Painless Pie Crust, From Scratch!

February 26, 2012 § 2 Comments

Growing up, my mother made pies for the special occasions. And for the holidays, up to six pies. I recall the process of making pie-crust as being labor intensive, but it was a labor of love. The flour flying in the air, the gentle grunts and barely audible curse words… making the dough for pie crust can be hard work. BUT, it doesn’t have to be.

Flash forward to my own adulthood, 3,000 miles from home, craving that home-style warm and fuzzy feeling that only a homemade pie can bring. I called my mom for her crust recipe and instructions. As I jotted down the ingredients and took notes on her technique, I realized one thing: I needed to find a better way. I experimented with the shortening crust over and over again and was never satisfied with the flavor of the crust.

Enter Martha. In 2008, I bought “Martha Stewart’s Holiday Season’s Eatings,” a collectible issue of her “Living” magazine. Within, nestled amongst 100 other holiday recipes, was one version of her recipe for Pate Brisee (aka: pie crust). Three ingredients: flour, salt, and unsalted butter (with a bit of ice water). I was sold. I have not wasted my time with any other recipe since.  Sorry, Mom!

I tried to find this particular iteration of the Martha recipe online and couldn’t… everything I found was just a teeny bit different (added sugar, less flour, more butter, etc.) So, here I give you the ingredient list from the 2008 recipe, with my own instructions. Plus links to Martha’s online accessible versions below.

When I make pie crust, I want flavor, flakiness, and convenience. I’m a home-style cook, not a pastry chef, and my “customers” (family and friends) are satisfied with how my pies turn out, and therefore, so am I. I am not claiming that my technique, learned from Martha, is going to give you the ultimate flaky crust. But it will give you a delicious, acceptably flaky crust without fancy ingredients, without a lot of labor and without a lot of time invested.

Martha Stewart’s 2008 Pate Brisee

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup ice water

NOTE: For maximum success, all ingredients should be cold, cold, cold. See tips* But it is OK to just put the dough together with “as is” ingredients, you just won’t get as light and flaky of a crust.

* If possible, chill flour and salt in food processor bowl for at least one hour before making the dough. |
* I also cut my butter into cubes ahead of time and re-refrigerate for at least one hour.
* For the ice water, I fill a large glass with ice and pour filtered water to fill the glass and put this in the fridge for 20 minutes before I begin making the dough.

Pulse flour and salt in food processor to blend. Add butter and pulse until mixture forms pea-sized crumbs.

Per Martha: “With machine running, add 1/2 cup ice water in a slow, steady stream until dough just holds together without being wet or sticky, no longer than 30 seconds.”

“Divide dough in half; flatten and shape into disks, and wrap each in plastic.”

“Refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.”

When you’re ready to roll:

Lightly flour a clean, flat, smooth surface (counter or table) and turn out 1 disk of dough. Use your hand to rub/dust your rolling pin with flour. (Leave your 2nd disk in the fridge to keep it cold while you’re working)

Roll to desired shape; usually this will be round and about 1/8 inches thick. If you mess up and want to re-roll, pat dough back into a disk and re-chill before trying again.

Makes enough crust for one 9 or 10 inch double-crust pie, or two single crust pies.

Happy baking,

p.s. I intend to eventually blog a complete tutorial about working with pie dough, from raw ingredients to venting the crust, but wanted to get this recipe up in preparation for my forthcoming salmon pie recipe post.  Stay tuned!

Martha’s Pate Brisee – one iteration
Step by step pate brisee tutorial/slideshow from Martha Stewart
Another Martha Pate Brisee iteration – this one has sugar
Martha’s Cornmeal Pate Brisee

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