Photo: Courtesy of Bubby's.
All-Butter Pastry Pie Dough (8-10 inch single crust)
4 to 5 tbsp ice cold water
1½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
8 tbsp (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter
1. Measure out the water for the crust (with a bit of extra water in the cup in case you need a touch more) and then add ice cubes. Chill the water in the freezer (water should be very cold, but not frozen).
2. Measure out the flour (unsifted) by leveling off dry measuring cup, and add to a large bowl. Add the salt to the flour and give it a quick stir to combine evenly.
3. Using cold butter, measure out the amount you need, and then coat the cold, solid stick with the flour in the bowl. Using a dough scraper or a long butcher knife, cut the butter lengthwise in half, and then lengthwise in quarters, coating each newly cut side with flour as you go. Dice the butter into ¼-inch cubes (or 1-inch sticks if using a food processor). Break up any pieces that stick together and toss them all to coat them with flour. (If it is a warm day, chill this mixture briefly in the freezer before continuing.)
4. Using a pastry cutter, press the blades through the mixture, bearing down repeatedly like you would to mash potatoes. Repeat this gesture until the largest pieces of fat are the size of shelling peas and the smallest are the size of lentils (none smaller). Do not get overenthusiastic here: this size range makes for excellent flakiness. Re-chill if necessary.
5. When adding the water, begin with a fully chilled flour-and-fat mixture and ice cold water. Be judicious, even stingy, with the water. Do not add all the water at once; it must be dispersed into the mixture incrementally. Add water, two or three tablespoons at first, quickly tossing the mixture with your hands after each addition with the light upward motion to distribute the water evenly throughout it. Work the dough as little as possible.
6. Continue adding little bits of water at a time. When there are no floury bits anymore — just little comet-like cobbles that don’t quite cohere — slow down and sprinkle or flick water in at this point. One drop can make the difference and bring it all together. The balance can shift quickly from crumbly to wet.
7. To test the dough for consistency, lightly pat together some dough the size of a tennis ball. If the ball crumbles apart or has lots of dry looking cracks in it, the dough is still too dry; let it break apart. Add a drop or two of water to the outside of the ball and work it just a little. If it holds and feels firm and supple, mop up any remaining crumbs with the ball — if they pick up easily, the dough is probably wet enough. If they fall back into the bowl, you might need a touch more water. The pastry should be just a little bit tacky when you touch it.
8. Shape the dough into one round ball with your hands. Cover the ball tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least half an hour to relax and slow the gluten development and re-chill the fat. In practical terms, this cold rest makes the dough easier to roll out.
9. When chilled, unwrap the dough and place it on a clean, smooth, lightly floured surface like a wooden chopping block or a countertop. Keep a little mound of flour off to the side to pull from as needed.
10. Gently press the ball down with the palm of your hand to flatten it into a round, flat, disk, about two inches high. Sprinkle the flattened dough with flour. Start the rolling pin in the center and keep rolling the dough from the center outward — using more pressure in the center and less as you near the edge. Take care not to roll beyond the outside edge or it will get too thin. If the edges start to crack and separate, gently squeeze them back together. Scatter flour across the rolling surface and flip the puck over.
11. Strive to make the thickness of the dough as even as possible—about ⅛-inch thick by the end. Loosely fold the circle in half, then in quarters. Center the tip of the wedge in the pie plate and unfold the pie dough very gently. Lift the edges inward a bit to help the dough settle into the edges of the pan on its own accord without forcing it. Don’t press or stretch the dough.
12. After lining the pie pan and allowing the dough to settle into it completely, trim the excess dough — about ¾ inch beyond the edge of the pan — with the pastry cutter or the tip of a sharp knife. Roll the trimmed dough edge and rest it on the lip of the tin. Work your way around the edge continuously, striving for a rolled edge pretty even in thickness — about ½ inch. The easiest way to crimp the edge of a single-crust pie is by pressing the tines of a fork evenly around the edge. You might need to dip the tines in flour occasionally to keep the dough from sticking to them.
13. Chill the fully formed crust for at last 20 minutes before filling it or baking it.