How-to: pie dough


Just in time for the holidays a pie dough from scratch how-to! Making pie dough from scratch is not hard to do. Most likely you have all or most of the ingredients in your home; butter, flour,salt,sugar and water. There is no excuse for you not to make it.

Pie dough is so easy to make that I can’t even say I have one favorite recipe that I use all the time. The ingredients and the technique doesn’t change much.

It’s really a matter of do you prefer an all butter crust or all shortening crust or a combination of the two and whether you do it by hand or use a food processor.

As far as butter or shortening-most times I choose an all butter crust because I love a buttery crust. Shortening in a pie dough supplies a superior flakiness which means your crust will be crisp. Butter supplies flavor. Lots of people choose to make their dough with a combination of the two to get the best of both worlds. 

If  I’m making a lot of dough to freeze I’ll use my food processor. I can knock out batches in no time. If I’m making just one batch I have no problem whipping out the pastry cutter and getting to work.

One thing to keep in mind and you will have success every time is not to over-work the dough. Pastry making requires a gently hand. When bringing  the dough together be gentle because over-working results in a tough crust not a crisp,flaky crust.

The recipe is below, the pictures are just to supply a visual. I find it helps when you can actually see what something looks like.

The butter should be very cold and once cut into small pieces kept in the freezer until you are ready to use.

This is what the butter/flour mixture should look like after a couple of pulses in the food processor. Whether you use a food processor or pastry cutter this is what it should look like. It’s usually described as looking like coarse meal with some pea sized pieces of butter left in the mixture.

After the ice-water is added the mixture will not fully come together in a ball but if you take a handful and squeeze it together it will hold its shape and not crumble apart. Once you dump the mixture onto the counter and then put it in the plastic wrap those once crumbly pieces will come together nicely. See the picture at the beginning of the post.

You don’t need luck making pie dough,just a few simple ingredients and an understanding of why you are doing what you’re doing. Let me know how your dough comes out and e-mail me with any questions. On Thanksgiving Day you will be so happy when telling people you made your pie dough from scratch!

Recipe: pie dough (pate brisee)


2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water (Note: use the 1/4 cup of water. If your dough does not come together add the remaining water as needed a tablespoon at a time, just until the dough holds its shape. You may not need to add all the water.


Pulse flour,salt and sugar in a food processor until combined. Add butter, and process until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds. With the machine running add water in a slow,steady stream until mixture just begins to hold together.

Pour mixture onto a counter and gently shape into 2 even disks. Wrap each in plastic, and refrigerate 1 hour if you are using the same day. If you are not using the same day it can stay refrigerated up to 2 days. You can freeze the dough for up to a month; thaw in refrigerator before using.

Making dough by hand:

Put the flour,salt and sugar in a bowl large enough to hold and mix together to combine. Add the butter pieces and using a pastry cutter cut the butter into the flour,leaving some small pea-sized pieces. Pour the ice water all around the flour/butter mixture and using a wooden spoon or spatula mix it in.

Proceed with second part of recipe the same as above.


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