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Pie Camp: Week 1
Everything you need to win Thanksgiving dessert + my All-Butter Pie Dough Recipe.
Hi Bakers! And welcome to PIE CAMP.
Pie Camp is how we are going to win Thanksgiving this year. With a little extra planning and prep, we are going to take the stress out of pie making and save our sanity come Thanksgiving day.
You can’t serve a pie straight from the oven, so let’s get that idea out of the way. Instead, we will learn how to bake, store, and refresh our pies in order to present the perfect slice to our guests.
Making pies (or parts of pies) in advance is going to help you have an amazing Thanksgiving in two ways:
By getting our prep done early and even baking some pies for the freezer, you will be freeing up valuable time, your mental capacity, and oven space on Thanksgiving.
Here’s a preview of your Pie Camp Syllabus:
Week 1: All-Butter Pie Dough
Week 2a: How to Par and Blind Bake Pie Crust
Week 2b: Get-Ahead Pumpkin Pie Recipe
Week 3: Apple Butter Apple Pie + lattice video
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All-Butter Pie Dough
Often home bakers get a little panicky over making pie dough. Trust me, I get it. It used to make me anxious too. But a good crust makes such a huge difference when it comes to improving our pie game.
Making tender, flaky pie crusts doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, I prefer a no-fuss, minimal approach.
My all-butter pie dough has just 4 ingredients: flour, sugar, salt, and butter (plus water). I prefer to make it by hand and recommend that you do too.
Making pie dough by hand gives you more control over the pastry than making it in the food processor. You won’t be as quick to overmix, which makes for a tough crust.
Not everyone owns a food processor, making this method more inclusive for cooks of all skill levels. Bonus - it beats pulling down the food processor, cleaning all the parts, and putting it away.
Instead, the result has more irregular butter pieces that turn into beautiful flakes after baking. The more marbling, the better. Making pie dough by hand allows you to feel for hydration and the flexibility to add more/less water.
After mixing, homemade pie dough needs to rest in the refrigerator. This helps the gluten relax and will keep the crust from shrinking and becoming tough after baking. You will need a minimum of 30 minutes of chill time.
Since it already needs to chill, the goal for WEEK 1 of Pie Camp is to get ahead. Frozen pie dough can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months.
The recipe is for one, double crust pie. Feel free to make a double batch and freeze. Thaw frozen pie dough in the refrigerator over night.
How It Works:
Flaky pie crusts are the result of cold, irregular pieces of flour-coated butter marbled throughout the dough. As the cold butter pieces hit the heat of the oven, the water content begins to evaporate and create little pockets of steam that separate the crust into multiple layers.
The end result is a crispy, flaky crust. If the butter is too warm and begins to melt before baking, then the crust may turn out hard and greasy, not tender and flaky.
Tips for Making Tender, Flaky Pie Crusts:
Keep cool - from your tools to your ingredients to your hands. If the butter starts to melt at all during the mixing process, throw everything in the fridge to chill out while you take a moment to sip some coffee or tea (making sure your hands don’t get too warm, of course).
Work the dough as little as possible. Once the water is added, toss gently and work efficiently. Overworking the dough will lead to a tougher crust and possible shrinking.
Have extra warm hands? Use a pair of forks or a pastry cutter (if you have warm hands). Use the flat side of the fork tines to smear the butter into the flour mixture.
If you want, you can start rolling out your pie dough into a disk just after it is made then wrap and store. This might be troubling if the dough is too sticky, but it helps to establish the shape and gives you a head start instead of trying to roll out a cold block of dough. Try rolling out the dough between two pieces of parchment or plastic wrap.
How to Hydrate Your Pie Dough:
The range of water accounts for a few different factors from the brand of flour and humidity in your kitchen to the temperature of your butter. The recipe will call for more water than you actually need.
Gradually add in the water and use as little as possible. The dough should still be shaggy once the water has been added and tossed around.
To test it, give the dough a good squeeze. If most of it sticks together, then stop adding water. It is better to over hydrate than under, but not so much that the dough becomes gummy.
All-Butter Pie Dough Recipe
¾ cup (180ml) cold water
¼ cup (60 ml) ice
2 ⅔ cup plus 2 tablespoons (360g) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
½ tea kosher salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (250g) unsalted butter, diced very cold
Place the water and ice in a cup and set aside.
Add the dry ingredients to a medium mixing bowl and quickly stir to combine.
Toss cold, cubed butter into the bowl. Begin cutting the butter into the flour by rubbing bits of the cold butter between your thumbs and fingers. Stop once you have irregular shapes of flour-coated butter - ranging in size from that of a walnut to a peanut.
Smear some of the flour-coated butter between the palms of your hands to create sheets of butter.
Create a well in the center of bowl and add 4 tablespoons of ice water into the center. Do not dump in all of the water! Sprinkle 2 more tablespoons around the edges. Immediately dip your hands into the bottom of the bowl and begin tossing the flour mixture with the water.
Add an additional 1 to 2 tablespoons of water and make sure any dry bits at the bottom of the bowl begin to incorporate. Give the dough a good squeeze; if most of it sticks together, then stop
Tip the mixture onto a clean work surface. Pat down the dough into a rectangle with the palms of your hands. Slide a bench scraper under the top edge of the dough and fold the top third up and over to the center. Repeat with the bottom third, like folding a letter.
Rotate the dough and repeat 1 to 2 more times. There will be some dry bits that don’t “fold” in the first round. By the third, most (if not all) of the dough should be incorporated.
Gather the dough into a ball and split it into two even portions. Wrap each portion in plastic.
Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before use.
Click here to see photos of each step.
Serving & Storage:
For best results and ultra flaky pies, allow the pie dough to chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes after making.
This time will allow the pie dough to properly hydrate and gluten to relax. Allow the pie dough to rest outside of the refrigerator for 10 minutes before rolling out and assembling a pie.
Keep the pie dough in the refrigerator from 30 minutes to 2 days. Alternatively, store pie dough in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw pie dough in the refrigerator overnight.