A few key pointers that will help you succeed with pie crust:
- Unsalted versus salted butter...the debate continues. UNsalted butter is typically preferred for pastry because of its lower water content. However, I find that salted butter works just fine if I reduce the actual salt called for in this recipe.
- Butter should be extra-chilled. I chop up the butter into quarter-sized chunks and set it in the freezer for about fifteen minutes to cool it before using it in my pie crust. This ensures that small blobs of butter will remain through the mixing process so that when the crust is rolled out, those little butter blobs produce a tender, flaky finished texture.
- Ice water means exactly that...ICE water. When I begin assembling a pie crust, I fill a small glass with ice cubes and fill it with water so that the water is truly ice cold when I add it to my flour/butter mixture.
- "Pie weights" are helpful for pre-baked crusts. Commercial weights come in several forms, the most popular being thin chain, metal marbles, and ceramic marbles or discs. The raw pie crust is covered with foil or waxed paper, then the weights are placed inside to prevent the crust from shrinking during pre-baking. Being something of a "do-it-myselfer", I simply place a second pie pan directly on top of the raw crust and bake it that way. You can use almost anything to weight down your crust: loose change, dried beans, marbles, dry rice or grains, etc.
Ok, so let's get started!
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 1/2 cups white flour
1 large egg
2 Tablespoons vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt if using UNsalted butter OR...
1/2 teaspoon salt if you are using salted butter
Approximately 1/2 cup ice water
First, cut up the butter into quarter-sized chunks and place in the freezer for about 15 minutes so that it is super chilled.
Next, fill a small glass with ice cubes and top off with water.
Whip together the egg and vinegar, set aside.
Once your butter and water are sufficiently chilled, add the butter to the flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Using your hands and working quickly, blend the butter with the flour mixture, crumbling them together until the largest pieces of butter are about the size of a pea. **It does not have to be perfectly even, so don't over-work it.
Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture, plus a few Tablespoons of ice water. Using a fork at first, toss the liquids with the flour mixture, adding water just a small amount at a time until the dough begins to hold together. Use your hands again to knead the dough until blended. Again, do not over-work the dough.
Wrap the dough in plastic and place in the freezer for about ten minutes to chill.
Now for rolling out the dough!
Sprinkle your counter top with about 1/4 cup white flour and divide your chilled dough in half. rub your rolling pin with flour as well, and starting at the center of your dough, roll it from the center to the edges. If it sticks, gently lift it and re-flour the counter top. Roll the dough to slightly less than 1/4 inch thick. Make sure it is large enough to easily hang over the edge of your pie pan by a full 1 1/2 inches.
Gently fold the dough into half, then into half again, making a...well, a pie shape! Place the point in the center of your pie pan and unfold the dough to lay in the pan. Trim the edges even. Roll the edges under, creating an edge around the outermost edge of your pie pan. Then go around the edge again, crimping the dough with your fingers.
If you are baking a cream pie, quiche, pot pie, or something else that requires the crust to be pre-baked, place your pie weights into the crust evenly or sit a second pie pan on top of the crust. Bake for 15 minutes in a 325 degree oven, then immediately remove the weights. For fruit pies and other dishes that do not require a pre-baked shell, your crust is ready for filling. You can also freeze a raw shell wrapped in plastic for later use.