All Butter Pie Pastry

I’ve been on a pie making tear this year.  Cakes were easy for me, but I wasn’t as adept at making delicious, consistently flaky, easy to work, all-butter pie pastry.   I knew what I wanted, but struggled to make it.  I’ve used many different recipes over the years but none were what I was looking for.  I’ve figured out a great recipe, with detailed measurements.    The key to consistently delicious pastry is a simple technique:   add the butter to the flour at two different times, creating the elusive qualities found in great pie pastry — tenderness, buttery flavor, structure, and flakiness.  This post is longer than usual, and with more photos, as pie pastry is simple but technique driven.  Consider this post Pie Pastry 101.  For John, my peach pie lover.  Enjoy!

simple ingredients: butter, flour, water, salt

All Butter Pie Pastry
(makes enough pastry for a double-crusted 9″ pie)

2 1/2 cups (12 oz) all-purpose unbleached flour
1 cup (8 oz, or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold
1 tsp. sea salt, fine
1/2 cup (4 oz) cold water

Combine the flour and salt in a food processor, fitted with the standard chopping blade.  (You may also do this by hand, using a mixing bowl and a pastry blender or two knives).  Add 1 stick of cubed butter to the flour/salt mixture.

Cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1 cm cubes
first addition of butter, just before processing

Process for about 20 seconds, or until the mixture is a grainy/sandy consistency with no significant lumps of butter.

the sandy, consistent texture after the first addition of butter

Add the second stick of cubed butter to the flour/butter/salt mixture.  Pulse several times, but only until the mixture has lumps of butter throughout that are no bigger than 1/4 inch.  These little bits of butter are what provide the flakiness to the pastry.  Move the mixture to a mixing bowl, then add the water.  Gently fold in the water until the pastry comes together.  It should be cohesive, but not over worked.  You can see little cracks and bits of flour in photo below — that’s OK.

Pie Pastry, just after forming the dough

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to a day or two.  This is an important step, as this allows the flour to absorb the water.  This also allows the protein fibers created through mixing the water into the dough to relax.  You may freeze the dough at this point.  Just allow the dough time to thaw to cool room temp before you use it.

After the rest period, you are ready to roll your pastry.  If your dough is too cold to move, allow it to thaw until it’s rollable.  For a double crusted pie, use 2/3 of the dough for the bottom crust, reserving 1/3 for the top piece.  In the simple apple pie in this recipe, I chose a closed top.   Lightly flour your rolling surface, then roll your pastry to the right width to fit your pan.  (In the photo above I’m rolling directly on my cool granite counter top, but parchment paper is also a great surface to roll on)

pie pastry, getting ready to place in the pie pan

When the dough is the right width, use your rolling pin to transfer the dough to the pie pan.

Pie pastry, with apple cinnamon pie filling, dotted with butter, awaiting the top crust

Now you’re ready to fill, top, and bake your pie.   I’ve shown a simple Apple Cinnamon Pie here.   (8 apples peeled, cored and sliced, mixed with 1 cup sugar, 2 TB flour, and 2 tsp cinnamon)   Add the pastry top, crimp and shape the edges, cut slits in the pie top to allow moisture to escape, then bake.

Double crusted pie, dusted with sugar and cinnamon, just before baking

After baking, allow your pie to cool for a couple of hours before serving.

detail of Apple Cinnamon Pie, just out of the oven.

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