A summer fruit pie is always impressive, especially when you know how to make your own perfect pie crust. As a bonus, they can be made ahead of time and stored in the freezer for nearly on-demand fresh pie whenever the mood strikes or you’ve had a successful trip to the farmers market.
If you’re on a quest to eat more real food, you should cast a skeptical eye towards “convenience” foods. Supermarket shelves are full of items that can be made at home easily, and where only you choose the ingredients. For example, a typical store-bought pie crust can contain as many as a dozen ingredients, including preservatives and artificial colors. Gross. Don’t buy it, make it!
The simplest and best homemade pie crusts contain flour, a little sugar and salt, fat of some kind, and a liquid to hold it all together. Many recipes are out there that use these ingredients in different proportions: some use butter for the fat, which I prefer, while others use lard or shortening. Sometimes water is used as the liquid and sometimes it’s milk or buttermilk. The best success I’ve had comes from using a recipe from Deb Perelman, and it uses the following ingredients to make enough for one double-crusted pie.
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 8 oz (or two sticks) unsalted butter
Use any recipe you like as long as you incorporate these secrets of success.
1. Keep everything cold.
First, cut the butter up into small cubes, place them on a plate, and stick them in your freezer while you prepare the other ingredients. Then, fill a measuring cup with about a cup of water and a few ice cubes, and put it in the fridge.
2. Use only real butter.
Not only will butter give you the right flakiness, it imparts a wonderful flavor that’s far superior to shortening.
3. Use a large, wide bowl for easier mixing.
Measure and combine the dry ingredients, whisking them together.
4. Don’t overdo the mixing.
Add the very cold butter cubes to your dry ingredients and begin to work them in using either a pastry blender or your hands. I use my hands because I don’t own a pastry blender and don’t care to buy one. Just squeeze the cubes between your fingers while incorporating the ingredients and stop as soon as you have a coarse mixture with visible pieces of butter that are about the size of peas.
5. Use liquid sparingly.
Begin to drizzle in the cold water while stirring with a rubber spatula. You’ll probably need somewhere between 3/4 cup and a full cup to successfully hold the flour and butter together. This is another opportunity to get your hands in there and incorporate any stray globs of flour and butter. Again, don’t over-mix—just work the dough just until it holds together and you can pick it up out of the bowl.
Now, form the dough into a ball, cut it in half, and form a disk from each half. Wrap in plastic and put them in the refrigerator for at least an hour before use. If you’d like to store the dough in the freezer instead, wrap the dough disks tightly with a double layer of plastic which will protect them from freezer burn and prevent any lingering odors from getting into your dough.
Remember that making more of something takes no more effort than making less. Consider making at least a double batch of pie crust dough so your freezer is always stocked: you can pull them out and defrost them in the refrigerator overnight for a delicious pie the next day.