The All-Butter Pie Pastry

This post is part of the monthly link up-party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things. This month is hosted by Francesca over at Fearless Kitchen. I’ve ripped this blurb, the links and this logo directly away from her. our-growing-edge-badge

I’ve been away for a while. It’s not that I don’t love you, O Pie-oneers; it’s that I took some time to fly to England with Clarice and Dr. Lecter for Christmas and get married. That’s right: I’m Mrs. Earl of Pie-ish Town now. Already the mystique of our relationship is waning, and someday soon we’ll be sitting around with our hands tucked into our waistbands, comfortably farting in each other’s presence.

I’m kidding. I’m a woman, and he’s English, and everybody knows that neither of those demographics fart.

I returned to the States an honest woman and when that got a little old after a few days, I found a fun invitation in my inbox to join this link-up party, asking if I might like to blog about a new food experience. It was rather coincidentally and fortuitously timed because just the day before, my children asked if I could make them a chicken pot pie, “but not that one with the crumbles on top. Can we have a REAL pie?” My heart burst with pride. We went shopping and got all our ingredients, and I got ready to make a crust when I realized that I hadn’t restocked my pie supplies before I flew to England. Nor had I replenished them when we’d just gone shopping 10 minutes prior. I was completely out of shortening. Which meant no Foolproof Pie Dough.

I find trying to make something while missing crucial ingredients incredibly great fun. It’s like jerry-rigging temporary solutions with PVC and duct tape, but with food.

The workaround was fairly simple: make an all-butter pastry, which I had plenty of recipes for but had never made. Frankly, the idea of Crisco is pretty gross. It’s highly processed and very chemical-y, and terrifyingly it never seems to go bad. But it works so well in the Foolproof Pie Dough that I’ve never thought to question it. Out of necessity, I made our chicken pot pie crust without it, and the results were quite pleasant but not completely ideal. Recipe (naturally from Ken Haedrich’s Pieble) as follows, followed by my notes.

Ingredients
Single Crust:
1½ cups (187.5 g) all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons (6.3 g) sugar
½ teaspoon (2.84 g) salt
½ cup (1 stick (113.40 g)) cold unsalted butter, cut into ¼-inch (.635-cm) pieces
¼ cup cold water

Double Crust:
2¾ cups (343.75 g) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon (14 g) sugar
1 teaspoon (5.69 g) salt
1 cup (2 sticks (226.81 g)) cold unsalted butter, cut into ¼-inch (.635-cm) pieces
About ½ cup (118.294 mL) cold water

Directions
1. To Make in a Food Processor: Put the flour, sugar, and salt in the food processor. Pulse several times to mix. Scatter the butter over the dry ingredients and pulse 7 or 8 times to cut the butter in well. Remove the lid and fluff the mixture with a fork, lifting it up from the bottom of the bowl. Drizzle half of the water over the dry ingredients. Pulse 5 or 6 times, until the mixture is crumbly. Fluff the pastry and sprinkle on the remaining water. Pulse 5 or 6 times more, until the pastry starts to form clumps. Overall, it will look like coarse crumbs. Dump the contents of the processor bowl into a large bowl.

To Make By Hand: Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Toss well, by hand, to mix. Scatter the butter over the dry ingredients and toss to mix. Using a pastry blender, 2 knives, or your fingertips, cut or rub the butter into the flour until it is broken into pieces the size of split peas. Sprinkle half of the water over the dry mixture. Toss well with a fork to dampen the mixture. Add the remaining water in 2 stages and continue to toss and mix, pulling the mixture up from the bottom of the bowl.

To Make with an Electric Mixer: Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter, tossing it with the flour. With the mixer on low speed, blend the butter into the flour until you have what looks like coarse, damp meal. Turning the mixer on and off, add half of the water. Mix briefly on low speed. Add the remaining water, mixing slowly until the dough starts to form large clumps. If you’re using a stand mixer, stop periodically to stir the mixture up from the bottom of the bowl. Do not overmix.

2. Test the dough by squeezing some of it between your fingers; if it seems a little dry and not quite packable, drizzle a teaspoon or so of cold water over the dough and work it in with your fingertips. Using your hands, pack the dough into a ball (or 2 balls if you are making a double crust) as you would pack a snowball. If you’re using this to make a double-crust pie, make one ball slightly larger than the other; this will be your bottom crust. Knead each ball once or twice, then flatten the balls into ¾-inch-(1.905-cm)-thick disks on a floured work surface. Wrap the disks in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight before rolling.

So how does it compare?

  • You don’t have as much time to work with the dough. The butter starts softening as soon as you start cutting it up into ¼-inch (.635-cm) pieces, so unless you’re pretty quick with rolling out your dough, I would take steps to work in a frigid kitchen with frigid bowls and such or stick to going halfsies with butter and Crisco.
  • When it says “cold water”, I make a big glass of ice water and measure the ½ cup (118.294 mL) only as I’m about to sprinkle it. Every degree of chill helps.
  • The pastry ends up super flaky, even flakier than the Foolproof Pie Dough, almost to the point where it lacks structural integrity. It’s so soft and tender that it took on an almost cake-like quality when I reheated the leftovers the next day. If super tender and flaky doesn’t appeal to you and you like a little more rigidity, the all-butter crust is probably not for you.
  • It was really fucking delicious. Dr. Lecter finished her portion of pot pie and was too full to eat another, but the pot pie sat there in front of her at the dinner table while she patted her little tummy. She glanced at me, and I could see the gears turning in her diabolical head as she sat on her hands, willing them to behave. Then, unable to resist further, she darted her little hand towards the plate. Before I could say anything, she’d wrenched off a chunk of the crust, crammed it in her mouth, and started munching away at it happily with crumbs cascading down her chin. She caught me staring at her and said, “What? This crust is the best part.”

My 9-year old crimped this. You can tell by its glistening that it’s already trying to melt.

I’m sure there are many pie aficionados out there who’ve known all along what I’m only now discovering, but I am now quite the fan of the all-butter crust. I’m not so sure it would work well for pies with a viscous filling (like fruit pies), but for more solid fillings like set custards or icebox pies, it would complement the texture of the filling very nicely. Next up: performing my wifely duty and trying this hot water crust pastry English people seem to love so much. That’s what wives do besides farting or not farting, right?

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14 thoughts on “The All-Butter Pie Pastry

  1. “… and everybody knows that neither of those demographics fart.”
    You don’t say. Huh.
    Congratulations on both the nuptials AND a brilliant recipe. In assorted measuring modes AND machine or hand method. All cookbooks should be written this way!

    Like

  2. What about freezing and then grating the butter on a large box grater? Do you think that would work? I’ve seen them do that on America’s Test Kitchen, but I think it was for biscuits or some such. Seems like it could work IF the butter didn’t immediately melt upon grating – like maybe grate in small batches laid out on a cookie sheet and put it back in the freezer?

    I may be over complicating this business.

    Like

    • Yeeeeah, probably more work, trouble, and cleanup than it’s worth. The problem isn’t in the making of the pastry so much as the rolling it out, putting it in the plate, getting the filling in, crimping it, and getting it in the oven. There’s a narrow window between when it’s soft enough to roll out just after chilling in the fridge and when it’s too melty to be malleable.

      I’m not sure how much of a hot mess I’d have had on my hands had I not been a pie nerd.

      Like

  3. Whoa, your 9 year old can crimp better than anyone I know. Kudos to you. You should find a way to make money off that talent.

    Some of the best things come out of that moment when you realise you’re missing a crucial ingredient in what you’re about to cook. It’s the flying by the seat of your pants, living dangerously type of cooking that I enjoy…in small doses.

    p.s. I don’t fart (in the company of humans). Both my husband and my sister (both enthusiastic farters) think I’m weird.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree, in small doses, winging it is really fun, though I have yet to figure out what to do when I need onions and don’t even have shallots.

      I love that your comment is about both child labor and farting. My kind of person! ❤

      Like

  4. Ahhhhh!!
    Congratulations woman!! 🎉 🎉 🎇 🎆 🎈
    How does it feel to be an honest woman, no longer living in sin?
    I’m tickled pink personally but if only there were a final version of the pie before consumption!
    Sigh

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank youuuuu!!! ❤ Frankly, it feels pretty much the same as when we were sinning, only my kids are getting a huge kick out of calling him "Stepdaddy".

      I would have taken a picture of the finished crust, but the filling was oozy, and it looked kind of like the crust was vomiting, and my pictures are already hack jobs that I take on my phone. It wasn't going to do the flakiness justice.

      Also, I forgot. It's the ADHD, ok??

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  5. Pingback: Our Growing Edge – January 2015 Round-Up | Fearless Kitchen

  6. Congratulations! And this is a very funny post! Pie crust has always been the source of nerves for me, but this butter crust is very similar to the one I use. I just watched Martha Stewart make it a few minutes ago! Again, great post and thanks for the laughs as well!

    Like

    • Thank you, very kind of you! I’m actually in England with Earl right now making a very close study of pasty crusts. Apparently there’s a difference between Cornish and Devon pasties, but the crust seems to be fairly similar to this (and your (and Martha’s)) crust 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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