The holiday season is synonymous with all kinds of pies – pumpkin, pecan, sweet potato, apples, pears and cranberry-raisin. While it is really easy to just buy crust, making your own pie crust from scratch means that you can customize it according to the kind of pie you want to make – add some bourbon for a crust for a pecan pie, or grind some nuts for a pumpkin or sweet potato pie, add some vodka for a fruity pie, or just add some spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg for that extra flavor. You can also make plenty of pie crust and freeze it (unbaked) for later use.
I made the crust given here for a pecan pie, so I added two tablespoons of bourbon to it. In case you don’t want it, just substitute it with 2 tablespoons of icy cold water. When adding liquid to the flour and fat mixture, it should always be ice-cold in order to keep the pieces of fat cool and separate. Liquid can include any of the following – fruit juices, egg yolks, sour cream, milk or cream, and not just water.
Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 2 tbsp bourbon
- Ice water
- In a food processor, pulse flour with salt and sugar. Add butter.
- Pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few pea-size pieces remaining.
- Add 2 tablespoons ice water and 2 tablespoons bourbon; pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed. (If needed, add up to 4 tablespoons more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.) Do not overmix.
- Turn out onto a work surface; knead once or twice, until dough comes together.
- Divide dough in half, and flatten into disks. Wrap separately in plastic; refrigerate one disk at least one hour or up to three days. To freeze dough, put tightly wrapped disks in a resealable plastic bag. Label with the date, and freeze for up to three months. Defrost the dough overnight in the refrigerator before using.
- Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before rolling it out. This lets the flour absorb the liquid and helps to prevent stickiness when rolling out the dough. It also allows the gluten (the protein structure) to relax, making it more elastic and less likely to shrink back as you roll it.
- Generously dust a clean, dry surface with flour; remove and unwrap one of the discs of dough from the refrigerator. Flatten the dough slightly with your hands and dust the dough lightly with flour before rolling the dough out with a rolling pin. Start rolling at the center of the dough and work outwards. If you’re a beginning pie-maker–or prefer easier cleanup–you can roll out the dough between sheets of waxed paper.
- The dough round should be two to four inches wider in diameter than your pie pan. Use a dry pastry brush to sweep away any excess flour. Gently fold the dough in half, and then into quarters. If it seems too brittle to fold, try another bakers’ trick: roll up the pie crust around the rolling pin and unroll it over the pie plate.
- Carefully pick it up and place it into the pie plate so the center point of dough is in the center of the pan. Unfold the dough, letting the weight of the dough settle it in the bottom and edges of the pan. Without stretching the dough, press the pastry into the pan with your fingertips.
You can store unbaked pie crusts in the freezer and then prebake them at your convenience (Don’t store partially baked crusts in the fridge though!). On the question of whether to pre-bake a pie crust and how, see here.
And click here to learn how to make a fluted pie crust. Enjoy!