Lightly Sweetened Pie Crust

Homemade pie crust is worth the *slight* effort -- really

Homemade pie crust is worth the *slight* effort -- really

There are many conveniences out there that have robbed us of some basic skills, and ready-made pie crust is one of those. It’s a weak muscle for most of us, but not beyond getting into shape. The payoff is really big, since most of those ready-made crusts are not made with butter and are hardly flaky.

I learned this technique years ago when I took a pastry class in Newton, Mass from an adorable pastry chef at Madeleine Kamman’s cooking school, Modern Gourmet. We asked her how she could keep herself from nibbling dough all day and she admitted that the smell of butter kind of made her sick. Occupational hazard, I guess. Here is a step-by-step guide to making crust the Modern Gourmet way.

Slightly Sweetened Pie Crust | 1 single crust pie

Work quickly since warming the dough or butter promotes the formation of gluten, making the crust more likely to shrink or be tough. That explains all the refrigeration required — the gluten can be “settled” and slowed by chilling.

Make a double recipe if you’re putting a top crust on the pie. This is for dessert pies, not savory ones (like quiche). For those you can omit the sugar. It is not a tart crust or a pastry crust with egg but works well for fruit and custard pies, like An Almondy Pumpkin Pie.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
Pinch of salt (about 1/4 teaspoon)
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
8 tablespoons refrigerator-cold butter (1 stick)
1/4 cup ice water

Sift the flour, salt and sugar into a pile on a large, flat surface.

Leave the butter in the refrigerator until you need it

Leave the butter in the refrigerator until you need it

Cut the cold butter into 1/2-inch cubes.

This pastry scraper makes the task incredibly easy

This pastry scraper makes the task incredibly easy

Drop the butter onto the flour pile. With your fingertips, pinch and rub the butter and flour together into “flakes” (not unlike Cornflakes), incorporating as much butter as you can.

I keep pulling in more flour as I go, but it won't all get pinched into the butter

I keep pulling in more flour as I go, but it won't all get pinched into the butter

Scrape the flour back into a pile

Scrape the flour back into a pile

Make a channel down the center of the flour.

Just a long well, right down the middle

Just a long well, right down the middle

One tablespoon at a time, drizzle ice water down the channel.

There will only be a small amount but it will be evenly distributed down this channel

There will only be a small amount of water per spoonful but it will be evenly distributed down this channel

Using your fingers like opposing interlocking forks and working down along the channel, lightly “fluff” the flour and water together.

This action pulls the flour quickly through the water, keeping contact to a minimum

This action pulls the flour quickly through the water, keeping contact to a minimum

The flour will get moistened, not wet

The flour will get moistened, not wet

Using the scraper, gather up the flour and quickly form another channel. Repeat the process with the water and the fluffing. Use as much of the 1/4 cup of water as you need to moisten the flour. The flour will end up fairly evenly moist, in small blobs.

Not wet, just moist

Not wet, just moist

Gather the moistened flour into one pile, and again, working quickly, use the heel of your hand to flatten the moistened flour starting from the top of the pile.

Work from the top, move down and do two or three more flattens, and finish at the bottom -- working quickly, of course

Work from the top, move down and do two or three more flattens, and finish at the bottom -- working quickly, of course

With the pastry scraper, fold the dough back up onto itself.

Folding the dough back onto itself begins to create the layers -- the secret to the flaky crust

Folding the dough back onto itself begins to create the layers -- the secret to the flaky crust

Flatten the dough against the surface again.

The dough is beginning to take shape, and the layers are forming

The dough is beginning to take shape, and the layers are forming

With the pastry scraper, fold it back onto itself and repeat the flattening one more time. Fold it back and quickly form it into a square.

Try to avoid too much contact with your hand, which is warm

Try to avoid too much contact with the palm of your hand, which is warm

Use the pastry scraper and the side of your hand to form it into a square

Use the pastry scraper and the side of your hand to form it into a square

Wrap this dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour

Wrap this dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least half an hour

When the dough has chilled for half an hour, prepare the surface to roll it out.

A light sweep of flour will keep the crust from sticking

A light sweep of flour will keep the crust from sticking

Roll out the dough in all directions, working outward from the middle. Keep a dusting of flour under the crust.

Dust the top of the dough and the rolling pin

Dust the top of the dough and the rolling pin

When the dough is cold, this may be hard at first but it will quickly soften at room temperature so work quickly

When the dough is cold, this may be hard at first but it will quickly soften at room temperature so work quickly

I turn the dough around as I work, and sprinkle flour under it from time to time

I turn the dough around as I work, and sprinkle flour under it from time to time

Roll the crust out to about an inch larger than your pie dish

Roll the crust out to about an inch larger than your pie dish

Gently fold the dough in quarters and place in the pie dish with the "point' in the center of the dish

Gently fold the dough in quarters and place in the pie dish with the "point' in the center of the dish

Open the dough back out and gently push into the corners of the dish

Open the dough back out and gently push into the corners of the dish

Trim the crust (easiest with scissors), leaving a 3/4-inch overhand

Trim the crust (easiest with scissors), leaving a 3/4-inch overhand

Fold under the overhang, leaving about 1/3-inch of dough above the lip of the dish

Fold under the overhang, leaving about 1/3-inch of dough above the lip of the dish

Using your thumb, flute the edge of the dough

Using your thumb, flute the edge of the dough

At this point, refrigerate the crust for at least half an hour, or place in the freezer until well-chilled

At this point, refrigerate the crust for at least half an hour, or place in the freezer until well-chilled

All you need now is the filling!

Be Sociable, Share!

{ 1 trackback }

Pumpkin Pie with Almonds
December 13, 2009 at 8:49 pm

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment