Flaky Butter Pie Crust

Makes 1 double crust

275 g all-purpose flour
4 g salt
25 g sugar
225 g butter, cold, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
75–100 g ice water

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.

When the flour mixture has chilled for 30 minutes, remove it from the freezer, and place the butter in the bowl. 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. Now, use your hands like the upside-down claws of a backhoe: Dig each hand into the flour-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.

Continue this process, occasionally tossing the mixture to ensure the butter is constantly being coated in flour, until all of the butter pieces are between the size of a chickpea 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.

Begin adding the ice water by dripping two soup spoons of water 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 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 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, and 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.

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