The perfect pie crust for Christmas

by Donna Cain, Innkeeper and owner

Apple pie

Apple pie

I have always loved pies. In fact, I think of all of the desserts we make at our two inns, Brewster by the Sea Inn and Spa and the Captain Freeman Inn on Cape Cod, pies are my absolute favorite! As with most family traditions, I grew up enjoying many different kinds of fresh baked pies. We had a raspberry, blueberry and strawberry patch along with a small apple orchard. My mother always made her crusts homemade and so a tradition was started.

This morning I decided to make the pie shells for all of the pies we will be serving during the holidays. My mother lives with us at Brewster by the Sea, and she always helps me make the crusts. It was a bitter sweet moment for me this morning as my mother is 87 and not able to do what she use to. In previous years, I would prepare the dough in the food processor and she would roll the dough and place in the pie plates. My mother is quite the perfectionist, and I always smiled as I placed the picture perfect crusts in the freezer. This year she sat with me in the kitchen but was unable to help. So I thought no problem, I’ve watched her a hundred times and I can make the crusts just like hers.

Needless to say, my first batch today did not look like hers, but I learned an invaluable lesson that I wanted to share with my two girls this Christmas as well as my readers. It’s the little tricks that are passed on from one generation to the next that really makes a perfect end product. In this case, it’s important to have a dough scraper and as you are rolling out the dough stop several times to lift the dough from the bottom so that it rolls out easier. Just a little bit of flour is also needed- too much makes the dough tough and too little makes the dough stick to your pin. As I made the first batch my mother just smiled and patiently showed me a better way. It was just simple little tricks that made the shell come out perfectly. She commented that it’s OK to keep handing the dough until you get it just right but not to add too much flour. It’s also important to pay attention to the texture of the dough when you roll it into balls. In my case, I needed to add a little more water to the dough so it stayed together and did not crumble apart.

 

Making a pie shell

Making a pie shell

Happy to report that the second batch came out perfectly! We like to use a recipe that we found in a Martha Stewart magazine. The ingredients and instructions are shown below.

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (chilled)- 2 sticks cut into small cubes
  • 6-7 Tbsp. ice water

Be sure your ingredients are cold before you begin. Place flour, salt and sugar in a food processor with a metal blade. Pulse together for a few seconds.

Add butter, and process together until mixture resembles course meal. (8-10 seconds) Add 5 tablespoons of ice water until mixture holds together without being wet or sticky. Process for no longer then 30 seconds. Pinch off a peace of the dough, and feel it’s texture. If it’s crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Divide dough into 3 sections and roll into balls. Flatten into even disks and wrap in plastic. Chill for one hour.

Lightly flour rolling pin and rolling area. Lightly dust top of disk. With even strokes roll out dough. Use the dough cutter to lift dough from your rolling surface and dust flour underneath. I found I had to do this several times. Fold dough in half and gently place in pie plate. Pinch sides in a pattern.

We like to place our pie shells individually in large zip lock bags and then place in freezer until we are ready to bake our pies. You’ll find this recipe makes a thin, buttery crust that is like nothing you would purchase in a store. Once you start you’ll forever want to make your own:)

Wishing everyone a peaceful and healthy holiday season filled with delicious (homemade) mouth watering pies.

Lemon Meringue pie

Lemon Meringue pie

2 thoughts on “The perfect pie crust for Christmas

  1. My Mother always used bacon grease in her pie crust. I do now too. In your recipe, I’d use 1/4 cup bacon grease and 3/4 cup unsalted butter. It makes the crust flakier and gives it a good taste, especially in apple pies. I save my bacon grease in a small jar and keep it in the refrigerator. My wife, Lorraine and I enjoyed our recent visit to Capt. Freeman Inn.

    • Hi Herb,

      Thanks for your note. We always have plenty of bacon grease so I’ll have to try this the next time. My mother and I were just commenting that so many old recipes and ways of living are coming back.
      Thank you for staying with us and so glad you had a great visit. We have been busy with painting projects and have been so amazed at the transformation. Amazing what a little TLC and paint can do. Wishing you both a peaceful, healthy and happy New Year. Best, Donna

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