Recipe: Basic Pie Crust

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This is an amazingly versatile recipe for a double-crust pie. It can be used for sweet or savory pies. It can be all butter, all leaf lard, all shortening, or any combination. For savory pies you can even use beef suet.

From: How to Build a Better Pie: Sweet and Savory Recipes for Flaky Crusts, Toppers, and the Things in Between.

Serves Makes enough dough for a double crust piePrep time: 20 minutesCook time: depends on your pie

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons white sugar
2 sticks cold unsalted butter
cup strained ice water, plus 2 to 3 tablespoons
mixing bowl
fork
plastic wrap

Preparation:

Choose a good-size bowl, one where both of your hands can fit in and work. You will be mixing the crust with your hands.

Pour all dry ingredients into the bowl and mix together in the bowl with your hands.

Cut the cold butter into 1⁄4-inch (6 mm) pieces. It is very important that your butter be cold; its ability to maintain its shape is what lends flakiness to the crust. You can freeze it, but I find refrigerated butter to be quite sufficient.

Scatter the butter over the dry ingredients. Incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients by pinching each piece. Do not break up the butter beyond this; it should keep its shape. You are really just introducing them to each other.

As you work, cup your hands and lift all the dry ingredients from the bottom of the bowl to the top. Do this a few times so you aren’t stuck with dry ingredients at the bottom of the bowl. (The butter should not get warm or create tiny little butter pebbles.The goal is for the fat to have presence in the crust. It has a lot of work to do; leave it some backbone.)

Strain the ice water so ice doesn’t end up in the crust. (Ice water is used for the same reason cold butter is: to keep the fat separate through the process.) You can also pour the ice water through a slotted spoon held over the bowl.

Slowly pour the water into the bowl. Start with 1⁄4 cup of water, and pour it around the outside of the bowl. Never sloppily dump wet ingredients into dry ingredients, especially for a crust. The water should be evenly distributed. Push the crust around with the fork, moving from the outside of the bowl. Add the second 1⁄4 cup (60 ml) of water and repeat.

When mixing the ingredients, make sure you are incorporating all ingredients on the bottom of the bowl. You’ve added 1⁄2 cup of water. It is almost there, but you probably need to add at least 2 tablespoons (30 ml) more water. After adding the extra water, push the crust more with your fork.

Note: In warmer months you may not need the last tablespoons (30 ml) of water because of the humid air. Always slowly add water to a crust before adding any more. Once you add it, there is no going back. Now, a splash of water from your fingertips or a dusting of flour can tip the balance in the crust texture. Say your crust is almost together but just needs a little shove, or it’s beginning to feel a bit tacky. Try just a touch of water or flour to adjust the texture.

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