Pie Dough

If you use butter, this recipe uses a classic French technique called sablage (after the verb sabler, meaning “to make sandy”), which calls for the cold butter to be mixed into the flour by cutting it with a bowl scraper.

To make one 8- or 9-inch shell:
1 cup cake flour (use Pillsbury’s Wondra Flour if you can find it)
¼  teaspoon salt
¼  teaspoon granulated sugar
4 tablespoons (½  stick) cold butter  (if using Crisco, add 1 extra tablespoon)
2 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon water.

  1. In a bowl or on a cool surface, mix together the flour, salt and sugar.
  2. Cut the cold butter into 1/2-inch pieces. Add the cubed butter, or Crisco, to the dry ingredients. 
  3. Cut in the butter until the butter pieces are approximately the size of dried lentils (about 1/8 inch), working quickly to avoid melting the butter.
  4. Move the butter/flour mixture to a cool surface if you haven’t already. Form a well in the mixture and pour some of the cold water into the well.
  5. Begin to combine the water into the flour/butter mixture. Be careful not to overwork the dough at this stage. (See below for notes on how to avoid such problems with your dough.) Add more water as needed until all of the dough is about the consistency of raw hamburger.
  6. To ensure that the dough is well blended, remove walnut-size pieces and crush them against the work surface with the heel of your hand or with a plastic bowl scraper. 6. Gather all the pieces of dough together, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (or freeze for 20 minutes), up to overnight, to relax the gluten.

Rolling the Dough:

  1. Sprinkle some all-purpose flour on a cool surface. Have some extra handy. Place the dough down and press down firmly on the dough with a rolling pin. Turn it 90 degrees and repeat.
  2. Begin to roll gently, from the middle up, then back to the middle and down, rotating the dough between rolls. Sprinkle more flour on the dough and/or the surface if it starts to stick.
  3. Roll to about 1/8-inch thickness.

Placing the Dough:

  1. 4. Place the dough into the pie or tart pan by rolling it onto the pin, then unrolling into the pan; or gently fold it into quarters, transfer by hand and unfold in the pan.
  2. 5. Push the dough into the corners of the pan, making sure not to stretch or push holes into the dough.
  3. 6. Using a knife, trim off any excess dough (you can combine extra dough in a ball and freeze for a later use).
  4. 7. If you would like a decorative edge, crimp the lip of the shell with your fingers or a crimper.
  5. 8. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before adding the filling and baking.

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