This post on a foolproof, flaky all butter pie crust is three years in the making. This is the recipe and method I’ve been using for almost ten years. My mom is a master pie baker, I think my lack of fear of pastry dough comes from her. She taught me to use half butter and half shortening, but I prefer all butter for taste, texture and health reasons. For most of my adult years I’ve been the designated pie baker at Thanksgiving, bringing various Pumpkin Pies and my favorite, Chocolate Espresso Pecan Pie. I like baking, and letting someone else host the rest of the meal works for me.
So, ever notice how successful food bloggers post recipes well in advance of a holiday? (The reason is so that the post has time to get shared on Pinterest and Facebook.) I’m clearly not organized enough to be one of them, although I have aspirations. I tend to just bake/cook and take pictures if I can. Writing and posting happens when I have free time. We took pictures of making this butter pie crust three Thanksgivings ago! I actually started drafting this post in September, and I’m only remembering to share it today as my friend asked me for an all butter pie crust recipe last night. Today (the Sunday before Thanksgiving) is actually the perfect day to make pie crust. It will be just fine in the fridge. Little Bird and I are starting our pie dough today, so join us in real-time baking! This is also the perfect recipe for procrastinators as it is one of the few that doesn’t have to be chilled before rolling.
Tips for making a flaky butter pie crust:
The secret is really to have big chunks of butter suspended in the dough. They steam a little when they bake, making pockets in the pastry, which gives it the crunch and flake.
You don’t want the butter to ever melt, either from a hot kitchen, or warm hands. Fortunately freezing the butter this way really helps.
Don’t over handle the dough. If you mess up, just try to patch it back together with a little water. Don’t ever ball up the dough and roll it out again. Over-handling it like that makes it tough.
With this much butter in the recipe, the quality of your butter will be apparent. Use a good grass-fed or cultured butter if you can. And make sure it is unsalted!
There is no “perfect” in baking, and letting go a little helps. I’ve actually heard of pie baking being good therapy for anxiety. Maybe one day I’ll combine my private practice (psychotherapy) with baking in a workshop!
I really should do a video to show more of the rolling technique, but in the mean time, don’t worry about it being a perfect circle. If you historically struggle, make 1.5x the dough you need, so that it is bigger than what you need when you roll it out. Then use a knife to cut it into a circle! The scraps can be used for crust cookies or decorating.
The dough can be prepared the weekend before Thanksgiving. Make a round, 1.5″ thick disc of the dough. Wrap tightly in plastic and store in the fridge, up to 4-5 days. Can also be freezer for longer.
Pies taste the best when baked the day of. That way the bottom crust is still flaky. When stored in the fridge after baking, it can get tough or mushy. You can, however, roll out the dough the day before, put it in the bottom of the pie pan, cover in plastic and store, unbaked, in the fridge for a day or two. Then fill it and bake the day you want to serve it.
For more pie tips from Matt Gordon of Urban Solace, along with a Sweet Potato Pecan Pie recipe, click here.
Makes a double crust. For a single crust pie, such as pumpkin pie, freeze the other half for an easy pie crust in the future. From The Baker’s Dozen Cookbook via eggbeater.
2 Cups all purpose flour
4 Tablespoons sugar (optional, I usually omit)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
8 ounces unsalted butter
ice water, to incorporate
Cut the butter evenly into small pieces, place on a plate in the freezer and chill for about 30 minutes. Put ice and cold water in a measuring cup and chill (you won't use it all, but might as well have it cold.)
Place all dry ingredients in the bowl of a Kitchen-Aid mixer. When butter is frozen, use paddle attachment with mixer on the very lowest setting, and drop butter in a few pieces at a time. Stay close by. When the chunks of butter are slightly larger than pea size, dribble in the ice water until dough does not appear dry and JUST begins to come together.
Move the dough to a dry surface and push together with the heel of your hand. Try not to knead or overwork the dough, you want it to come together so you can roll it out. This dough can be used right away! This amount makes enough for a top and a bottom. If you are not going to use it right away, double wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for 3-4 days or freeze for up to a month.
Here is a quick snap of a Blueberry Mascarpone Tart. I used the cheese filling recipe from Chef Dennis Littley’s “No Bake Peach Tart” with an almond crust and a pound of organic blueberries. Gotta snap up those berries when they are on sale!
I wanted to share how delicious these crisp, chewy toffee cookies turned out. I love the Dark Chocolate Almond Lacey Cookies from Trader Joe’s. So when Little Bird insisted we do a mommy-daughter baking project during Baby Bird’s nap yesterday, we tried out this copy cat recipe featuring a honey toffee and orange zest.
We used this recipe from My Jerusalem Kitchen with local honey. We made them exactly as written with a few small changes. I think they taste better than the store-bought. The orange zest and cinnamon add more levels of flavor. The store-bought can be pretty addicting, but these went really quick!
My notes on making Dark Chocolate Almond Lace Cookies:
We used Trader Joe’s Almond Meal in place of the finely chopped almonds. The recipe still worked great and it was a convenient swap.
I baked them on silicone mats instead of parchment paper. Again, worked well and a reusable option.
We made the sandwich version with melted chocolate in the middle. Our yield was a dozen sandwich cookies. I might double the recipe if making to share.
Please use organic citrus anytime you are zesting or otherwise eating peel. p.s. Our orange tree smells AMAZING right now!
First: I’m an aunt again! My baby birds are now “big cousins” to a little girl. Congratulations to my sister, Marjorie, and brother-in-law, Sam!! Now, rugelach… Rugelach is a Jewish cookie made with a cream cheese pastry dough, and rolled with brown sugar, nuts, cinnamon, and anything else you like. These rugelach include chocolate chips.
This rugelach recipe comes from my mom and has been perfected for over 20 years. For most of those years she has lead the baking for the Jewish Food Festival in Carmel, for which she and a team make 2000+ pieces in small batches each year. When a recipe has been made several hundred times, you know that it is tried and true.
Here I am with my dad, circa age 15, in a mock wedding from the era of “Fiddler on the Roof” at the Jewish Food Festival.
Random trivia: My cousin Rachel has had many nicknames over the years, but “Rugelach” is one of the earliest.
This recipe freezes really well. My mom will pre-cut a roll, but leave one layer of the roll intact, so that it stays together as a log. Then you can pull it out, cut the rest of the way, and bake any time you have a craving. The cookies don’t even have to defrost before baking.
This chocolate chip version is tasty, but I love the simple brown sugar, cinnamon and nuts original the best.
S’mores Baked Alaska is a recreation of a delicious dessert we have had several times at Waypoint Public in North Park. A meringue top is toasted, like a perfect campfire marshmallow, covering a scoop of chocolate ice cream and a crunchy graham cracker crust.
This recipe was also the perfect excuse to try out the blowtorch Papa Bird gave me for Christmas. Being a food blogger, cooking gadgets are always a good call for gifts. As usual, Little Bird helped out on every step, except maybe the blowtorching. The recipe is actually pretty easy. The crust is just graham cracker crumbs with melted butter, pressed into pans. You could make crumbs easily with a food processor, but giving a three-year-old license to whack anything is fun. It’s also a good emotional outlet, as I learned during a school social work internship.
I thought about making something more like homemade marshmallows for the top (like this David Liebowitz pie), and thought I had gelatin leftover from the last time I made pumpkin cheesecake with cranberry gelee, but I was out. I might try marshmallow next time, if I’m feeling ambitious, but a simple meringue totally worked. We topped it like the restaurant with a drizzle of chocolate syrup and graham cracker crumbs. Yum!!
Our whole family has always enjoyed Waypoint Public. It is one of the few places with an indoor play area. That’s not McDonald’s. But an actual restaurant with tasty food. In fact, their executive chef, Amanda Baumgarten, was a contestant on Top Chef. Tip: They have a back room for private events. We hosted my sister’s baby shower there in December. All of the staff were very accommodating.
This a recreation of a dessert from Waypoint Public restaurant in the North Park neighborhood of San Diego, CA.
8 graham crackers
3 tablespoons butter
3 cups chocolate ice cream, slightly softened
3 egg whites
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar (optional but helps hold peaks)
2 tablespoons sugar
Preheat oven to 350*F. Place 8 graham crackers in a gallon-sized zip-lock bag and seal. Use a rolling pin to crush the crackers until they are broken into uniform crumbs. See video above. (Or pulse in a food processor.) Place ½ cup of graham cracker crumbs in a mixing bowl with the melted butter. (Reserve the rest of the crumbs for decorating.) Stir the crumbs and butter until combined and then press into three four-inch tart pans or ramekins. Put the mini pans on a baking sheet and bake for about 6 minutes. Allow to cool completely, but leave on the baking sheet.
Place a scoop of ice cream in each cooled crust. Leave a rim of crust around the edge uncovered. This will allow the meringue to completely surround the ice cream and make a good seal with the crust. Place the baking sheet and pans in the freezer to chill a bit while you make the meringue.
Separate the eggs and place in a clean bowl of a mixer with the vanilla and cream of tartar. Using a wire whisk attachment, beat until soft peaks form. Slowly sprinkle in the sugar a little at a time, and beat until stiff peaks form.
Pipe or spoon the egg white mixture over the ice cream, making sure you bring it all the way down to the edge of the pie. Using a kitchen blowtorch, carefully toast the outside of the meringue.
Decorate with a little chocolate syrup and graham cracker crumbs and eat right away.
Hi! I started Baby Birds Farm after the birth of my first daughter. I started sharing seasonal recipes featuring produce from our garden, eggs from our chicken, and homemade cheeses from our goat milk co-op. Fast forward a few years, another daughter, another business, and now we are just surviving and enjoying our busy life and food as much as we can. Join our journey of good food, farm-to-table restaurants in San Diego and healthy living!
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My Day Job
Abigail Burd, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Psychotherapist, provides women's mental health in San Diego, CA. Specialities include managing anxiety and depression during pregnancy, postpartum and parenting. Learn more about my practice in Clairemont (San Diego) at AbigailBurdLCSW.com.