To successfully execute these recipes it is crucial to keep the ingredients at the right temperature, which allows you to incorporate the fat into the flour without emulsifying it. Unless otherwise noted, an ingredient should be room temperature (68 to 72°F/20 to 22°C). Depending on the type of pastry dough you are making, an ingredient may be specified as “cold,” which would be in the fridge range of 34 to 40°F (1 to 4°C), or freezer temperature, which is below 30°F (−1°C). My unusual technique of dissolving the sugar and salt in water, rather than adding them to the flour, ensures even seasoning for a flavorful dough.
If your kitchen is warm and the dough feels soft, you may want to chill your dough for 15 to 20 minutes before rolling. Alternatively, if it feels chilly and stiff, leave it to rest at room temperature for around 20 minutes before rolling. Due to the low moisture and high fat content of these doughs, there’s very little gluten development. This means that if the dough is at room temperature, there’s no need to let it rest for an hour before rolling it, as per standard pastry wisdom. With the exception of a few of the savory pies, you will need to start by making a bottom crust.
- Stir the sugar, salt, and water together in a small bowl until the sugar and salt are fully dissolved. Place the bowl in the freezer—the liquid needs to be ice cold before it is added to the dough.
- Put the flour(s) in a large bowl and dump the butter, lard, or coconut oil into the flour. Toss to coat the pieces of fat in the flour. Working quickly, use your thumbs and index fingers to squeeze each chunk of fat into a thin sheet, between 1⁄8 and 1⁄4 inch (3 and 6 mm) thick. Shake the contents of the bowl to ensure the sheets are well-coated in flour.
- Sprinkle the ice-cold sugar-salt solution over the fat and flour. Use your fingers to lightly toss the contents of the bowl around to disperse the liquid.
- Squeeze the shaggy mess with your fists, repeatedly and quickly, until the chunks get bigger and more cohesive.
- At first it will be crumbly and seem as if it won’t come together, but with continued compression, you can begin to make two mounds of dough of roughly equal size. Flatten your mounds into 1-inch- (2.5-cm-) thick disks.
- This one is best for blind-baking for icebox pies. It doesn’t work as well for pies that need to be baked, since it contains additional sugar that would cause it to burn before the filling cooks fully. To the dough recipe of your choice, add 1 cup (85 g) unsweetened shredded coconut and 1/4 cup (50 g) sugar, tossing to disperse through the dough before squeezing the dough with your fists, or if using the food processor method, while forming the dough into disks. This dough is very likely to break when transferring it into a pan, so use a silicone mat to help you transfer. Use your fingers to gently press the dough back together if it breaks when you transfer it into the pan.
- Prepare a clean, dry, nonporous surface by sprinkling it with the flour appropriate for your choice of dough.
- Place a disk of dough on top of the floured surface and sprinkle it with a little more flour. Place your rolling pin in the center of the dough and roll away from yourself with firm, even pressure, but not enough force to squish the dough. As you approach the edge of the dough, use a little less pressure so that it doesn’t become too thin on the edges.
- Rotate the dough about 45 degrees. Place the rolling pin at the center of the disk and roll away from yourself once again.
- Continue to rotate and roll, adding more flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking to the surface and/or the rolling pin, until you’ve rolled the dough to approximately 1⁄8 inch (3 mm) thick. If the dough starts to split on the edges, you can gently press it back together before continuing to roll it out. The finished sheet of dough should be roughly 12 inches (30.5 cm) in diameter.
- Transfer the sheet of dough into a pie pan, centering it so that you have at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) of extra dough all the way around the edges of the pan. While transferring, support the dough with your fingers spread out, in order to distribute the weight and prevent breakage.
- Alternatively, put your hand and wrist under the silicone mat along the center line of the dough circle and pick it up, letting one half of the circle hang on one side of your hand, and the other half of the dough circle hang on the other side.
- Lay one half of the dough along the center line of the pie pan, then fold the other half over so the silicone mat is lying over the top, then remove the mat.
- Once the sheet of dough is in the pan, ease it into the corner where the base of the pan meets the sides.
- In order to do this without stretching or breaking the dough, lift the edge of the dough with one hand to allow it to fall into place while gently pressing it into the corner with the other. If not crimping or adding a top crust, trim the crust by running a knife all the way around the outer edge of the pan.
- After transferring your dough sheet into the pie pan, lift the edge of the dough up to make a raised, hollow area, about 3⁄8 inch (1 cm) or a little less than 1⁄2 inch (12 mm) high, over the edge of the pie pan, pressing the excess dough against the rim of the pie pan to trim it. This will give you enough dough to form a decorative edge.
- Then position the thumb and forefinger of your nondominant hand so that there’s about 1⁄2 inch (12 mm) of dough between them, and push them gently into the edge of the crust, right over the rim of the pie dish, while simultaneously using the forefinger of your dominant hand to push the dough from the opposite side into the space between your thumb and forefinger.
- Shift your nondominant hand so that your thumb is now in the spot that your nondominant index finger just occupied, and repeat the same motion. Continue all the way around the edge of the pie. The rounded edges that result from this method prevent the burning that would otherwise happen if you pinched the dough into thin, sharp points.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
- Line the pie shell with a circle of parchment paper. Add dry beans, uncooked rice, or pie weights to reach about two-thirds of the way up the sides of the crust.
- To blind-bake: Bake the shell for 20 minutes, then carefully remove the pie weights and parchment paper. If you made a crimped edge, gently cover it with a strip of aluminum foil or a pie crust protector. Put the shell back in the oven and bake for 15 minutes more to fully bake the bottom of the crust.