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pie, perfected

Baking pies isn’t necessarily about the finished product. It’s about the process. The mixing, the shaping, the rolling, the pressing. It’s a simple yet fulfilling process. On a cold, blustery day when the clouds have blocked the sun out and knee-high socks are a must, baking a pie is the only imaginable activity.

I realize that this post is about two weeks late, considering pumpkin pies hardly make an appearance after Thanksgiving. But it was too good not to share. Thanks to Ken Haedrich, my pumpkin pie was one of the best desserts we’ve eaten in months. Nay, years. I’ve tried Dorie Greenspan’s pastry dough, but that recipe left me wanting more. More taste, more crunch, more something. Ken’s all-butter pastry dough was the answer to all my unresolved pie questions.

When it comes to pies, my biggest pet peeve is a soggy crust. There is nothing worse than cutting in to a pie and seeing the filling sit upon a moist, white crust. In my mind, the perfect slice would look slightly golden, with a firm edge and a little crunch. This pie delivers that perfect crust for me. And it requires no special attention. In his book, Haedrich provides detailed instructions on how to prepare the pastry either by hand, mixer, or food processor. I chose the food processor route, but feel free to do it by hand if you prefer. I know many bakers like to get a real feel of their dough and food processors hinder that technique. But I have yet to master that skill. In due time…

One minor critique of my experience with this recipe is the shrinkage. Crust shrinkage is the worst, but I blame myself and lack of pie-baking experience instead of the recipe. Without getting too technical, crust shrinkage can occur due to many reasons. Too much water, too much handling, lack of pie weights, etc. Basically, I, the baker, messed it up. So next time, I will try to minimize the amount of time I handle it and will also learn how to properly flute the edges, since mine always turn out to look sloppy.

With holiday parties coming, I hope you get a chance to try this pie recipe. I am eager to hear about your experiences with it. I went the Pumpkin Praline Pie route with this recipe, and made some mini pies to fit our small holiday party. I will feature that recipe in a few days but in the meantime, get cracking on the dough. Here’s a sneak peek at the finished product though.

(I’ve only included the food processor instructions. Purchase the book for the by-hand instructions.)

All Butter Pastry Dough
Printable Recipe
Origin: “Pie: 300 tried-and-true recipes for delicious pie” by Ken Haedrich
Yield: one single crust for a 9-inch deep dish pie
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: one hour or overnight, to chill

● 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
● 1 1/2 tsp sugar
● 1/2 tsp salt
● 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
● 1/4 cup cold water


To make in a food processor:
Put the flour, sugar, and salt in the food processor. Pulse several times to mix. Scatter the butter over the dry ingredients and pulse 7 to 8 times to cut the butter in well. Remove the lid and fluff the mixture with a fork, lifting it up from the bottom of the bowl. Drizzle half of the water over the dry ingredients. Pulse 5 or 6 times, until the mixture is crumbly. Fluff the pastry and sprinkle on the remaining water. Pulse 5 or 6 times more, until the pastry starts to form clumps. Overall, it will look like coarse crumbs. Dump the contents of the processor bowl into a large bowl.

Test the dough by squeezing some it between your fingers; if it seems a little dry and not quite packable, drizzle a teaspoon or so of cold water over the dough and work it in with your fingertips. Using your hands, pack the dough into a ball as you would pack a snowball. Knead each ball once or twice, then flatten the balls into 3/4-inch thick disks on a floured work surface. Wrap the disks in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight before rolling.

To bake your pastry:
Preheat your oven to 400℉.

Tear off a piece of aluminum foil about 16 inches long. Center the foil over your pie shell, and just as you tucked the pastry into the pan, tuck the foil into the pie shell. The bottom edge should be well defined, as should the sides. Basically, the foil should fit the pie shell like a second skin. Let the excess foil on the ends just flare out like wings. Don’t bunch it around the pie pan or you’ll deflect heat away from the sides. Pour enough dried beans or pie weights to reach the top of the pan.

Bake the pie shell on the center rack for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, slide out the rack, and slowly lift up on the sides of the foil to remove the weights. Put the foil and weights on the counter. Take a fork and prick the pastry all over the bottom, perhaps seven or eight times, covering as much area as possible. As you stick the fork in, give it a little twist to enlarge the holes slightly.

Lower the oven temperature to 375 and continue to bake shell for 10 to 12 minutes for a partially pre-baked pie shell or 15 to 17 minutes for a fully pre-baked pie shell. Check on the pie shell once or twice during this time to make sure it isn’t puffing up’ if it is, prick the problem spot with a fork. A partially pre-baked crust will just be starting to brown, ever so lightly. A fully pre-baked pie shell will be golden brown and fully baked. Remove pie from oven and put on a wire rack to cool.

As soon as you remove the pie shell from the oven, use the back of a spoon to gently and press the side crust into position anywhere it might have sagged or slightly puffed. Take care not to push so hard that you break the crust.

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December 8, 2009 - 4:13 am

VeggieGirl - It’s definitely about the process, I agree.

BEAUTIFUL craftsmanship!

December 8, 2009 - 5:38 am

codfish - Amanda, I love your description of the perfect crust. Perfection indeed!

December 8, 2009 - 6:00 am

sarah the baker yoon - I’ve totally fallen in love with pies. It was love at first bake. :) Something about pies gives a really rewarding and wholesome experience. I have to bake a few this holiday season and I’d love to try this one! Thanks!!

December 8, 2009 - 7:39 am

whitneyinchicago - I am slowly getting more and more comfortable with pie crust, but it has been a process. I am with you. I hate a soggy crust. Needs to be a little crunchy and a little flaky.

December 8, 2009 - 1:27 pm

mieletcannelle - I’m a sucker for pies, and I’ve always been fond of my crust.. but this one sounds just divine! I’ll try. *smile* xo

May 24, 2010 - 11:14 am

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December 12, 2011 - 9:03 am

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