Tessa Huff

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How To Make Pie Dough by Hand

How To Make Pie Dough by Hand

Gear up for the fall baking season by learning how to make pie dough by hand. Want tender, flaky crusts? We got you. Don’t have a food processor (or despise cleaning it as much as we do)? No problem!

Unless you are making dozens of pies or are working in a commercial kitchen, then making pie dough by hand is a rewarding part of the process. Not only do you have more control over your ingredients, the task is simple and quite therapeutic. Here is everything you need to know about how to make pie dough by hand:

Flaky Pie Crust

Why we love to make pie dough by hand

From-scratch pie dough comes together easily and quickly in this no-fuss, no-tools method. Sure you can whiz it all together in a food processor for half the time, but unless you are making large quantities in a commercial bakery, making pie dough by hand for even up to a few pies is still quick and doable.

Not everyone owns a food processor, making this method more inclusive. Plus, if you are anything like us, the recipe better be totally worth the effort of pulling down the food processor, cleaning all the parts, and putting it away before we will use it (this recipe is not the case).

Making pie dough by hand gives you ultimate control over your dough. Since you are not using a machine, the bits of flour-covered butter remain irregular and organic. This means more marbling and ultimately more flakes in your baked crusts.

We love how a bowl of simple ingredients transforms into pastry between our very own fingertips. Making pie dough by hand can be relaxing as well. Read more about our thoughts on “pie therapy.”

How to Make Pie Dough by Hand:

How to Make Pie Dough by Hand:

All-Butter Pie Dough Recipe

  1. Fill a cup halfway with ice and top with water. Set aside.

  2. Weigh your dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and quickly stir to combine.

  3. 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.

  4. Dip your hands into the bowl and smear some of the flour-coated butter between the palms of your hands to create sheets of butter. Don’t over think this process or overwork the dough. A few times will do.

  5. Create a well in the center of the bowl. Taking care not to add in pieces of ice, place 4 tablespoons* of ice water into the center. Sprinkle 2 more tablespoons around the edges of the mixture.

  6. Immediately dip your hands into the bottom of the bowl and begin tossing the flour mixture with the water.

  7. 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. Do not over-mix or over-hydrate (er on the side of under-mixing, as the dough will continue to be worked in the next step).

  8. Tip the mixture onto a clean work surface. Pat down the dough into a rectangle with the palms of your hands. It is okay if there are some dry or unincorporated pieces at this time.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. Gently gather the dough into a ball. Split the dough into two even portions with the edge of the bench scraper.

  12. Pat each half into a disk and wrap well in plastic. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before use.

All-Butter Pie Dough

Baker’s Notes

*The water measurement is for a double-crust all-butter pie dough. Recipe may be cut in half for a single crust.

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.

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).

We love this bare-bones all-butter pie dough recipe. It has only the essentials: flour, sugar, salt, butter, and water. While other recipes call for things like cider vinegar, cream cheese, and even vodka, we find that it comes down to the mixing method rather than the short list of ingredients that makes for a tender, flaky crust.

Work the dough as little as possible. Once the water is added, toss gently and work efficiently. Overworking the dough with 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.

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