Monday, June 7, 2010

One Crust to Rule them All

I hear a lot of people saying that they can't make a pie crust. This never quite made sense to me--I made my first pie when I was 12. I read the instructions and followed them and the crust came out perfectly. I was a natural, and everyone who ate this pie (blueberry-banana; I saw blueberries and decided to make a pie without realizing that you need way more blueberries than that so I added bananas and it was an excellent combination which I'll have to post here at some point) was impressed. (Wow, I've been the family's designated pie-baker for all occasions for ten years now. This makes me feel sort of old.)

I quickly became disenchanted with that recipe, however. It used shortening, and a lot of it, which my parents categorized as an Unhealthy Food. I started looking for recipes that didn't use shortening--I found a few with lard, but I wasn't touching those, and finally I found one with butter (also an Unhealthy Food but not nearly as toxic as shortening). It turned out to be the One Crust to Rule them All. It's so easy to throw together and it always comes out perfectly flaky and delicious. It's Martha Stewart's Pate Brisee recipe, which is absolutely amazing and I make one tiny modification in mine.

So, in case you don't want to click on a link, I'm putting the recipe here along with step-by-step pictures so you can see what it's supposed to look like at each different step and know if yours looks right! I hope this is helpful to those of you who could never figure out pie crust before.

IMPORTANT: You will need a food processor or stand mixer for this recipe. Martha says to use a food processor; I've always used my kitchenaid. I made it once with a pastry cutter and it just didn't work anywhere near as well.

RECIPE: One Crust to Rule them All
Adapted (only very slightly) from Martha's Pate Brisee

-2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
-1 tsp sugar
-2 sticks (one cup) unsalted butter, chilled (the unsalted part is important)
-1/4 cup very, very cold water

1. Cut each stick of butter along the tablespoon lines on the package. If it's cold, you should be able to do this without taking the wrapper off or getting pieces of wrapper in your pie. If you see any pieces, pull them off. (Alternatively, you could try to cut the stick into about 8 roughly equal pieces without the paper.)
2. Cut each tablespoon square into quarters. You'll have a lot of very, very small cubes of butter. This is good.
3. Put the flour and sugar into the bowl of your food processor/stand mixer (with paddle attachment) and mix well. (Martha says to use a teaspoon of salt, too. I don't. I prefer my crust with no salt. If you want to use salt, though, go ahead.)
4. Add the butter cubes, a few pieces at a time, allowing each addition to be completely coated in flour before adding the next.
5. Mix until the butter has been broken up into small pieces and the mixture "resembles coarse meal." Important: don't mix longer than that! It's important to not over-knead pie dough, or else it becomes dense and hard and awful.
6. Take your quarter cup of very cold water. Add a tiny bit (seriously, only very small splash) to the mixer at a time. Continue doing this until the entire thing sticks together in one big lump. (Note: I'm not sure what it'll do in the food processor, but according to the recipe you should be able to grab a handful and it'll stick together.) The tiny amounts here are key--I almost never use the full quarter cup. I'm pretty sure that using less water will give you a much more velvety and flaky crust, and more water will result in a hard, dense crust. So add the smallest amount of water you possibly can for it to all stick together. (Again, stop the mixer as soon as it gets to this point. Overkneading=bad.)
7. Take the dough out of the mixer and form it into a big even log and cut it in half. Form each half into a disc (don't roll it out yet, it should be about half an inch to an inch thick). Wrap it in plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge for about an hour.
8. After an hour, take the dough out of the fridge and roll it out. This recipe makes enough for a double-crust 9-inch pie.

Steps 1-2: chop up the butter.

Step 3: put the flour and sugar into the bowl.

Step 5: This is what it looks like before I add the water. Notice that there are still some larger pieces of butter sitting around--that's okay.

Step 6: Adding tiny amounts of water. Eventually it will form one big clump.

Step 7: The ball is about what your crust will look like when you've added enough water. The disc is what your disc should look like.

Okay, so I made a RIDICULOUS amount of pie crust. In half an hour or so. (I called it "speedpie" and decided it should be a new Olympic sport.) You're not going to have this much crust unless you make three batches, but it seems like a good way to point out another important part of crust-making: if you're making multiple pies, don't make all the crust at once. You'll have to knead it too much for it to work. Do each batch separately and your pies should be wonderful!

I used these crusts (four of the discs) to make the pasties I posted about earlier, and the other two to make a pie, which I'll obviously be posting sometime soon--I felt that I needed a post dedicated purely to making an excellent pie crust.

Thanks for reading, and have a great week!


  1. I am one of those people...hahah...I really cant make a great pie crust..I really have to try it your way...It really sounds good and I cant wait to do it!
    Kisses my lovely...Happy Monday

  2. Diana--I'm really hoping the step-by-step pictures work! Good luck on your next attempt!

  3. DId it taste as delicious as it looks? All these blogs are making me incredibly hungry.

  4. Annah--I don't post anything on here unless it tastes delicious; in fact, I usually think my crappy camera/shaky hands/inability to care about the 'presentation' of my food make it so my pictures don't do it justice. Thanks for reading & commenting!