24 January 2013

How to Make an All-Butter Pie Crust By Hand - Pie Crust Unplugged


Making an all-butter pie crust by hand may not be quite as quick as with a food processor, but this method is just about as easy. You can also use a pastry cutter and a large bowl, but a pastry scraper (also known as a bench scraper) and a cutting board make the job even easier.

As I said in my tutorial about How to Make A Flaky All-Butter Pie Crust with a Food Processor, if you're new at making pie crust, I'd suggest you stick to making the same recipe in the same amount every time, until you've mastered it. The recipe below calls for 2 1/2 packed cups (12.5 ounces) of unbleached all-purpose flour and makes enough pastry for one 9-inch double crust pie or two 9-inch pie shells.

It's also important to use the exact same ingredients every time until you've mastered it. The same brand of flour, butter, etc. I use organic unbleached all-purpose flour and organic unsalted butter. A lot of excellent pie makers use lard or shortening in their pastry, but I always use butter (except for those occasions when I've been called upon to make a pie at someone else's house and used whatever they had on hand--including a wine bottle for a rolling pin!).


I always use glass pie plates, the classic 9-inch Pyrex pie plate to be precise, for which you need to roll the pastry out to 13 inches for the bottom crust and 11 inches for the top. The easiest way to roll it out is between two 12-inch squares of parchment paper. Always roll from the center to the outer edge, doing eighth- or quarter-turns to make it round. I had three different types of wooden rolling pins--the kind with handles and ball bearings, the straight (or baker's) pin, the tapered (or French) pin--and couldn't quite decide on a favorite. 

Then I discovered a fourth kind--handles but no ball bearings. When I was sent the Vermont Farm Table Big Mama rolling pin for review, I was eager to get into the kitchen and try it out. Hand crafted in Vermont from a solid piece of cherry, it is a beauty. (It also comes in maple, walnut and tiger maple.) With a 13-inch rolling surface, it's a snap to roll out a 13-inch crust for a 9-inch pie plate--without a ruler.

Shortly after it arrived, a friend noticed it on my counter (how could anyone NOT notice it!) and remarked on the enormous size of it, and I said "I expect it will roll out the dough while I'm just standing there!" And at close to 3 pounds and more than 3 inches in diameter, it practically does!

(By the way, the pie pictured is my Sweet Potato Pie.)


Pastry for One 9-Inch Double-Crust Pie or Two Pie Shells (by hand method)

2 1/2 packed cups (12.5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and frozen for 15 minutes
2 tablespoons lemon juice or cider vinegar
Ice water to make 3/4 cup liquid


1 On large cutting board, mix together flour, salt and baking powder. With pastry scraper, cut frozen butter cubes into flour mixture.


2 Mix the ice water and vinegar and sprinkle 1/2 cup over the mixture, tossing lightly with a fork until the mixture just barely begins to clump together. If you pinch some of the crumbly dough and it holds together, you've used enough water. If not, sprinkle on more, a tablespoon at a time.

3 Divide the crumbly dough onto two pieces of plastic wrap and shape each into a 4-inch round disk; wrap; refrigerate for 30 minutes. If you're making two pie shells, make the disks the same size; if you're making a double-crust pie, make one disk a little larger for the bottom crust. But I just make them the same; then I don't have to label them "top" or "bottom" for the freezer. 

4 Place a disk of dough on a lightly floured 12-inch square of parchment paper; save the piece of plastic wrap as you'll be using it again. Lightly flour the top of the dough and top with second 12-inch square of parchment paper. Roll the dough into a roughly 12x9-inch rectangle. If it is too crumbly, sprinkle it lightly with a teaspoon or two of water. Using a bench scraper or just the paper, fold the dough into thirds like a letter (it won't look neat), then fold it into thirds the opposite way, to form a rough square. Wrap it well with the reserved piece of plastic wrap and refrigerate again for at least 30 minutes or up to three days. Repeat with second disk of dough. If you've chilled dough for just 30 minutes or so, you can roll it out without waiting. You'll need to let thoroughly chilled dough stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes before rolling.


5 When ready to use, remove disk(s) from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature 10 or 15 (up to 20, if necessary) minutes to make it easier to roll. Save the plastic wrap; you'll be needing it again (I'm very sparing in my use of plastic wrap and like to get as much use out of a piece as possible!)

Note: You can even freeze the dough, wrapped well, for up to a month. To defrost dough, move it from freezer to refrigerator for one day before using it. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before rolling.

For two-crust pie: On lightly floured surface, or between two lightly floured 12-inch squares of parchment paper, roll out disk, rolling from center to edge and rotating by quarter-turns to attain round shape, to a 13-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Check for sticking and add a little flour between dough and parchment if needed. It doesn't need to be perfectly round as you'll be trimming off the excess anyway and can make it round then. Remove the top paper and transfer dough to pie plate, paper side up; remove paper, cover with reserved plastic wrap and refrigerate. Roll out top crust (again, save the plastic wrap) and place it on a rimless baking sheet; cover with reserved plastic wrap and refrigerate. Make pie filling. Then assemble pie and bake as directed.


For single-crust pie: roll out and transfer dough to pie plate, pressing dough (but not stretching it) to fit pie plate with a half- to one-inch overhang (trim with knife or scissors), crimp edge, cover with reserved piece of plastic wrap and chill until ready to bake. If blind-baking crust (baking the empty pie shell), preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put a pie tin inside the pastry-lined pie plate and bake for 25 minutes. If partially baked crust is needed, remove pie tin and proceed with recipe. If fully baked crust is needed, remove pie tin and continue baking another 10 to 12 minutes until golden brown.

20 comments:

Richard Sheppard said...

sure sounds like it would be fun to try! I use your food processor recipe for the pies I make and love it. I also like your idea of using a wine bottle too! ;-)

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Thanks, Richard, I'm glad to hear that! I probably use the food processor method half the time, but sometimes I just like being "unplugged." The times I've had to use a wine bottle for a rolling pin were a lot of fun!

Cranberry Morning said...

I pinned this, Jean. Great instructions! I love making pie crusts, although I don't do it often anymore because I try to eat gluten free. Still, it always feels like such an accomplishment when I see that beautiful, crimped pie crust. Thanks for the all-butter recipe. P.S. And I too use the food processor method now, thanks to you.

Bonnie said...

This seems like a nice way to unwind. Therapy after a long day at school! Thanks! Bonnie

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Thanks, Judy! I appreciate all the pinning, tweeting, mentioning I can get! And I'm in such a pie mood, I made another one today.

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Thanks, Bonnie. Yes, I find it rather therapeutic. Maybe not quite so therapeutic as kneading bread dough, but still ...

Thomas "Sully" Sullivan said...

When I was six, I carried a Roy Rogers cap pistol. Never used it. When I got my first car, I carried a toolkit. Never used it. Now that I’m 25…or so…and living the practical details of life – practical-ly starving to death for wont of lemon meringue pies like momma used to make – I’m going to start packing a roller pin in the Roy Rogers holster (if I can find it). Any time I see that basic cuisinary implement, I know the associated recipe is the real deal. Have heard many claimants to pie crust excellence over the year, but I can tell that your assertions about pie crust “get it,” Rolling pin…bonafide results. Thanks.

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Sully, you won't need a pistol (Roy Rogers cap or otherwise) if you stow a Big Mama rolling pin in your holster. It's kind to pie crust but would be very mean to someone's head!

LANA said...

I've always found pie crust to be especially challenging. I am keeping this instructive post as a reference next time I am brave enough to try making one again!

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Lana, thank you! Just take your time, but keep popping the dough back into the refrigerator to keep it cold. After making crust a number of times, you'll get a "feel" for it. Then you'll wonder why you ever found it challenging! Let me know how it goes.

Steve Gale said...

Good to see that the art of pastry making is very much alive!

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Thanks, Steve! Yes, with an English grandmother and a Southern (US) grandmother, it just had to be!

Sippity Sup said...

All butter is my preference. Once it's mastered it's a breeze. GREG

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Definitely! Thanks, Greg!

Michael Toa said...

Hi Jean. How are you?
I often make pastry using food processor, but to be honest, I actually quite enjoy making it by hand. It's rather therapeutic :)
Your pie crust looks fab and very neat. Unlike mine...

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Michael, good to hear from you! As long as your pie crust is flaky and flavorful, don't worry about its looks! Hope you have a wonderful 2013.

Lizzy Do said...

You make a gorgeous pie!!!! I am still searching for the perfect crust recipe (maybe I need that roll it out itself rolling pin!) and will try yours next!

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Thank you, Lizzy! Let me know how it turns out for you. (Hint: I think it's the folding that makes it good.)

Brooks at Cakewalker said...

Jean, your pies are always so lovely. My preference for the pastry is all-butter too. The bench scraper method, however, is a pleasant surprise and it warrants a try on my next pie. Thanks for the inspiration!

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Brooks, thank you! I can't wait to hear how you like the bench scraper method.

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