Perfect pie crust? One word: Cold
My grandma made perfect pie crusts without ever measuring. She had a favorite bowl and she knew where the flour and other ingredients should fill on that bowl. She’s thrash it around a little bit and roll it out, and get perfect Cornish pasty and pie crusts every time. She used 7-Up instead of water, and if someone gave her some bear fat, she was in heaven. Second favorite was lard.
Today, we don’t use either bear fat or lard and I can’t make a pie crust to save my soul, though I may have discovered a secret recipe while attending Fall Harvest Foodie Camp at Asilomar last month. I haven’t set out to try the recipe, but I saw the results with my own two eyeballs so I’m confident in sharing it. The secret is cold.
Here’s Chef Chris Vaughn and Chef Jeremy Acuna’s foolproof recipe for a perfect pie crust.
Basic Pie Dough
Makes 2 single crusts (can be used for two pies or one pie with a top crust)
2 ½ C all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
1 ½ C unsalted butter (cut into pea sized cubes and very cold)
¼ C ice water – maybe more or less
Put all ingredients in mixing bowl but do not mix together.
Place bowl in freezer and leave for two hours or overnight.
Take out of freezer and gently mix together by hand.
Working in small batches, place in food processor and pulse until mixed but still very coarse, do not over-mix.
Add two Tbsp. of ice water to mix and knead on floured surface until dough holds together; do not over-mix.
Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour.
Remove from cooler and roll out to desired size.
I chuckle as I read the recipe: My own crusts need a chain saw to cut, and they tell me the reason is probably that I overwork them. Twice in their recipe, Chefs Chris and Jeremy say “do not over-mix.”