All Butter Pie Crust

– makes 1 double crust

275g               AP flour
4g                    salt

25g                  sugar
225g               butter, cold, cut in 1/2 inch cubes

75-100g          ice water

This all butter crust is the little black dress of my pie crust recipes. It is an all-purpose crust, ready to take on any pie related applications you can come up with. While I recommend more nuanced recipes for specialized results, this pie crust can stand in for all of them in an pinch.  As versatile as it is, this crust truly shines as a double crusted fruit pie. Once in the oven, the butter rich dough grows into flaky layers which are displayed proudly in the vents cut into the top of the pie. It also works quite well for individually shaped hand pies, or my favorite pie making byproduct, strips baked with cinnamon sugar sprinkled on top.

I exclusively use my hands to make this dough. Pressing the butter into petals makes for a flakier crust than the mechanical pulsing of a food processor or the slicing of a pastry blender. It also allows me to feel the entire process start to finish, picking up subtle nuances in temperature and moisture. If you’ve never done it, give it a try. It’s rare that we have such a hands-on, or hands-in experience with our food, and it’s quite satisfying.

  1. Place the flour, salt, and sugar in a large work bowl, about 12 inches across the top. You’ll want ample room for your hands to work with the dough in the bowl without being cramped. Transfer the bowl to the freezer for 30 minutes.
  2. When the flour mixture has chilled for 30 minutes, remove it from the freezer, and place the butter in the bowl. Insert your hands, and begin tossing the cubes of butter with the flour until they are coated.
  3. Working with both hands at the same time, begin picking up and squeezing the cubes of butter in to smaller pieces, pressing them into petals, then tossing them back into the flour mixture. Continue fishing out all the cubes until you have flattened them all.
  4. Now, you are going to begin breaking the butter down with your hands while simultaneously tossing it with the flour. To do this, use your hands like the upside down claws of a back hoe. Dig each one into the four and butter mixture, pulling up a small fistful and letting it rest in the cradle of your curved fingers. Using your thumbs, begin pressing the dough in a rolling motion, moving from your pinky forward to your pointer finger. While doing this, let the butter and flour fall from your hands back into the bowl.
  5. Continue this process, occasionally tossing the mixture to ensure the butter is constantly being coated in flour, until the butter is all between the size of a chick pea and a grain of rice. Restrain yourself from breaking the butter down too small, the variation in the size of the butter pieces creates the flaky texture of the pie crust when baked.
  6. Begin adding the ice water by dripping two soup spoons of water over the surface of the butter-flour mixture. Toss the mixture with your hands to distribute the water evenly. Do this by plunging your hands to the bottom of the bowl and pulling the flour mixture at the bottom of the bowl upward and vigorously tossing the entire mixture. Continue, two spoonful’s of water at a time, until you have 75g of water in the mix.
  7. Grab a handful of the dough and compress it by squeezing it with about ¾ of your strength. If it falls apart, add two more additions of water and check again. If it holds together, but falls apart when pressed with your thumb, add 2 more spoonful’s of water and check again. You’ll know you have enough water when you can press your fistful of squeezed pie dough and your thumb leaves an imprint, and only a little bit of the dough begins to fall off the sides. It will look just a touch on the dry side, and you might be skeptical that it’s actually going to hold together. However, if it’s moist enough to press together, 90% of the way, you’re set. The flour will continue to soak up the water in the refrigerator for the next couple hours.
  8. You will now begin a process the French call frissage. This is a fancy term that simply means pressing with the heel of your hand in a forward motion. This compresses the dough together while it flattens and elongates the butter into flakes. I like to keep the dough in the bowl, as it helps keep all the bits and pieces contained. However, you can turn the mess out onto the counter, which is what you’ll see if you google frissage and obsessively watch videos of people performing this act.
  9. Once the dough has come together, divide it into two pieces, and shape each piece into a disk 1 inch thick. The more evenly you press the edges of the disk, the less likely they are to crack and split when you roll your dough. Wrap these disks in plastic wrap and let them rest in your refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours before you roll your pie crusts. The crusts will keep in your refrigerator for up to 48 hours, and your freezer for two weeks.