I want to tell you that my few times making piecrust was easier than I thought it would be. But I can’t. At every step—whizzing the flour and butter in a food processor, adding the liquid, packing the mixture into a sorta ball—I expected the mixture to, you know, resemble piecrust. It doesn’t. And so at every step, I was sure I’d screwed up, despite first consulting dozens of how-to videos and step-by-steps, including Melissa Clark’s incredibly useful guide. Even she couldn’t envision a cook as dim and fearful as I am. (Don’t even get me started on the hell of rolling.) Yet courageous me, I persevered. The result is a damn-good crust that has been baked about halfway so it’s ready to fill and finish in the oven. To guide you the rest of the way, do what I would do: Google.
1 9-inch crust
Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a medium container and stir well. Cut the butter into approximately ½-inch chunks, add them to the container, and freeze, uncovered, for 30 minutes.1
1Taking extreme measures to keep everything cold gives you leeway to work more slowly during the tricky parts.
- Dump the flour mixture into the food processor, then poke and prod so the mixture is in a more or less even layer. It’s OK that the butter chunks stick together.
Hold down the pulse for three seconds, then do it twice more. Remove the top of the processor and take a look: You’ll see a mixture of loose flour and various sizes of flour-coated butter chunks.2 It will not and should not look like pie dough just yet. Poke around in the mixture, and if you spot any chunks of butter that are larger than almonds, give it one or two one-second pulses.
2The fear of not getting the perfect-size chunks is part of what kept me from making piecrust for all these years. As long as they’re somewhere between the size of peas and almonds, you’re good.
Remove the top again and drizzle the water and vodka more or less evenly over the mixture. Give the mixture two more three-second pulses. Dump it all onto your counter.3 Gently press and pat the pieces of dough together until you have a rough ball with plenty of crags and cracks and some visible chunks of butter. Press down on the ball to make a disk that’s an inch or so thick. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to 5 days.
3You’ll still think, WTF, this does not look like pie dough! Instead, it’ll be a mess of large, medium, and small clumps and even a little loose flour.
- Spread a very thin layer of flour on your counter. Unwrap the disk and put it on the floured surface. Sprinkle on just enough flour so the rolling pin doesn’t stick to the dough and rub it onto the surface of the dough. Do this again whenever the pin sticks to the dough.
Now you’re going to roll4 this small, thick disk into a large, flat sort-of circle. Start with the rolling pin across the center of the disk and roll (about six or seven firm back-and-forths) with the goal of evenly expanding the disk, pressing the dough downward and toward the far edge. Start from the center again and do the same, but this time toward the close edge. Rotate the dough disk 45-ish degrees, roll it the same way, and repeat until the dough is a fairly even circle5 that’s about 11 inches wide and about 1/8 inch thick.
4Consider yourself lucky you have two working arms.
5Ragged, cracked edges are OK.
Now you want to get the dough into the pie pan without it tearing.6 Here’s the best way: Put the rolling pin on the dough a few inches from one of the edges. Lift the edge onto the pin and roll the pin so the dough wraps around it. Lift up the pin and dough, set it down on the pie dish, and unroll so the dough lays centered on the pan. Very gently press the dough against the surface (bottom and sides) of the pan. Trim off overhang so the edges are neat(ish) and use the trim to patch up any holes or tears.7 Freeze uncovered for 30 minutes (otherwise, it’ll shrink when it bakes) or wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 1 month.
6But if it does, don’t worry, you can fix it!
- Put one of your oven racks in the center position, and preheat the oven to 425°F. Once it’s preheated, take the pie pan from the fridge or freezer, line the dough with the parchment paper, and pour in the beans or rice in a more or less even layer. Bake on the center rack until the edges are very light golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Carefully remove the parchment and its contents and bake again until the surface no longer has that shiny raw look and turns a very light golden color, about 5 minutes more. Take it out of the oven and let it cool fully, and fill according to Google.
JJ Goode helps great chefs write cookbooks.