All-Butter No-Fail Flaky Pie Crust

I thought I would share my go-to pie crust recipe that I’ve used versions of for the Apple Pie Cookies, Pumpkin Pie (less water), and the apple pies I made for Thanksgiving and Christmas this year (recipe forthcoming).

I’ve tried and failed at many a pie crust, but once I tried Smitten Kitchen’s all-butter recipe, I never went back.  Sharing this today to abbreviate future posts!

Note: This recipe makes enough dough for two pie crusts or enough for one double-crust pie.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 1/2 C flour
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, very cold

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Fill a one cup liquid measuring cup with water, and drop in a few ice cubes; set it aside. In a wide large bowl, whisk together 2 1/2 cups flour, 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt. Using a pastry blender, cut two sticks of very cold unsalted butter into tiny pea-size clumps, using the blender to scoop and redistribute the mixture as needed. Be sure not to over blend the butter – having uneven clumps is a good thing.

    Pie Crust Ingredients - Flour, Butter, Sugar, Water, Salt
    Pie Crust Ingredients – Flour, Butter, Sugar, Water, Salt
  2. Drizzle 1/2 cup of the ice-cold water (but not the ice cubes) over the butter and flour mixture. Using a rubber or silicon spatula, gather the dough together. You may need up to an additional 1/4 cup of cold water to bring it together, but add it a tablespoon as a time. Once you’re pulling large damp (but not wet!) clumps with the spatula, take it out and get your hands in there (see how that big bowl comes in handy?). Gather the damp clumps together into one mound, kneading them gently together.  Do this quickly so the dough doesn’t get warm/melty.
  3. Divide the dough in half, and place each half on a large piece of plastic wrap. I like to use the sides to pull in the dough and shape it into a disk. Let the dough chill in the fridge for one hour, but preferably at least two, before rolling it out.

NOTE: If you want to make the dough ahead, it will keep in the fridge for about a week, and in the freezer longer. If not using it that day, wrap it in additional layers of plastic wrap to protect it from fridge/freezer smells. To defrost your dough, move it to the fridge for one day before using it.

Apple Pie Cookies

***UPDATE, DECEMBER 17, 2016:  I wrote this post in 2011, and for whatever reason didn’t include the actual recipe. I’ve updated the post with it so you don’t have to click on the Smitten Kitchen link to get to it***

I went to SimpleThings Sandwich and Pie Shop a few weeks ago and LOVED the sandwich I got.  However,  I felt that two (of the three) pies I had were lacking a good flaky crust.  Dare I say that they almost seemed like they were store-bought?  After acquiring the dough blender that I so desperately needed a few weeks ago, I was finally armed and ready to make a legit pie crust.

Pie Crust Ingredients – Flour, Butter, Sugar, Water, Salt

For reasons unbeknownst to the general public, I have had a huge disdain for the idea of making a pie for almost exactly a year.  My lackadaisical crust experience at SimpleThings really gave me the motivation I needed to get over that chapter of my baking “career”, and open up the avenues to new culinary horizons amongst other things.

Pie Cookie Assembly Work Station

There were a ton of steps to these little buggers as you can see from the assembly work station photo above.  It took a lot of time, work, and attention to detail to get these done, but the afternoon flew by with Allen Stone on full blast and a giant iced tea to sip on. [Side note: Coffee Bean has thee greatest Japanese Cherry Green Iced Tea!]

Scoring – All About the Details

I usually only have a sliver of whatever I make because I’m so sick of smelling it by the time it’s ready that I don’t feel the desire to eat it anymore… but it was definitely not the case with these.

Presto!

As you can imagine from the photos, there was more pie crust than filling but I’m all about pie crust, so this was right up my alley.

Apple Pie Cookies – why do they look orange in this picture?

I got the recipe for the Apple Pie Cookies on Smitten Kitchen, and thought I’d try this out first before going on to a full pie.  They’re also easier to share than a pie. Baby steps, people.  Baby steps.  Full-size pie and some other exciting announcements coming soon. Rest assured!

Here is the recipe below, as adapted from Deb’s website:

INGREDIENTS:

Crust

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting surfaces, dipping fork
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, very cold
  • 1/2 cup water, very cold (pour 1 cup and add ice, then measure 1/2 cup from it when I’m ready)

Filling

  • 3 medium apples, whatever you like to bake with (Granny Smith holds up well)
  • Squeeze of lemon juice (optional)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Few gratings fresh nutmeg
  • Pinch of any other spices you like in your apple pie

To finish

  • 1 large egg
  • Coarse or granulated sugar for garnish

Additional stuff

  • A couple baking sheets covered with parchment paper
  • Rolling pin, pastry brush (for egg wash), fork (for crimping and dipping) and sharp knife (to make slits)
  • Two round cookie cutters of different sizes. I used 2 1/2-inch and 1 1/2 to 1 3/4-inch rounds. You’ll want to make sure there’s at least a 3/4-inch different in the sizes, as you’ll need the extra margin to crimp your dough.

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Make your pie dough: Whisk together flour, sugar and salt in the bottom of a large, large bowl. You’ll want to use a larger bowl so nothing comes flying out while you’re cutting the butter into the flour mixture. Using a pastry blender, work the butter into the flour until the biggest pieces of butter are the size of small peas. Gently stir in the ice water with a rubber spatula, mixing it until a craggy mass forms. Get your hands in the bowl and knead it just two or three times to form a ball. Divide dough in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and flatten a bit, like a disc. Chill in fridge for at least an hour or up to two days.
  2. Meanwhile, get everything else together: Line up six small dishes. In the first one, pour some water. Leave the second one empty; you’ll use it for your apples in a bit. In the third one, mix the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and any other spices you like in your pie, such as a pinch of cloves. In the fourth one, place a little bit of flour to dust your surface and dip your fork for crimping. In the fifth one, whisk an egg with one teaspoon of water until smooth. In the last one, or in whatever container you keep it in, add some coarse or regular sugar for decorating the tops of the pies. Yes, it is a miniature production line.
  3. On a well-floured counter, roll out your pie dough pretty thin, a little shy of 1/8-inch thick. Lift and rotate your dough as you roll it, to ensure that it rolls out evenly and so you can be sure it’s not sticking in any place. Use the larger of your two cookie cutters [mine was 2 1/2-inch) to cut as many rounds as you can from the dough. Transfer them to parchment-lined baking sheets and keep them in the fridge until you need them. Once you’ve finished the first plastic-wrapped disc, repeat the process with the second disc of dough.
  4. Prep the apples: Peel your apples. Cut thin (1/8-inch thick) slices from one side of whole apple, stopping when you hit the core. Repeat on opposite side. Use the smaller of your two cookie cutters (mine was about 1 2/3 inches) to cut the apples into cute little discs that will fit inside your pie cookies. Place them in your second bowl, covering them with a few drops of lemon juice if you find that they’re browning quickly.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.
  6. And now, back to the production line. Grab your first disc of chilled dough and lightly dampen it on one side with the water to help it seal. Take your first disc of apple and toss it in the cinnamon spice sugar. Place it on the damp side of the bottom disk. Place a second disc of dough on top; it’s easiest to seal it by picking the whole thing up (this is when you’ll be glad that your dough is cold and semi-firm; if it’s soft and getting sticky, chill it until it’s easy to pick up) and press the tops and bottoms around the apple with your fingers. Back on the floured counter, cut decorative slits in your “pies” by dipping your fork in the flour and use it to create a decorative crimp on the sealed edges. Brush your cookie with egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Replace on baking sheet and chill while you prepare the others. These are a LOT of work, but they are so darn cute – it’s worth it!
  7. Bake your apple pie cookies for 25 minutes, or until puffed and bronzed and very pie-like. (If this is your first batch, peer in at them at 20 minutes, to make sure your oven doesn’t run hot.) Transfer to a cooling rack to cool.

NOTE: These will keep for a few days at room temperature. You could also make a larger batch of these, doing everything but brushing them with egg and sprinkling them with sugar, and keep them frozen until needed. Bake them directly from the freezer, just adding a couple minutes to the baking time.