Cream Cheese Pie Crust (for pies with Decorative Tops)

Makes 1 double crust

350 g all-purpose flour
5 g salt
25 g sugar
150 g cream cheese, from a block
150 g butter, cold, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
25 g apple cider vinegar, chilled
100–125 g ice water

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.

After 30 minutes, 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. 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 least 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.

After 8 pulses, add the butter. Pulse an additional 8–10 times until the butter is broken down into nuggets ranging from the size of M&Ms to the size of Nerds.

Turn the mixture out into a large work bowl at least 12 inches wide. Begin adding the vinegar and ice water by dripping two spoons of liquid over the surface of the butter-flour mixture. Plunge your hands to the bottom of the bowl and pull the flour mixture at the bottom of the bowl upward, vigorously tossing the entire mixture. Continue, two spoonfuls of water at a time, until you have added 75 grams of water and it is visibly beginning to form moist clumps.

Grab a handful of the dough and compress it by squeezing it with about 3/4 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 spoonfuls 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.

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.

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.

Shape each piece into a 1-inch-thick disk. 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.

A 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.

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