The basic flaky pie crust. To help ensure success, always handle the dough as little as possible, have the cold ingredients cold, and oven hot. Flakiness is caused by a cold crust containing unmixed bits of butter coming into contact with high heat. You can make pie dough in a food processor; just take care not to overprocess. To help avoid overprocessing, add all the ingredients at once rather than in three separate steps.
One 9-inch double crust
- 2 cups of unbleached white flour
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- ⅔ cup of chilled unsalted butter
- 5 to 5½ tablespoons cold water
- Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl.
- Cut the butter into small pieces and work into the flour with your fingers or a pastry cutter until the mixture resembles coarse meal — the goal is for the butter not to completely disappear into the flour. If using your fingers, work quickly so that your body temperature doesn't warm the butter.
- Add the cold water. Stir in with a fork; then, using your hands, gather the mixture into a ball that just holds together. Do not knead or otherwise work the dough.
- Wrap the dough in plastic wrap or waxed paper and chill for at least 1 hour. You can also prepare the dough the night before and let it chill overnight.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow it to stand at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes so it can be rolled out without unnecessary manipulation. Pie dough makes a more tender crust if it is allowed to rest before being rolled out. Lightly butter a 9-inch pie pan.
- Divide the dough in half. Roll out one of the halves on a lightly-floured board. For best results, roll away from your body rather than back and forth, which stretches the dough. Be careful that the dough does not stick to the board. Pick it up once or twice during the rolling and change position slightly. Check to see that there is still enough flour on the board. A good method that uses no extra flour is to roll out the dough between 2 sheets of waxed paper or kitchen parchment. Then you can just peel off the paper when you've finished rolling. Roll out ⅛ inch thick and 2 inches wider than the diameter of the rim of the pie pan.
- To transfer the pie dough to the pan, roll the dough loosely around the rolling pin and then unroll it into the pan. If rolled out initially on waxed paper, peel off the top sheet of paper, reverse the crust over the pie pan, and peel off the remaining sheet.
- Gently press the crust into place. Mend any tears by lightly moistening the dough surrounding the tear with water and applying a patch of dough. Gently press to seal. Trim the crust so that it hangs 1 inch over the edges of the pan. At this point I put the pie pan in the freezer to chill while I prepare the pie filling.
- Place desired filling in the crust and spread evenly. Roll out the remaining pie dough in the same manner as the bottom crust and place over the filling. Trim the crust evenly around the outside edge so that it slightly overlaps. There are pie-edge trimmers that do this in fancy patterns. Otherwise, seal by pressing the edges together with the tongs of a fork to leave a fluted design, or pinch in even ridges for a ripple effect. Prick the top crust with a fork in a few places to serve as air vents.
- Bake according to your selected pie recipe.
Recipe is reprinted with permission from Heaven's Banquet, by Miriam Kasin Hospodar. April 2000
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