I love working with dough. I love how the mess of flour and liquid transforms into a silken, smooth, living thing. Bread doughs, laminated doughs, biscuit doughs, pie dough.....
Pie dough is tricky. You have to know when to stop, know to stop before the dough is too wet, before it's overworked to a prematurely smooth paste that will shrink in the oven. Most books don't mention that part, the part about stopping when the dough is still a rough-looking shaggy mess. Which is just cruel. I spent much of my life thinking I couldn't make a good pie dough. It took a weeklong pastry class to show me the light. I've been in love with pie ever since.
These are a two of my favorite pie doughs:
Pate Brisee (from pastry school)
12 ounces all purpose flour
8 ounces fat (butter, shortening, lard or Earth Balance for the vegans. Can combine fats)
1/2 tsp salt
4 ounces ice cold water
OR, from Humble Pie (by Anne Dimock)
2/3 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
6 tablespoons ice water
Combine dry ingredients. Cut the fat into small pieces and toss into the flour mixture. Using your fingers or a fork, mix the fat into the sugar until it resembles coarse meal. I usually stop when the fat is in pea-sized flakes. Add about half the water, mix in. Slowly add the water until the dough just hangs together when squeezed. The dough should look rough and shaggy - it should not be smooth. Divide the dough into two disks, wrap in plastic, and put in the fridge for at least an hour. This will allow the moisture to distribute evenly, and allows the gluten to relax.
Dough will keep in the fridge for about a week, and in the freezer for about six months.
3 of my favorite books about pie:
Mrs. Rowe's Little Book of Southern Pie, by Mollie Cox Bryan
Humble Pie by Anne Dimock
The Perfect Pie by Susan G. Purdy
Now go forth and make some pie.