Crust: It’s a pie-baker’s calling card, the paramount element of any pie. Many bakers, both hobbyists and pros, are intimidated by pie crust, but there are a few key tips that will help you achieve flaky, buttery, tender crust every time.
DON’T OVERWORK THE DOUGH
Are you accustomed to making pasta? Maybe you’re a bread baker? Take everything you know about handling those types of dough and do the opposite! When making pie dough, the ingredients should never be completely blended. Rather, you should be able to see all the discrete components even when you’re done (lumps of butter, wisps of flour). Handle it only until it just holds together, then leave it alone to chill out for a bit. (We all need some time to ourselves!)
KEEP IT COLD
Cold is the enemy of gluten, and gluten is the enemy of tender, flaky crusts (though you need a bit of it for everything to hold together). To avoid gluten development, keep all your ingredients cold (you can even put flour in the freezer for a while before you’re ready to make dough).
FATTY FAT FAT FAT
Use a lot of fat. Don’t like fat? We don’t believe you. Can’t eat fat? On a diet? Don’t eat pie right now. The more fat you’ve got in your crust, the better it will taste and the better its texture. We use European-style cultured butter with a butterfat content of at least 83 percent. We also use whole milk instead of water—another way to inject more fat into the crust, and a key ingredient for getting it super flaky.
SEASON IT UP!
Crust is the savory foil to the sweet fillings we put inside it, and it should be well seasoned, with a flavor all its own. Ours tastes so good on its own, we like to sprinkle leftover scraps of pie dough with cinnamon-sugar, bake ’em up, and give them out as off-menu treats. (We call them “Pie Cookies”!)
All-Butter Pie Crust
1 cup (8 oz / 225 g) Cold unsalted European-style cultured butter.5 cup (120 ml) Cold whole milk, plus more if needed1 tbs Apple cider vinegar12 oz (340 g / approximately 2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour2 tbs Sugar1 tbs Kosher salt
Cut the butter into half inch (12-mm) cubes. In a liquid measuring cup, stir together the milk and vinegar. On a large clean cutting board or in a large shallow bowl, toss the flour, sugar, and salt together lightly to blend. Add the butter and cut it into the flour using a pastry blender. Work quickly and gently, using a straight up-and-down motion. Avoid using your fingers, which will warm the butter.
Once the butter is roughly the size of small peas or lentils, spread the mixture out to expose as much surface area as possible. Drizzle about half of the milk mixture over the flour, then toss the mixture together using a large spoon or bench scraper. Repeat the process with the rest of the liquid.
You should now have a dough that will just hold together when pressed against the side of the bowl, with visible bits of butter. If you need to add more liquid to bind, do so with more cold milk, adding 1 tablespoon at a time.
Cover the dough tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 1 hour before using, to let the gluten relax. The dough can be stored in the fridge for up to 1 week, well wrapped, or in the freezer for up to 2 months.
Makes enough for one double-crust 10-inch (25-cm) pie.
For more pie advice and recipes buy Butter & Scotch today.
Excerpted from Butter & Scotch by Allison Kave and Keavy Landreth, published by Abrams © 2016.