Cream Cheese Pie Crust

– makes 1 double crust

350g               AP flour
5g                    salt

25g                  sugar

150g               cream cheese from a block
150g               butter, cold, cut in 1/2 inch cubes

25g                  apple cider vinegar, chilled

100-125g       ice water

The cream cheese in this pie crust adds a nice acidity to the dough, which I mirror with a small addition of apple cider vinegar. In addition to boosting flavor, the cream cheese doesn’t melt when baked the way butter or lard do, which makes this my go-to crust for decorative tops. Whether it’s a carefully woven lattice, a network of overlapping circles individually punched out, or a meticulously pinched rope around the rim, this dough stays put in the oven. This recipe is sized slightly larger than most other double crust recipes to give you a little extra dough to cut and shape.

I utilize the food processor to cut the fat into the flour, breaking up the cream cheese first, then the butter second. The cream cheese becomes smaller than the butter, which helps the dough from changing shape when baked, while the large butter pieces still create flaky layers. However, I do not use the food processor to add the liquid, instead turning the flour and fat out into a bowl and sprinkling the liquid in bit by bit, as the food processor can be overly aggressive, forming too many gluten chains once liquid is added.

  1. Place the flour, salt, and sugar in a bowl and stir until evenly combined. Cut the cream cheese into ½ inch pieces, and toss them with the flour. Place the bowl in your freezer for 30 minutes.
  2. After 30 minutes has elapsed, remove the bowl from the freezer and transfer the flour and cream cheese to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse the food processor 8 times. Now, a pulse in the food processor is not a nervous jump in which you release the pulse button as quickly as you press it. A pulse is an intentional motion, lasting at lease one second, but not much longer. If you were waltzing with your food processor, you would hold the pulse button for the 1 and 2 count, releasing it on 3.
  3. After 8 pulses, add the butter. Pulse an additional 8 to 10 times until the butter is broken down into nuggets ranging from the size of an M&M, to the size of Nerds.
  4. Many recipes suggest you add the liquid to the food processor and pulse a few more times until the mixture comes together. If ease in preparation is your main goal, go right ahead and do this. However, I’ve found that the food processor has a tendency to overwork the dough as soon as the liquid is added, which causes it to shrink slightly in the oven, which is particularly problematic when you’ve spent so much cutting decorative shapes.
  5. Instead, I turn the mixture out into a large work bowl at least 12 inches wide across the top, and add the bit by bit by hand.
  6. Begin adding the vinegar and ice water by dripping two spoons of liquid 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 and it is visibly beginning to form moist clumps.
  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, one a little larger than the other with the intention of the larger piece being rolled for the decorative top crust.
  10. 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 piecrusts. The crusts will keep in your refrigerator for up to 48 hours, and your freezer for two weeks.