Flaky Pie Curst
Adapted from The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum
Yield: One 9-inch pie crust
This recipe will yield one crust. If you are making a pie with a crust on top, you will need to double the recipe. The butter flavor in this crust is really outstanding and the texture is wonderful – flaky without being tough. There are two methods that you may use, one by hand and one using a food processor. Using pastry flour instead of all purpose will give you a more tender crust.
8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
1 1/3 cups plus 4 teaspoons pastry flour or bleached all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking powder (optional: if not using, double the salt)
1 ½ teaspoons cider vinegar
Divide the butter into two parts, about two-thirds to one-third (5 tablespoons and 3 tablespoons). Cut the butter into 3/4 inch cubes. Wrap each portion of butter with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the larger amount and freeze the smaller for at least 30 minutes. Place the flour, salt, and optional baking powder in a reclosable gallon-size freezer bag and freeze for at least 30 minutes.
Food processor method:
Place the flour mixture in a food processor with the metal blade and process for a few seconds to combine. Set the bag aside. Add the larger amount of butter cubes to the flour and process for about 20 seconds or until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the remaining frozen butter cubes and pulse until all of the frozen butter is the size of peas. (Toss with a fork to see it better.) Add the vinegar and pulse 6 times. Add the ice water one tablespoon at a time, pulsing each time and stopping to check the dough by pinching a small amount of the mixture together between your fingers. If it does not hold together, add another tablespoon of water and pulsing. Try pinching the mixture again. If necessary, continue adding water, pulsing 3 times to incorporate it. The mixture should be in particles and will not hold together without being pinched. If it looks like a homogenous dough, you’ve added too much water.
For tiny 1 inch tartlets, omit the baking powder and allow the processing to continue just until a ball forms. The additional mixing produces a dough that is slightly less flaky but ensures that it will not puff out of shape in the tiny molds.
Spoon the mixture into the plastic bag. (For a double-crust pie, it is easiest to divide the mixture in half at this point.) Holding both ends of the bag opening with your fingers, knead the mixture by alternately pressing it, from the outside of the bag, with the knuckles and heels of your hands until the mixture holds together in one piece and feels slightly stretchy when pulled.
Wrap the dough with plastic wrap, flatten it into a disc (or discs) and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes, preferably overnight. (For a pie shell and lattice, divide it in a ratio of two thirds: one third-use about 9.5 ounces for the shell and the rest for the lattice, flattening the smaller part into a rectangle.)
Place a medium mixing bowl in the freezer to chill. Place the flour, salt, and optional baking powder in another medium bowl and whisk to combine them. Use a pastry cutter or rub the mixture between your fingers to blend the larger portion of the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse meal. Spoon the mixture, together with the cold butter, into a reclosable gallon-size freezer bag. Expel any air from the bag and close it. Use a rolling pin to flatten the butter into flakes. Place the bag in the freezer for at least 10 minutes or until the butter is very firm.
Transfer the mixture to the chilled bowl, scraping the sides of the bag. Set the bag aside. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of ice water and vinegar onto the mixture, tossing it lightly with a rubber spatula. Check to see if the mixture holds together when you press it between your fingers. If it doesn’t, add additional tablespoons of water one at a time, toss and check between each one. Spoon the loose mixture back into the plastic bag. (For a double-crust pie, it is easiest to divide the mixture in half at this point.)
Holding both ends of the bag opening with your fingers, knead the mixture by alternately pressing it, from the outside of the bag, with the knuckles and heels of your hands until the mixture holds together in one piece and feels slightly stretchy when pulled. Wrap the dough with plastic wrap, flatten it into a disc and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes, preferably overnight.