(makes two 9-inch pie crusts)
1 cup butter
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt (increase to 1 teaspoon if butter is unsalted)
2 tablespoons sugar (omit for a savory pie or quiche)
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Important: Cold ingredients yield a flakier crust. I keep my butter refrigerated until the last possible minute. I’ve even been known to cut it, then stick it in the freezer before blending it with the flour. Also, I combine the water and vinegar then add some ice, so it’s extra cold.
Blend flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Add half of the butter and pulse (on/off) until coarse meal forms. If you don’t have a food processor, you can do it the old-fashioned way. I used a manual pastry cutter for years, and it works well. In fact, it may yield a flakier crust; it just requires more effort.
Make sure all of the flour is blended well with the butter (shown below). Loose flour will turn to paste once the water is added. Paste is not flaky. Once that is accomplished, add the remaining butter and pulse until mostly combined. Some small pieces of butter (pea size or smaller) are desirable at this stage. They will create little pockets of steam and add to the flakiness. Loose flour = tough pastry. Loose butter = flaky pastry.
Add ice water and vinegar and pulse until the dough begins to come together. Moist clumps should form. If the dough is too dry, add a little more ice water.
Turn dough onto plastic wrap on a work surface. Using your hands, gather the dough together and cut it in half. Form dough into two disks, wrap, separately, in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (Can be refrigerated for a few days. You may also wrap it in a resealable freezer bag and freeze up to 1 month, thaw in the refrigerator overnight, and soften slightly before rolling out).
On a marble slab, using a marble rolling pin (What?! You don’t have a marble slab and rolling pin? Where are your priorities??) or, you know, any flat surface and a wooden rolling pin, flour the surface and begin to roll out your dough. Just take a deep breath and start slow, roll it a little one way, then the other, then turn it over and repeat until you have the desired size. If it breaks a little, press it back together, you got this.
Carefully, fold the dough on to the pie plate. Trim off the edges (save to bake later with cinnamon and sugar).
Fold the dough edge under. Then, using your thumb and two index fingers, make a decorative edge. Don’t worry about perfection here; if it tastes good, you’re fine, and whipped cream will cover any ugly edges. Chill 30 minutes before baking.
Baking and Blind-Baking the Crust
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
For custard/cream pies that don’t require more baking, prick the bottom of the crust with a fork to prevent puffing, then line it with foil and pie weights or dried beans. For pies that need further baking (fruit pies, quiche, etc.) but you want to blind bake to prevent a soggy crust, skip the fork pricking and line it with foil and pie weights. Be careful not to press the foil into the crust, but it should press against it to help hold it up.
Bake @ 30 minutes until sides are set and pale golden.
For a blind-baked crust: Allow the crust to cool slightly before filling and continuing the bake. Brush the corners with egg wash for a glossy finish (optional). Depending on how long the filling needs to bake, you may need to cover the edge of the crust with aluminum foil to prevent burning.
For a fully baked crust: Remove the crust from the oven and brush with egg wash. Return it to the oven and bake another 5-10 minutes, until golden brown. The egg wash creates a barrier between the crust and the filling, preventing a soggy crust.