Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Basic Butter Pie Crust

Cheap Eat Challenge: Watch our family of 6 learn to eat on $6/day.

Time for a photo re-do:

And here's the old photo for old time's sake:

Until about 2 years ago, I bought my pie crusts. There were many many reasons for this, one of which is that I didn't have a proper rolling pin. And by proper rolling pin, I mean one that was more than about 4 inches long. Why did I have a skinny, barely moveable, 4-inch rolling pin? Because once upon a time around Christmas, I'd determined to make sugar cookies. I went to the store to buy a rolling pin only to find them completely gone except for a sad little bin of sad miniature rolling pins. I bought one, used it on my cookies (it worked about like using a glass to roll out my cookies would have), and went about my business.

Unfortunately, a couple years ago when I tried to make a pie crust with this thing we are calling a rolling pin, my crust turned out to be approximately 9 feet thick. Yet I couldn't bring myself to buy a different rolling pin--a truly proper one. Because I didn't know what a truly proper one was. Supposedly, they were supposed to be heavy or at least properly weighted somehow. There was too much information about them. And too many rules surrounding them. And of course, those proper rolling pins could be expensive. And for all I knew, I'd buy one and then hate making pies.

Perhaps I would have gone the rest of my life buying generic refrigerated doughs made from suspicious ingredients, trans fats, and salt, except that one day there I walked past a Walmart display that featured a cheap, but appropriately long rolling pin. Throwing rolling pin caution to the wind, I bought the darn thing. And lo and behold it worked just fine. Compared to my skinny little four inch dud, it worked like a Mercedes. I could make pie crusts. I wanted to shout it from the rooftops. And I realized that when you're not using the equivalent of a ballpoint pen to roll out your dough, it's really not so difficult.

If you own even a lame sort of food processor, you can make your dough in about 5 minutes. It saves you money and if you make it with butter as I do, it tastes really good too.

Summer is coming with all its summer fruits. Don't you think those gorgeous fruits deserve a lovely butter crust to soak in. That's not even a question. Of course they do.

Also, a chicken pot pie is coming soon on this blog. And I wanted you to be prepared. So throw your four inch rolling whatever it is in the trash and buy yourself a sort of decent rolling pin instead.

Basic Butter Pie Crust
Makes 2 crusts
prep time: 5 minutes with food processor
Cost: $1.35

Note on using a food processor: For me (besides having a non-4-inch rolling pin) this is what has made making pie crust doable. I hate cutting in butter. Hate hate hate it. With the food processor (or a blender, which I hear also works), no butter cutting in is required. You'll sacrifice (supposedly) a bit of flakiness in your crust, but I still think it beats the heck out of anything you buy at the store. Which I guess is my general philosophy about homemade pie crust--it doesn't have to be cooking show perfect to be really great and so much better than the store bought stuff. And it takes less than 5 minutes. Less. than. five. minutes.

2 1/2 C flour (you can sub in part wheat flour if you wish--start with 1/2 C and see how it works for you)
1 C butter, cold
1 Tbsp sugar (if making a sweet pie; otherwise, omit)
1/4-1/2 C cold water

Process flour, sugar, and butter in food processor or blender until the butter is in pea-sized chunks (my chunks are always a little smaller). (Or cut the butter in with a pastry cutter if you feel the same way about cutting in butter as I do about kneading bread.)

Add water by the tablespoon till the dough comes together. (I just pulse it in the food processor.) Knead the dough a few times if necessary, but try not to handle it too much with your hands because that warms the butter and that means less flakiness (if flakiness matters to you in your crusts).

Divide into 2 balls. If you only need one crust, put the other in a freezer bag in the the freezer.

Sprinkle a generous amount of flour on your work surface and roll out the dough. Try to get it even (even-ish will do just fine). The dough should be about 1/8-1/4 inch thick. Lift it up and transfer to pie plate. (You can fold it and then lift and transfer and unfold, but I find it just easier to lift and flop it into a nearby pan.) Add whatever deliciousness to your pie. Add the other pie crust to the top if that is what you're supposed to do and bake.

Note on rolling dough: The internet (which we all know is always right) says that a nice, easy, neat way to roll out your dough is to roll it between 2 pieces of waxed paper or parchment paper. Then the transfer is easy. Take off one layer of waxed paper and put your crust in the pan. Then take off the other layer and crimp your edges or whatever edge fanciness suits you. I tried this with 2 pieces of wax paper and it just scooted around annoyingly and wouldn't really roll out. I took off one layer and it still scooted around, but I got it to roll and it really did make the transferring way easier (though I'm still not sure I can recommend this tip), but do flour your wax paper.



  1. Hi Jean-
    try wiping down the counter with a wet rag then putting down the first piece of wax paper, tamp it down, put your dough disc and other piece of wax paper on top. Then proceed to roll out the dough with your fancy schmancy regular sized rolling pin. Usually works for me. I use a veg oil based crust and it pretty much NEEDS the wax paper for a transfer. look forward to trying your butter recipe though!


  2. Thanks for the tip. I'll try it.

  3. I like your concept a lot. I've learned that making it yourself is a lot cheaper. I used to hate cutting in the butter, but once I learned to freeze the butter and then grate it-- well, super easy! Otherwise, I use a food processor and just let the dough relax a bit. To conquer the rolling out part, I learned to roll and turn the dough, Roll and turn 1/4 turn, repeat, repeat. The dough no longer sticks. I simply roll it onto my pin and then unroll it into the pie plate (I show this on my blog). Easy as pie!



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