Pie crust is made actually made up of tiny particles of fat each encased in a dough of flour and water (or another liquid). It is this combination of flour and water that actually makes the dough elastic enough to roll. Problems arise if the butter gets too soft while you are cutting the ingredients together. It will start to coat the flour particles (instead of the other way around), causing them to actually repel the water and not form the dough properly. Even if you manage to bring it together into a disc and chill it, the resulting dough will be greasy and difficult to work with. It won’t be elastic enough to roll and as the butter softens again it will bleed out and stick to your work surface. Believe me, I learned this the hard way.
Don’t worry, it’s not as difficult as it sounds. The biggest challenge in making all butter pie crust is simply keeping the butter COLD. The less you handle the dough the better, since the heat from your hands will cause the butter the melt. This is where a food processor comes in really handy since it makes quick work of cutting the ingredients together, thereby reducing both the amount of contact you have with the dough and the amount of time the butter is at room temperature. If you don’t have a food processor, use tools like a pastry cutter (don’t bother with the wire kind, which won’t cut through ice cold butter) or a bench scraper to cut the ingredients together. Then use a rubber spatula or plastic bench scraper to blend the dough. I actually go with the hand method most of the time because cleaning the food processor is such a pain anyway. If you need to, just chill your ingredients in the freezer between each step to make sure everything stays nice and cold.
Ingredients for a single 9″ pie crust:
(for a double pie crust, simply double the recipe)
1-1/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. table salt or 1 tsp. coarse kosher salt
1-1/2 tsp. sugar (optional, for sweet pies)
8 Tbsp. butter, diced
3-4 Tbsp. ice water, plus more if needed
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