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The secrets to making a pie crust from scratch

Sarah Nasello shares her ultra-flaky All-Butter Pie Crust recipe and says it's relatively easy to master — and requires only a handful of pantry staples.

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Pie season is in full swing and this week Sarah shares a sweet and savory version of one of her top specialties: an ultra-flaky, All-Butter Pie Crust.
Sarah Nasello / The Forum
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FARGO — I was sharing my upcoming recipes with friends a couple of weeks ago, and they were shocked that I would part with one of my signature baking specialties — my All-Butter Pie Crust. All three are marvelous home cooks, and not one had made a pie crust from scratch. I knew then that it was time to share my secrets.

Over the next two weeks, I will feature a recipe for a savory galette followed by a fresh fruit pie, using the pie crust recipe I am sharing today, and I recommend making your dough in advance and freezing it, so you have it ready to go once the recipes are published. My recipe yields two individual crusts, and the dough freezes beautifully, wrapped in plastic and stored in a plastic zip bag.

Food is one of my love languages, especially when a recipe is relatively easy to master and requires only a handful of pantry staples. My All-Butter Pie Crust calls for just five basic ingredients — all-purpose flour, sugar, salt, very cold butter and ice-cold water — and I use this recipe for nearly all my fruit pies, galettes and even quiches.

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Sarah's All-Butter Pie Crust is made with 5 simple ingredients, plus a variety of fresh herbs for a savory option (from left): all-purpose flour, basil, sugar, thyme, salt, ice water, very cold butter and parsley.
Sarah Nasello / The Forum
More recipes from Sarah Nasello
Food columnist Sarah Nasello writes, "You can slice the sheet pan omelet and serve it as a big-batch egg dish or use it to make a dozen Make-Ahead Breakfast Sandwiches."

For savory recipes, like next week’s Tomato Galette, I may include the addition of herbs for added flavor, like fresh basil, thyme and parsley from my garden. You can use any herbs you wish, and if you do not have fresh herbs on hand, you can use a couple of teaspoons of mixed dried herbs, Italian herb seasoning or herbes de Provence.

But, for fruit pies, I keep my recipe sweet and simple. It is hard to beat the flavor of an all-butter crust, and I have a few tips to ensure that your crust is as flaky and delicious as mine.

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First, it is important to remember that cold is king when it comes to creating flaky pastry, and I use freezer-cold cubes of butter and ice water to mix my dough.

Next, handle the dough as little as possible, to keep the pats of butter from melting as the dough is formed. I use my food processor to make my pie dough, as it requires the least amount of handling and makes the process quick and easy.

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Sarah uses a food processor to blend the dry ingredients with the fresh herbs to ensure the dough is handled as little as possible.
Sarah Nasello / The Forum

I have tried a variety of methods to make my pie crust — I have used a pastry cutter, two forks and even my fingertips to cut the butter into the flour mixture — and every single time I wish I had used my food processor. When I do, my crust seems just a little bit flakier, a little bit lighter, a little bit more delicious.

Finally, chilling the dough for at least an hour, or longer, before rolling it out allows the gluten to relax so that the dough is supple and elastic once the rolling pin hits it. After the dough is mixed, I quickly form the shaggy mixture into a ball, divide that into two halves and then form rough disks out of each half. I wrap each disk in plastic and place them in the refrigerator to chill, or the freezer so that the dough is ready whenever I need it.

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Very cold butter is blitzed into the dry ingredients just until coarsely ground, with large chunks of butter still intact. If you don't have a food processor, you can use a pastry cutter, 2 forks or your fingertips to mix the dough.
Sarah Nasello / The Forum

So, make a batch, or several, of my plain or savory All-Butter Pie Crust this week, and have it ready to go for next week’s Tomato Galette or the Fresh Peach Pie the week thereafter, or any pie you choose. And feel free to reach out with any questions!

FYI: There is still time to place your order for the amazing Colorado peaches of the annual Fargo West Rotary sale, at https://fargo-west-rotary.square.site/ .

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Once processed, the shaggy dough is turned out onto a work surface to be gently formed into 2 disks.
Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Sarah’s (Plain or Savory) All-Butter Pie Crust

PRINT: Click here for a printer-friendly version of this recipe

Makes: 2 pie crusts

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Ingredients:
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled until very cold
1/3 to ½ cup ice water

For a savory option:
¼ cup fresh herbs, any blend of 2 to 3 herbs, or 2 teaspoons dried herbs, any blend

Directions:
In a food processor, mix the flour, sugar and salt together until combined, about 15 seconds. Add the herbs and pulse again 5 times to combine.

Add the very cold butter and pulse 8 to 10 times, until the mixture appears coarsely ground with large pats of butter still visible.

Turn the processor on and add the water slowly through the feed tube, starting with 1/3 cup and adding more as needed, until the dough begins to form clumps — the sound of the processor will also change once the dough is mixed.

Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and form into a ball. Divide the ball in half and form each half into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour, or up to 2 days, before using. The dough disks can also be frozen in a plastic freezer bag for several months.

Sarah’s tips:

  • To achieve the best crust, use very cold butter and water and avoid mixing or handling the dough too much.
  • Small bags of pre-measured butter cubes will keep in the freezer for months, so you have them available when needed.
  • Use fresh or dried herbs when making savory pies like galettes and quiches.
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Large pats of butter are still visible in the dough disks. Any cracks will relax as the dough chills and will then disappear once it is rolled out.
Sarah Nasello / The Forum

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Recipe Time Capsule:

This week in...

Recipes can be found with the article at InForum.com.

“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com.
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