Making buttery flaky pie dough shouldn't be hard. Take my word for it!
I have confessed before - my past aversion for making pie dough. When I was in culinary school, I had a wonderful chef who taught an American regional cuisine class. Historic recipes from around the country and their origins were studied. It is a fascinating subject. But to pass the class, we had to make two recipes that are popular throughout America, biscuits, and pie dough. Seemingly easy, both recipes require a skilled hand. At the end of each class, we would all file up to the Chef Elaine with either our pie dough or biscuits for approval. Class after class, we were shut down. It took almost the entire quarter to get the nod of approval.
Making the flaky dough
It took me a while to make a decent buttery flaky pie dough. But I did prevail with the help of a food processor. I have made the dough by hand, but in the interest of speed in a restaurant, I learned to use the machine.
The key to good pie dough, as many people will tell you, is chilling the ingredients. The butter especially should be cold and the size of peas when you assemble everything. As the dough bakes, the water in the butter expands and evaporates, creating flaky layers.
Add the flour, salt, and butter to the food processor. Give the dough about 10 pulses to incorporate the butter, which should still be in pieces and be visible. Lastly, add almost all the ice water through the feed tube and with the other hand hit the pulse button, maybe 4 or 5 times. This is where a light hand is necessary. Check the dough, will it stay together in your hand if you squeeze it? If not add the last of the ice water (about 2 tablespoons). Again, you should still see pea-sized pieces of butter.
Not overworking the dough is key, especially with warm hands. But I have found that to get a really flaky crust, folding the dough or laminating it will create layers. Layout two pieces of plastic wrap, criss-cross, so that they intersect in the middle. Then using the plastic, press down and bring all the separate pieces together.
Once it is a cohesive piece of dough, fold it over itself, rotating until all four sides have been layered. Collect the edges of the plastic and wrap the dough. Using a rolling pin, flatten the dough into a tidy package. You should still see the pieces of butter.
By now the dough is ready for a rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. This will make enough crust for a 9-inch pie or 6 parmesan potato tarts. You can definitely make the buttery flaky pie dough by hand and I have.
I have no fear now!
Buttery Flaky Pie Dough
- Rolling Pin
- 9" pie pan
- 2 cups all-purpose flour ( 8.5 ounces/240 grams)
- 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter (6 ounces/168 grams)
- 1 Pinch kosher salt
- ½ cup ice water (118 ml)
Making the dough
- Cube the cold butter into ½-inch pieces. Combine the flour and the salt in a food processor, about 4 pulses. Add the butter to the flour in the bowl of the food processor. Pulse about 10 times until the butter is in pea-sized pieces. While hitting the pulse button with one hand, add the cold water through the feed tube, reserving 2 tablespoons. Stop the motor to check the dough. The butter should still be visible in small pieces. If a handful of the flour will hold together when squeezed, then it is ready. If the handful of flour is still loose and will not hold together, put the top back on the processor and add the last 2 tablespoons of water while pulsing 3 more times. The amount of water needed will vary from day to day because of humidity.
This is what the dough looks like
- The flour should be hydrated but not sticky and wet. You should see pieces of butter, the size of peas. The flour will have a yellow color cast to it because of the addition of butter.
Rolling out the dough
- Have two pieces of plastic wrap on the counter in an intersecting pattern. Pour the contents of the food processor onto the middle section of the plastic. Using the ends of the plastic start to press on the flour to make a cohesive dough. Do this for all 4 ends of the plastic. Fold the dough onto itself and wrap it up with the plastic.
Nice little package of dough
- Take a rolling pin and press on the plastic-wrapped dough. This helps to make the dough one flat cohesive piece. You will be happy you took this step when it is time to roll out the dough. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the dough to rest.
Dough is ready
- When the dough has chilled for at least 30 minutes, place on a lightly floured surface. Because it is cold, the dough maybe a little resistant. You can use the rolling pin to tap the dough thinner. Roll from the center of the dough and turn, making sure there is still flour underneath. If the dough sticks to the counter or the rolling pin, dust with more flour. Roll out to the desired size for the pie pan. Make sure the dough is the same thickness across all edges. Before putting the dough in the dish, brush off any excess flour.
- Gently fold the dough in half so that it is easier to pick up and place on top of the pie pan. Ease the dough into the pan, making sure that it is flat on the bottom and up the sides. Trim the excess overhanging dough from the sides of the pan, leaving about an inch of dough. Fold the excess dough so that there is a double layer to create the fluted edge. The fold should be higher than the edge of the pan.
Make a fluted edge
- On the outside of the doubled fold of dough, hold the dough between your thumb and forefinger. On the inside of the dough, press into the pinch with the knuckle of your other forefinger. Continue all the way around the pie pan until the edge is completely fluted.