeny bit higher fat percentage (let’s say around 84% butter fat) is more ideal for pie. Let’s face it, regular butter can get pretty soft, and if it gets too soft, it will not allow those flakey layers to form. But if you find butter with a little more fat, you can still get that hint of tenderness, without losing any of that flakiness.
Where can you find 84% fat butter? Well, I found this new product at Whole Foods yesterday! See, it even tells you the butterfat percentage right on the box! But if you can’t find this, those fancy European Style butters also have a higher butterfat content to make that perfect pie crust.
Rant over. Getting back to the pie: Take 10.5 tablespoons of very cold “pasture butter” and cut it into small slices like this:
This is honestly the “hardest” part of the whole pie making process. Work the butter into the flour using ONLY your fingertips! If you use the palm of your hand, the butter will warm too quickly and you know what that means (less flaky dough)! Using only a few pats of butter at a time, work the butter into the flour. To do this, I usually pinch the butter the flour together with my fingers, in order to get it all incorporated together. In the end, the dough should look like dry sand on the beach!
Once it is sand like, it is time to add the water. Make sure your water is ICE COLD! Begin by adding 3 Tablespoons of cold water to the sandy-flour mixture. Mix to combine with you hands. You want everything to come together in a nice ball of dough. If the mixture is still a little dry, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time until everything comes together.
Once you have your ball of dough, divide into two equal portions and wrap in plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator if planning on using dough within the next 1 to 2 days, or freeze dough for longer term storage.
See! That wasn’t so hard!