The first thing my mom taught me to make was a homemade all-butter pie crust. When she first learned to make a crust, she used the tines of a fork to combine the flour, salt, sugar and butter. Later, following the advice of Julia Child, she upgraded to electric beaters, and that’s what she taught me to use.
Now, I use a food processor for all of my crusts. Using a food processor makes the process so much easier (always a good thing, right?). Just be sure to follow these two key rules: (1) Don’t overmix the dough; and (2) Use cold butter and ice water. Both of these guidelines are intended to keep the butter from combining too much with the flour, which will keep your crust flaky and light.
One additional note: Don’t expect perfection! No two pie crusts are ever alike, and just when you think your crust is the ultimate failure, it may turn out to be your best one yet. It’s happened to me many times. Happy baking!
It’s-Easier-Than-You-Think Pie Crust
Makes 1 9-inch pie crust
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter (very cold!), cut into eight slices
About 4 or 5 tablespoons ice cold water
Place the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor.
Pulse a few times, just to combine.
Add the butter.
Pulse several times until butter and flour begin to combine. Stop when the mixture has the texture of cornmeal. (It will still look very dry; this is a good thing.)
Then begin adding water, about 4 tablespoons to start.
Pulse to combine. Add 1 more tablespoon water if needed; pulse again to combine.
The dough should still feel dry when you run your fingers through it, but should hold together in a ball when you squeeze it in your hand. (If the dough is too wet, it will be difficult to roll out, and you will have to use a lot of flour to keep the dough from sticking to the rolling pin and counter. Too much flour will make your crust taste bland.)
Spread a large piece of plastic wrap on the counter (approximately 1-2 feet long). Gently dump the dough (it will still be a little crumbly) onto plastic wrap.
Pull together the plastic wrap and mold it around the dough so the dough forms a ball inside the wrap.
Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. (This is a good time to work on the pie filling.)
We love to make the traditional Libby’s Pumpkin Pie filling. The recipe is available on the can of pumpkin, and also on the Internet. As you can see below, it is very easy to make!
Jack helped me make this pumpkin pie for his preschool’s shared Thanksgiving lunch.
His favorite part is the “whisky, whisky, whisky.” (That’s my favorite part, too, of my recipe for Bourbon Pecan Pie … one tablespoon for the pie … and one for me … one for the pie…)
When you are ready to roll out the crust, remove dough from the refrigerator, unwrap and let sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes. Flatten the ball of dough slightly so it will be easier to roll out. Toss some flour on your countertop, pastry cloth or rubber mat. Place the flattened dough in the center. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a circular shape that has about the same thickness all the way around. Continue rolling and turning until the circle is evenly rolled out. Once the circle of dough is large enough to fit your pie plate, gently place it on top of the plate. You’ll want the edges to hang over the plate edge slightly. Gently press the dough into the bottom of the plate. Using your hands, tuck any dough that overhangs the plate into an even edge.
Use your hands to even the edge if needed. Finally, crimp the edges with your fingers for a decorative scalloped shape.
If you are making a filling that needs to be cooked (such as pecan or pumpkin), pour the filling directly into the unbaked pie crust.
Use a pie shield if you have one for the first half of the baking time.
When the pie is finished baking, remove from oven and let cool. Serve with sweetened whipped cream and enjoy!