For years, I have been telling you to mix your pie dough by hand. In fact, I have insisted.
In the seven Thanksgiving seasons that this blog has seen, I have never put a food processor method for pie dough on here. I thought I was above it and that hand-mixed dough was far superior, but that was then, when I was young(er) and could still move after a full day of work. But now, at 36, I must admit that I was wrong (or at least wrong enough) and have discovered the joy of making batches of pie dough in five minutes in my food processor.
Of course, people have been making pie dough in the food processor for decades, so this is nothing new. My resistance is not because I’m a Luddite (which I am), but because I find most food processor pie doughs to lack flakiness, because people tend to process the butter too much. Visible butter is the sign of a future flaky crust; the water in the butter evaporates and creates buttery lil’ air pockets. When you mix dough by hand, it’s much easier to ensure that you get visible butter chunks, but that takes time and energy that I do not currently have, so I have figured a way to make the food processor method work for me. Here’s my method for All-Butter Pie Dough in the food processor.
First, blitz the dry ingredients together. This will evenly mix the sugar and salt into the flour. Also, it looks like freshly fallen snow and that delights me.
Next, add the COLD cubed butter and pulse it until the largest pieces are the size of marbles. This should take a maximum 5-10 pulses. Don’t let the butter get to the standard “large peas” phase or there will not have visible butter in the final product. If the butter is over-processed, the dry ingredients and butter may be transferred to a bowl where the liquid may be added by hand. Otherwise…
Pulse in the liquid ingredients. For my All-Butter Pie Dough, I use ice water and vinegar. Add liquid slowly through the food processor’s feed tube just until the dough gathers together. It should look clumpy.
After that simply halve the dough, form it into disks, wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for an hour or up to three days. For longer storage, triple wrap the pie dough in plastic and freeze it for up to six months.
I could leave it at that, but I know pie dough freaks some people out, so I’m going to give you some tips for pie dough success. These aren’t secrets, just things I wish someone would have gently told me before I ever made my first crust. Years of hearing food personalities telling you that pie dough (and for that matter, yeasted anything) is difficult to make are not easily shaken, but I promise that this is way simpler than it’s been made out to be.
Measure all the ingredients ahead of time and chill the ones that need to be chilled. This goes for any pie dough recipe you are making. Ideally, you should do this with every recipe, but I understand that you live in the real world. Nevertheless, doing it here will keep you from having soft butter and make everything accessible so you can be efficient.
Move quickly, but don’t rush! Resist the urge to add all the ingredients at the same time. There are three steps here: blitz the dry ingredients, pulse in the butter, pulse in the liquid ingredients. Each one has to be done just to a certain point because, as with hand-mixed pie dough, we want visible butter in our finished product. Visible butter = flaky pie crust.
The fridge is your friend. Getting overwhelmed or over-warmed? You have the option of throwing your entire food processor (minus the stand) in the refrigerator at anytime. A 15 minute chill can do your dough and your mental health a world of good.
Make multiple batches at once. Your food processor is already out and dirty after one batch and pie dough is very freezer-friendly. You can spend less than half an hour mixing dough and then be stocked for the holidays and beyond. Simply thaw disks of dough overnight in the fridge when you want to make pie.
Do not make pie dough if you do not enjoy it. I mean it! If you are indifferent to the flavor of homemade vs. store bought pie crust, or if making pie dough brings you more agony than joy, please please please do not waste your time making it. Baking should be fun, period. Full stop.
I, for one, find making pie dough very fun and look forward to making three new Thanksgiving pies for you every year. Here’s a sneak peek at the first! It’s coming Friday.
Still have questions? I made a video of this process last year. Click here to see how it’s done!
All-Butter Pie Dough in the Food Processor
makes 2 crusts
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, very cold, cut into cubes
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
~2/3 cup water, very cold
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
Cut butter into cubes. Put it on a plate and freeze it while you prepare the other ingredients.
Pour apple cider vinegar into a liquid measuring cup. Add cold water up to the 2/3 cup mark. Add a few ice cubes. Set aside.
In a food processor, pulse together flour, sugar and salt until combined.
Add butter and pulse until the largest pieces are the size of marbles.
Slowly add 1/2 cup of the liquid through the feed tube of the food processor, pulsing occasionally, to combine. Continue to add more liquid and pulse just until the dough clumps.
Turn dough onto a surface and give it a couple of quick kneads to help it come together, if needed. Divide dough into two equal pieces and fork into disks. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 3 days. For longer storage, triple wrap your disks in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 6 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge before using.
Flour a surface and a rolling pin. Unwrap one disk of dough. Use rolling pin to roll dough to 1/8-inch thickness (about 14 inches in diameter for a 9-inch pie plate). For easiest rolling, roll dough in one direction, turning it one quarter turn after each roll. Re-flour surface and rolling pin as needed.
To transfer to a pie plate, carefully fold dough into quarters. Place point in the center of the pie plate and carefully unfold. Fit it to the pan, trim any excess overhang to 1-inch and crimp.
Proceed with your pie recipe as written.