Old-Fashioned Flaky Pie Dough


Old-Fashioned Flaky Pie DoughThis is the sort of recipe pastry chefs tend to favor, but it doesn’t require any fancy ingredients, equipment, or training. Just smash some cold butter in a bowl of flour, stir in a bit of water, roll it out, and fold it over a few times. It’s essentially a streamlined blitz, making an easy layered dough that’s supple but strong. That means it won’t slump out of shape in the oven, so it can support all types of complicated decorative techniques, but it’s wonderfully buttery, so it always turns out flaky and tender, too.

Why It Works

  • All-purpose flour gives the dough strength to hold its shape in the oven, preserving any sort of decorative design.
  • A blitz-style ratio of flour to butter creates a dough that’s pliable but strong, making cracks and tears a thing of the past.
  • One round of folding provides eight major layers with minimal fuss.
  • Refrigerating the dough after shaping ensures it’s fully chilled and relaxed, preserving its flakes in the oven

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces all-purpose flour (1 2/3 cups; 225g), plus more for dusting
  • 1/2 ounce sugar (1 tablespoon; 15g)
  • 1 teaspoon (4g) kosher salt; for table salt, use half as much by volume or use the same weight
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter (2 sticks; 225g), cold
  • 4 ounces cold water (1/2 cup; 115g)

Preparation

  1. For the Dough: Whisk flour, sugar, and salt together in a medium bowl. Cut butter into 1/2-inch cubes (this size is important, as smaller pieces will melt too fast) and toss with flour mixture to break up the pieces. With your fingertips, smash each cube flat—that’s it! No rubbing or cutting. Stir in water, then knead dough against the sides of the bowl until it comes together in a shaggy ball. Dough temperature should register between 65 and 70°F (18 and 21°C); if not, refrigerate briefly before rolling and folding (see note above)
  2. Make the Layers: On a generously floured work surface, roll dough into a roughly 10- by 15-inch rectangle. Fold the 10-inch sides to the center, then close the newly formed packet like a book. Fold in half once more, bringing the short sides together to create a thick block. Divide in half with a sharp knife or bench scraper. Dough temperature should still be somewhere between 65 and 70°F (18 and 21°C); if not, refrigerate briefly before proceeding (see note above).
  3. For Single-Crusted Pies: Using as much flour as needed, roll one piece into a 14-inch circle and drape across a 9-inch pie plate; it will be super easy to lift by hand. Dust off excess flour with a pastry brush, using it to nestle dough into the very corners of the pan. With scissors or kitchen shears, trim the edge so that it overhangs by 1 1/4 inches all around. Fold overhang over itself to create a thick border that sits atop the rim of the pan. Crimp or shape crust as desired. Repeat with remaining dough. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to overnight. Use as directed in your favorite recipe.
  4. For a Double-Crusted Pie: Using as much flour as needed, roll one piece into a 14-inch circle and drape across a 9-inch pie plate; it will be super easy to lift by hand. Dust off excess flour with a pastry brush, using it to nestle dough into the very corners of the pan. With scissors or kitchen shears, trim the edge so that it overhangs by 1 inch all around. For a solid top crust, roll remaining dough as before, or roll into a 9- by 15-inch rectangle for a lattice-top pie. Transfer the entire sheet, uncut, to a baking sheet or parchment-lined cutting board. (The parchment will prevent dough from absorbing any savory odors from the board.) Wrap both portions in plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to overnight. Use as directed in your favorite recipe.
  5. For a Blind-Baked Pie: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat to 350°F (177°C). Line chilled pie shell with a large sheet of aluminum foil, pressing so it conforms to the curves of the plate (a second sheet of aluminum may be needed for full coverage). Fill to the brim with sugar, transfer to a half sheet pan, and bake until fully set and golden around the edges, 60 to 75 minutes. Fold long sides of foil toward the middle, gather short sides, and use both hands to carefully transfer sugar to a heat-safe bowl. Let sugar cool to room temperature. If needed, continue baking crust a few minutes more to brown along the bottom.

Cook’s Notes

  • Compared to stoneware or heavy enameled ceramic, tempered-glass pie plates conduct heat quickly and evenly, so the crust bakes up light and crisp, never greasy or soft.
  • When “room temperature” exceeds 73°F, you’ll need to take proactive steps to keep the dough temperature below 70°F; otherwise, the butter will turn sticky and soft.
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