At its essence, pie dough is simple. It’s flour, salt, fat and water. I chose pie maven’s Kate McDermott‘s recipe for this site because not only because it works, yielding a soft, buttery crust, but I like her philosophy behind it. In her essay-as-a-recipe on pie crust, she notes “Dough is kind of like life. The path isn’t always smooth.” Her essay is a lengthy description about her thoughts on pie crust, full of opinions and hope about a great outcome.
Top Pie Tips
- CANNED VS. FRESH PUMPKIN: McDermott tends to have more success with canned. She explains, “I used to grow nearly everything for my family in the ’80s and ’90s including pumpkin and winter squash. After going through the process of growing, cooking, pureeing and baking my winter squash pies, I returned to the can. The product is more consistent and I actually get better results.” But be sure to get canned pumpkin and NOT “canned pumpkin pie filling.” Here’s why.
- SKIP THE PROCESSED WHIPPED CREAM: If you plan to top your pie with ultra-processed whipped cream from an aerosol can, consider how easy it is to make your own. Or scoop on some yummy ice cream.
- WANT SOMETHING DIFFERENT? If you’re tired of the tried-and-true, try something new, say this Sweet Potato Buttermilk Pie at Smitten Kitchen, a recipe I’ve made with great success.
The gist of the method: Keep everything cold, including your mixing bowl. She prefers to use King Arthur Flour and unsalted Kerry Gold Irish Butter. She uses leaf lard. It’s her recipe, I’m not going to argue. You can watch Kate make the crust in a video and get some lovely tips on pumpkin pie in general. Note that the dough recipe is enough for two pies. Each serves six to eight, unless you’re one of my brothers, then each pie serves two – Kat
Equipment You Will Need
A big bowl, one that is big enough to get your hands into comfortably. A 6-quart size is great.
A fork (optional, use your hands if you like…really!)
Put the bowl and flour into the freezer before you begin
CRUST – for two 9-inch pie plates
About 2 1/2 cups of flour
8 tablespoons (oz.) chilled butter, cut into one-inch cubes
8 talblespoons (oz.) leaf lard
6 to 8 tablespoons ice cold water, but this will vary
2 cups pumpkin puree
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup light coconut milk
3/4 cup sugar, preferably 1/2 brown sugar + 1/2 white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly ground
pinch of ground clove
What You Do
With clean, dry hands, mix the dough with the butter and lard in a large chilled bowl, rubbing it together until it resembles, in Kate’s words, the sizes of “cracker crumbs, peas, almonds and a few small walnut meats.”
Next, add three tablespoons of ice cold water by sprinkling it over the dough in the bowl. Move it around in the bowl with a fork or with your hands. Don’t spend a lot of time in there. You aren’t making cookie dough; you are just moving the water around so that it is in all parts of the bowl.
Squeeze a handful and see if it will stay together. No? Sprinkle another tablespoon of water into the bowl and repeat the process. When it feels like the dough holds together, move on by grabbing all the pieces up in your hand and press together into one big lump; it should feel like cool play-doh or clay.
Cut into two chubby discs, wrap each in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour. During this time, make the filling.
In a medium size bowl put all the filling ingredients and mix with an electric beater or a spoon until they are well blended. You can also use a stand mixer. Set aside.
Back to the dough
Pull the dough from the fridge. If its too hard to work with, let it warm up until it’s a bit pliable. Spread a generous amount of flour onto your work surface, be it a pastry cloth, marble, wood, granite, laminate, freezer wrap, wax paper, whatever. Kate assures us, it all works.
Next pound the edges of the dough with your rolling pin. Then, roll from the center away from you and leave a bit of an edge, say 1/2 inch, unrolled. Lift the pin and re-place it in the center of the dough. Now roll towards you leaving that 1/2 inch edge again unrolled. Give the dough a quarter turn and repeat. Remember, you only have to get the dough 1 1/2 inches to 2 inches larger than the diameter of the pie pan.
One it’s large enough, preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Slide your pie pan into a clean space on your counter. Roll the dough around the pin and gently lay it into the pan. Pour the filling into a pie dough. Then, you’re ready to bake.
Once you’re oven hits 425, put the pie in the oven and turn down immediately to 375 degrees F. Bake for approximately 50 minutes or until the custard filling is nearly set or doesn’t look runny. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
Who wrote this recipe
Kate McDermott is widely recognized as a pie expert by the likes of Ruth Reichl, Saveur magazine and USA Today. She writes about pie in her acclaimed blog Art of the Pie and shares her love and knowledge on the subject in a series of “pie camp” classes in Seattle.