Let’s be honest, pie crust can be a big ole pain. On the one hand, it can be a work of flaky, golden art, or it can be a shrunken disappointment that is burnt on the top and raw on the bottom. Why you gotta be like that pie crust?
Earlier this year, I set out to find the perfect crust. It took me until December, but I finally found a pie crust that I love. Better than never, right??
As with a lot of pastry, the method you use is just as important as the recipe you use, and this is especially true for pie crust. You can have a heart of gold and a great recipe, but if you blend the flour and butter together incorrectly, your pie crust will be less than stellar, and we are going for golden, flaky goodness!
Pastry nerd alert! Pie crusts are made using the cut in method, a method where cold fat (in this case butter) is cut into dry ingredients (in this case a mix of flour, sugar, and salt).
The goal is to have tiny butter pieces throughout the dough, that will melt and release steam while baking in the oven, creating lots of lovely flaky layers.
Most recipes say to cut in butter until “it resembles a coarse meal.” As I’ve said in my Cinnamon Pecan Scone post, I have no point of reference for coarse meal. After a lot of trial and (mostly ) error, I’ve found that my crusts turn out best when I the butter pieces are slightly smaller than pea-sized.
For my more visual learners, the video below can help!
You can see that I use a bench scraper, which takes longer, but I think it gives the most control. I’m also an old grandma at heart, so I like the nostalgia of making the crust completely by hand. You can also use a food processor, but be careful not to over mix because you’ll end up with a tough, flake-less crust.
Lastly, I add in enough water for the dough to just come together. I don’t want it so dry that it’s not forming a uniform dough, but I don’t want it super sticky either. Somewhere in the middle is best. It’s okay if you don’t use all the water in the recipe.
Last lastly, whether you use this crust for a galette or a pie, bake it on the bottom rack of the oven. This will prevent the dreaded raw bottom and burnt top situation.
Follow these steps and you will have a flaky, golden pie crust that you’ll actually look forward to eating.
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 Tbs. sugar
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ tsp lemon zest (optional)
- 12 Tbs. unsalted butter, cold and cubed
- ½ cup water, cold
- Stir together flour, sugar, and salt.
- On a large cutting board, combine flour mix and cubed butter. Using a pastry blender, cut butter into flour until the butter pieces are pea sized.
- Create a well in the center of the mixture and slowly add in water a little at a time until it just comes together in a dough. You may not need all the water. Knead 3 or 4 times and flatten into a disc. Cover in plastic wrap and allow to rest in the fridge for at least an hour before using.