When I wrote my quiche post over a month ago, it killed me just a little to write "pre-packaged pie crust" in the ingredients list. I mostly did this to keep the post short and simple, but my heart was screaming, "But the homemade crust! It's so easy! Really, it won't scare them... come on, just include it, too!" While pre-packaged pie crusts (say that three times fast) are super convenient, many people don't have them handy in the refrigerator, myself included. And the idea of going to the grocery store just to get them when the whim to make a quiche/pie strikes sort of nulls the "convenient" part of it. All you need to make a pie crust from scratch is butter, flour, salt, sugar, and water. Uber convenient!
(What, you don't get baking whims? Oh, you will. Trust me. For example, I usually fall asleep within 10 minutes of getting into bed. But last night I was up for 45 minutes because I had a new idea for a cake and had to work through the details so I wouldn't forget when I woke up in the morning. True story.)
Pate brisee (pronounced "paht bree-zay"), meaning "short pastry", is the fancy French term for pie crust dough . This flaky and rich dough is used for sweet and savory crusts for dishes such as pies, tarts, and quiches. If I could only pick one word of advice to keep in mind while making pie crusts from scratch, it would be C-O-L-D. Every ingredient should be cold (pictures to follow). I even cool the bowl I use. (So, this is a great early morning substitute for coffee... you'd be surprised how going into the freezer a few times will get your blood pumping.) The reason everything should be cold is because you want the fat (butter) to remain whole and not melt due to the warmth of your hands or the air. When the pie crust bakes in the oven, water from the little beads of butter will evaporate and cause the pastry to puff up, making a really flaky and tender crust.
I'm including directions for making the pie crusts by hand or with a food processor, because while the latter makes it even easier, it's almost as simple (and much more accessible to people) by hand. Also, don't be intimidated by the vast amounts of text here. If you haven't realized this by now, I'd rather give too many instructions than too little. One thing that really bugged me when I started cooking was the lack of detail in recipes. Imagine being told to make something for the first time without pictures! Lame. It's usually never as difficult as it seems, but the quality of teaching/directions can make all the difference in the world. And now...
-makes enough for one 9" pie/quiche crust when rolled thin
(if you are making a two crust pie, double this recipe exactly)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar (if using for a pie crust, I'd recommend increasing to 1 tsp)
1 stick unsalted butter, diced into 1/2" pieces
By hand instructions:
In large bowl, mix flour, sugar, and salt together with fork or pastry blender. On a small cutting board, dice butter into 1/2" pieces. Place both bowl with flour mixture and board with butter in freezer for five minutes. While they are chilling, fill a glass with water and ice cubes -- lots of ice cubes, because you want this water to be cold.
After five minutes, remove flour and butter from freezer. Add butter to flour mixture and "cut" into mixture, until the whole mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some larger pieces remaining (about the size of peas).
One tablespoon at a time (because you can always add more water if needed), add water to flour butter mixture by drizzling over the top. Mix with pastry blender until the water is absorbed. Add another tablespoon, and repeat process. You want the dough to just stick together when a bit is squeezed between your fingers. If the dough is still too crumbly, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time.
Unroll plastic wrap to give you about a square foot of empty wrap on the counter. Turn out the dough onto plastic wrap and shape into a flattened disk of dough. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight. The dough can be frozen up to 1 month -- thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.
(Same tools needed, but replace the pastry blender and large bowl with a food processor. I love that my mini food processor is perfect for this type of job.)
In the bowl of the food processor, combine flour, salt, and sugar, and pulse together to mix evenly. On a small cutting board, dice butter into 1/2" pieces. Place food processor bowl with flour mixture and board with butter in freezer for five minutes. While they are chilling, fill a glass with water and ice cubes -- lots of ice cubes, because you want this water to be cold.
Remove butter and flour from freezer after 5 minutes. Add butter to bowl of food processor (now locked into the food processor base), add lid, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. By pulse, I mean use separate button-pushing motions rather than holding the button down all at once. Try counting to ten and pulsing on each number.
With the machine running, add the ice water through the feed tube on the lid of the bowl in a slow and steady stream, just until the dough holds together when squeeze without being wet or sticky. (If it does get too sticky, I'll show you how to correct this later.) Do not process the dough mixture for more than 30 seconds. If dough holds together when squeezed between your fingers, you're done! If not, add a little more water, one tablespoon at a time.
Unroll plastic wrap to give you about a square foot of empty wrap on the counter. Turn out the dough onto plastic wrap and shape into a flattened disk of dough. If it's a bit too wet and sticky, dust with a teaspoon of flour on the outside of the disk and pat together. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight. The dough can be frozen up to 1 month -- thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.
See? Easy! With some detailed instructions and very few basic ingredients and tools, you can get a flaky pie or quiche crust that'll make you feel like a highly trained chef!