Thanksgiving dinner always ends with pies and tarts at our house, and every great pie starts with the crust.
Many people find making piecrusts intimidating, but with a few tips and a little skill, they can be executed flawlessly every time.
Start with a simple recipe, and use good quality ingredients. Look for pure unsalted sweet cream butter, and consider splurging on French or Irish butters, like Kerrygold or President.
While many recipes call for mixing the dough by hand, it is quicker, easier and more consistent to use the food processor. It will literally mix the ingredients and roll it into a ball for you. It doesn’t get much easier than that!
Most recipes also call for the dough to be chilled for at least an hour or two before rolling. While the dough should be cold, I find if it gets too cold it is more difficult to roll it out. Use cold butter and ice water, to keep it as cold as possible while mixing it.
Roll the dough on a large clean dishcloth, or a piece of parchment or wax paper, instead of directly on the countertop. That way, once it is rolled to the desired size and thickness, the towel or paper can be lightly folded with the dough on it, gently laid into the pan (cloth side up) and the cloth can be easily removed. If you are using paper, wipe the surface down with a damp cloth first, so the paper doesn’t shift. Be sure to flour the cloth and the surface.
Handle the dough as little as possible. The more it is worked, the tougher it will become. For delicate dough, try to roll it out only once, if possible. If you need to roll it a second time, it will still be delicious…don’t worry!
If the dough tears, or there are areas that didn’t quite get filled, use the scraps to repair it. Just brush a little water onto the part of the dough being mended so it forms a bit of “glue” to help the added piece stick.
Here is a recipe for Pate Brisee (basic pie crust) that can be used with any filling:
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 sticks (1 cup) of cold butter cut into pieces
About 4 tablespoons of ice water
Place all of the dry ingredients into the bowl of the food processor. Add the pieces of butter and process with an on/off motion until the texture resembles a coarse meal. Do not overwork the dough!
If you do not have a food processor, use 2 knives or a pastry blender to cut the butter into the other ingredients.
With the machine running, add the ice water a little at a time until the dough comes together. If it is too sticky, add a little more flour. If it seems dry or crumbly, add a little more water. The trick is to have the dough reach the desired consistency, using the recipe as a guideline.
Gather the dough into a ball and flatten it into a disk. Wrap it in plastic and refrigerate until chilled, but not hard. As little as 15 minutes might do it.
If you need to do this in advance and roll it later, let it sit outside of the refrigerator for a few minutes until it is still cold, but pliable.
Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface (with a cloth or paper on it that is also lightly floured) until it is about 1/8” thick. Place it into the pie pan or tart pan.
If you are making a tart, roll your rolling pin across the top of the pan to trim off the excess. If you are making a pie, use a paring knife to trim the excess and crimp the sides or score with the tines of a fork.
Use a fork to prick the bottom of the dough, to allow the steam to escape during baking.
Chill the crust until ready to use, fill it with your favorite filling, bake and enjoy!
photos: Glasshouse Images