Thanksgiving 2012: How to Make the Perfect, Buttery Pie Crust

Making a piecrust is pretty simple. But making an amazing, buttery, flaky piecrust takes attention to detail.

To make one piecrust, I use: 

2 cups of flour
1 cup salted butter 
¼ cup – ½ cup of ice-cold water

(These measurements are for a single-crust pie. For a top layer or a lattice crust, double everything.)

It’s very important that the water and the butter be as cold as possible. Little chunks of butter melting in the oven and creating steam is what makes the crust flakey and delicious, so if you let it melt while mixing, the crust will end up doughy and flat. I keep the butter in the freezer the night before baking.

1) When you’re ready to prep the crust, cut the butter into tiny cubes. Try to move quickly and handle the butter as little as possible to avoid warming it with heat from your hands. 

2) Then add the butter cubes to the flour in a bowl, blend it together with your hands, breaking up the butter into even smaller pieces and making sure that they’re all coated with flour (again, do this quickly).

3) Once the chunks of butter are about pea-sized, add the ice-cold water one teaspoon at a time. Work it in by hand, until the mixture starts to clump together in pieces. It shouldn’t be one homogenous mixture, but should stay together if you press a clump together in your hands (don’t test this too many times, or you’ll press all the air out of the dough, and melt the butter).

The shaggier the mix, the flakier the crust will be. So rather than over-working it so that the dough can be rolled out and then lifted in one piece into the baking dish, I like to press it out by hand directly into the dish.

4) There’s no need to grease the dish since the crust has so much butter in it, so just take a big handful and plop it into the baking dish. Spread it evenly, and then use your palm or knuckles to press it down into solid dough. Start from the center so that it will push up the sides of the dish. 

The trick with this step is to press hard enough not that the dough solidifies, but not so hard that you make it dense. Start with a light touch and press only as hard as you need to for it to start to look like piecrust. 

5) With the remaining mixture in the bowl, fill in any empty spots on the sides of the dish, and, if you want to be really fancy about it, roll out a tube of dough to make the edge of the crust. Use a fork to press ridges into it. 

By now all of the little chunks of butter will probably be room temperature and starting to melt into the flour, so let the crust chill in the fridge for at least an hour before filling and baking, so that the butter can melt all at once.

Baking time depends on filling.