Recently, when I was at the Easton Farmers' Market, I ran into Haika, one of my favorite bakers. A few years ago I asked her to teach me how to make "Pop-Tarts," which she does incredibly well. As these things often go, we still haven't gotten around to it and laughed about "maybe next year." But as she turned to leave, I said, "Wait! Just tell me how you get your pastry so flaky!"
"Oh, that's easy," she smiled. "I just have all the butter at room temperature when I mix the dough and then put it in the fridge to cool." After all, she said, the more you have to work the dough to get the butter mixed in, the less flaky it is.
What?! It's that easy? Every "professional" recipe I've seen calls for chilled butter and ice water. I've done a decent job at that version, but it's hard work because I do it by hand, and the dough is never as flaky as Haika's.
So, with Thanksgiving ahead of me I tried her version using my recipe--which mixes half butter and half lard (yes, even the lard was at room temperature). First of all, it was a lot quicker and easier to mix! Second of all, when cooked it was DIVINE! And not just in the pie. With my little one, I made just dough "cookies"--rolling out the dough and making shapes with cookie cutters and baking them with a little salt. Oh. My. Lord. I'd rather eat that than pie, frankly. And with a little marmalade on top...now we're talking!
Try it. With mixing so easy, there is absolutely no excuse to ever not make dough for crusts from scratch. Here's my basic recipe. If you're making a savory pie (like pot pie), just take out the sugar.
Basic Piecrust Dough
- 1½ cups organic flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- 10 Tablespoons ROOM TEMPERATURE butter and lard
- Water, as needed
- Put everything except the water into a bowl, and mix as softly and quickly as possible.
- Add water until the dough is smooth.
- Wrap the dough in parchment or wax paper and refrigerate for a half hour or so until you are ready to roll it out.