Perfect Pie Dough Master Class

By Libbie Summers from Sweet and Vicious–baking with attitude, Rizzoli
Photography by Chia Chong

Cold is the key to the success of my award-winning pie dough. Cold bowl, cold hands, cold fat—and the cold truth. That pinch of heat and sweet I add? That’s for the cold at heart, feel free to omit.

(It’s the magic of the butter and lard—the fat—that makes the flakiest crust. When the dough is heated, the fat melts and creates little pockets in the flour. The water content of the fat becomes steam that escapes and makes the little pockets puff up. The puffs are what make a dough flaky. No puff = no flake. Below you’ll find my step by step recipe for the perfect pie dough.
Pie Dough Ingredients, Perfect Pie dough, Libbie Summers, A food-inspired life
The Cold Truth Pie Dough
(flaky with a little kick of sweet heat)
yields 1 double-crust pie

What you need:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon vanilla sugar (white sugar that has been in a container with a vanilla bean for a couple of weeks) can sub white sugar
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne (optional)
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed
1/4 cup cold lard (I prefer leaf lard) or vegetable shortening
4-8 tablespoons ice water

What to do:
Making the Perfect Pie Dough with Libbie Summers
Step 1: Refrigerate a large mixing bowl for 15 minutes to get it cold. Whisk together the flour, vanilla sugar, salt, and cayenne in the cold mixing bowl.
Making the Perfect Pie Dough with Libbie Summers
Step 2: Add the cold butter and lard to the flour mixture; do not mix.
Making the Perfect Pie Dough with Libbie Summers
Step 3:  Submerge your hands in a bowl of ice water or put them under very cold running water for as long as you can stand it.
Making the Perfect Pie Dough with Libbie Summers
Step 4: Using your fingertips, quickly work the butter and lard into the flour mixture.
Making the Perfect Pie Dough with Libbie Summers
Step 5: Mix until the flour mixture has slightly larger than pea-sized chunks of butter still visible.
Making the perfect pie dough with Libbie Summers
Step 6: Add 4 tablespoons of the ice water to the flour mixture and mix together with your hands. Continue to add ice water as needed, 1 tablespoon at a time, until a very loose ball is formed. The dough will still be crumbly, but should hold together when pressed together in the palms of your hands.
Making the perfect pie dough with Libbie Summers
Step 7: Turn the dough out onto a cold work surface and lightly pack it together. Never . . . ever . . . ever knead the dough.
Making the Perfect Pie Dough with Libbie Summers
Step 8: Divide the dough into two equal pieces (one slightly larger than the other) and form each into a disc. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours. Make sure to remove the dough from the refrigerator 10 minutes before using or it will be a pain to roll out. 
Making the Perfect Pie Dough with Libbie Summers
Step 9: Following the directions in the individual recipe, lightly flour your work surface and roll out the dough. You’ll see beautiful chunks of butter all through the dough.

 

Note: Leaf lard is the lard rendered from the fat that deposits around a pig’s kidney and inside the loin. It’s perfect for use in baking as it has little or no pork flavor. Leaf lard has been my fat of choice ever since I learned to render it when I was a little girl on the Missouri hog farm of my grandparents.

The dough can be frozen for up to 3 months. Wrap each disc tightly in two layers of plastic wrap.

Need some pie crimping primping ideas? Check out this video!

Some of my favorite Pie Recipes:
Macadamia Nut Pie (aka Wahini Pie)
Ginger Rhubarb Pie
Leftover Turkey and Sweet Leek Pie
Pecan Pie
Sour Cherry Pie
Sweet Potato Pie
Dark Chocolate Ginger Cream Pie

 

2 comments

  1. super awesome tips!!! I will have to look for Leaf Lard in Utah? or order online.

    Great COLD TIP advice and advance planning to chill dough before you roll out!

    Comment by Heather Cowan on November 23, 2016 at 12:34 am

  2. Thanks Heather!!! Cold everything…is everything! Happy Holidays!!

    Comment by Libbie Summers on November 23, 2016 at 8:38 am