For some reason, making piecrust scares people. Bakers who confidently turn out fancy frosted and piped layer cakes and cooks who can sauté and deglaze with the best of us balk at humble pie dough. Every year as Thanksgiving approaches, friends drop by for impromptu pie and crust tutorials. I run them through the basics and stand supportively by as they see for themselves what coarse meal and moist clumps look like. I always use my classic pie dough recipe, a simple blend of unbleached flour, kosher salt, butter, vegetable shorting and water. This is great dough with good butter flavor and flaky texture from the shortening.
But this year, I may be handing out a new recipe: one that might be easier for pie newbies to make. The quiche at Forage in Silver Lake has a really good, buttery-short pate brisee crust. It tastes so tender, I thought for sure that along with scads of butter there must be few ounces of lard or shortening cut in there too, but Forage pastry chef, Kristin Ferguson assures me, the pastry is made only with butter.
Based on a Thomas Keller recipe, Kristin's crust is a blend of pastry flour, all purpose flour, Plugra butter, salt and ice water: a fairly standard combo. What's different about this recipe is the technique. The butter is uniformly blended into half of the flour, with a paddle attachment no less. It's sort of like creaming butter and flour. The rest of the flour is mixed in just until the mixture looks shaggy/mealy, then the dough is moistened with ice water. The results are easy to work with and oh-so-tender.
I really, really want pie to be easy, so I've altered Kristin's recipe slightly to suit the baker who doesn't want to shop anywhere special, and it's really good. For you foodies out there, the chef's recipe is here too. And what the heck, for old-fashioned folks, you'll find my classic pie crust dough recipe as well.
Easy All Butter Pie Crust Dough
Adapted from: Kristin Ferguson's Pate Brisee
Makes: Enough for 1 double crust pie or 2 single crust pies
8 ounces (2 sticks, 1 cup) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
2 ½ cups unbleached flour, divided
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
4 to 5 tablespoons (about) ice water
1. Using an electric mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, mix butter, 1 ¼ cups flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl until very well blended. Add remaining flour and mix just until mixture looks uniformly shaggy. Using a fork, add water and stir until moist clumps form. Gather dough into two even balls; flatten balls into disks and wrap in plastic. Chill at least 20 minutes and up to three days.
Kristin Ferguson's Pate Brisee
Makes: Enough for about 8 tarts or quiches
2 cups pastry flour
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 pound Plugra butter, cut into pieces, chilled
1/2 cup (about) ice water
1. Using an electric mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, mix butter, pastry flour and salt in a large bowl until very well blended. Add remaining flour and mix just until mixture looks uniformly shaggy. Add water and mix until moist clumps form. Gather dough into 8 even balls; flatten balls into disks and wrap in plastic. Chill at least 20 minutes. (Dough can be made ahead. Refrigerate up to 1 week or freeze up to 1 month. Allow dough to soften slightly at room temperature before rolling.)
Classic Pie Crust Dough
Makes: 2 disks, enough for 1 double crust or lattice topped pie or 2 single crust pies
2 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 ounces (½ cup, 1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
½ cup frozen non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening or lard, cut into pieces
5 tablespoons ice water
1. Combine flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl or in a food processor. Add butter and shortening and blend pinching between fingertips or using on/off turns until mixture resembles coarse meal. Using a fork, stir in ice water. Gather dough into two even balls; flatten balls into disks and wrap in plastic. Chill at least 20 minutes and up to three days.
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Jeanne Kelley is a Los Angeles cook and cookbook author, who also writes at Jeanne Kelley Kitchen. Or follow her on her Tumblr.