How to make pastry dough: It's more about technique than measurements


Store bought pie crust is perfectly okay. It is one short cut that I am willing to take. That being said I also think it is a shame that it seems that less and less people seem to know how to make a good pie crust from scratch. It is one of the simplest recipes, containing only flour, a pinch of salt, butter, and ice water. I almost never measure anything when it comes to making pie dough (of course I rarely measure for anything). The technique is much more important than the actual measurements.

When making pie dough it is important to follow one basic rule; everything should be kept as cold as possible. Begin by mixing your all-purpose flour with a pinch of salt (depending on how much flour you use. Two cups of flour is probably enough for one pie.) Cut your butter (probably around two sticks) into half inch cubes, and return it to the refrigerator to keep it cold. Use your fingers to mix the butter with the flour and salt one cube at a time. I know that I have enough butter in my flour when it starts to have the texture of grated parmesan cheese. Place the butter/flour mixture into the freezer and allow it to cool down.

Note: My mother and Aunt swear by butter flavored Crisco. I think Crisco has a very fake butter flavor and prefer actual butter. Margarine will work as well, and Lard works very well.

When the butter and flour mixture is cold, mix it with the coldest water possible until dough is formed. A coworker of mine used a cocktail shaker to strain ice water into the dough. You don’t want to mix ice with your pie dough but the closer the water is to freezing the flakier the pie crust will be. Avoid overworking the dough as you do no want to create much gluten or melt the butter. Once the dough is formed allow it to rest in the refrigerator for around half an hour before rolling it.

Note: The pie dough will keep indefinitely in a freezer if wrapped well in plastic wrap. My mother keeps a Tupperware container of the butter and flour mixture in the freezer and mixes it with water whenever she needs a pastry crust.

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