For the first time in a very long time, I’m cooking a Thanksgiving meal this year. Scott’s family is celebrating the Saturday before the actual day, and my family has a long-standing tradition of gathering the Saturday after. And so, without any plans for the actual holiday, we decided to stay home and make our own.
I’ve been keeping a running list of tasks that need to be done before November 26 arrives, and making pie crusts is up near the top. It’s something that can be done well in advance and eases the workload in those last days before you heft the turkey into the oven.
I’ve always been a serviceable pie crust maker, but in all the years I’ve been doing it, my skills have never progressed beyond adequate. So, when I was approached about trying and writing about the pie dough recipe from Russell Van Kraayenburg’s new book, Making Dough, I was happy to embrace the challenge if it helped me improve my technique.
The book features twelve different master dough ratios/recipes, includes options to make by hand or using machines, and then offers a generous handful of recipes (both sweet and savory) that utilize the different doughs. I’ve bookmarked a number of different recipes, and have already announced to my family that I’m making the Maple Braided Danish (pictured above) for Christmas morning.
I didn’t manage to try out Russell’s pie dough recipe before I left Philly last week, so I commandeered my parents’ kitchen earlier today to make a batch of pie dough. The recipe uses both bread flour (for elasticity) and cake flour (for tenderness), along with butter, salt, and water. I opted to unearth my mother’s food processor and it whizzed the dough together in about a minute. I turned it out onto a length of plastic wrap, gently pressed it into a disc, and popped it into the fridge.
A few hours later, it was time to turn the dough into something delicious. I went with a free-form apple crostata, because there were apples to use in the fridge, and it seemed like a good thing to eat on a rainy Portland evening. The dough rolled out beautifully, was easy to crimp and fold around the apples, and with a quick brush of milk, turned a lovely golden brown during baking.
When I get home, I’ll be using this same recipe to stock my freezer with pie crusts for the upcoming holidays (though I may introduce a bit of whole wheat pastry flour) and I can’t wait to try out some of the other master dough recipes in the future.
For a few tips on rolling out and moving pie crust, make sure to watch Russell’s video, below.
- For Pie Crust
- 6 ounces bread flour
- 2 ounces cake flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 7 ounces (14 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cold
- ¼ cup water
- For Apple Filling:
- 5 medium apples, peeled, cored and sliced
- 1/2 cup coconut or brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons milk
- By Hand Method:
- Mix flours and salt in a large bowl. Chop butter into 1/2-inch chunks and add to flour mixture. Pinch or cut butter into flour using your fingers or a pastry cutter, breaking it into pieces about the size of large peas. If using your hands, work quickly to keep butter from melting.
- Pour water into flour mixture. Mix dough with your hands or about 10 to 15 turns of a wooden spoon, until it just starts to come together. The dough will be very tough and should remain in a few large chunks.
- Place dough on a lightly floured surface and push chunks together. Knead 4 to 5 times, just until it holds together. Flatten dough into a disk about 1 inch thick. Wrap tightly in parchment paper and let rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
- Food Processor Method
- Pulse flours and salt in the bowl of a food processor 2 or 3 times to combine. Chop butter into 1/2-inch cubes and add to flour mixture. Pulse for 1 second about 8 times, until butter is in pieces about the size of large peas. Add water and pulse 3 to 4 times, until dough begins to come together. It may remain in a few large chunks.
- Place dough on a lightly floured surface and push chunks together. Knead 4 to 5 times, until it holds its shape. Flatten dough into a disk about 1 inch thick. Wrap tightly in parchment paper and let rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Combine apples, sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
- Divide the dough into two halves and roll one out into a rough circle. Move it to a baking sheet.
- Heap the prepared apples into the center and gently fold the edges of the dough around to encircle the apples.
- Brush the dough with the milk.
- Bake the crostata for 35 to 45 minutes, until the top of the crust is golden brown, and the apples are tender.
Flour Ratio This pie dough uses a 3:1 ratio of bread flour to cake flour. The large amount of bread flour results in a relatively high protein content, which helps create a flakier, crisper crust. You may also use all bread flour or all all-purpose flour.
Storage Because pie dough contains no chemical leavener, it stores well wrapped tightly in parchment paper. You can easily double, triple, or even quadruple this dough recipe and store enough for a month’s worth of pies. If you know the shape of the dough you plan to roll later, form it into that shape, about 1 inch thick, before storing to make rolling it later easier. Refrigerator: 4 days. Freezer: 4 months.
Pie dough recipe reprinted with permission from Making Dough by Russell Van Kraayenburg.