When you mention homemade pie crust, there is usually wailing and gnashing of teeth. Pie crust definitely evokes some negative emotions, even in the most accomplished bakers. I think that my generation has become so conditioned to reach for a frozen (pre-formed) or refrigerated pie crust that most of us wouldn’t even consider making our own. For years, I was a disciple of the refrigerated type….I had attempted to make homemade crusts several times before, and they always seemed to be such a pain. Add enough water-but don’t add too much (it’s a fine line)! Make sure everything’s cold! Use butter! No, use shortening! No, use a combination of both! Use a food processor…no, don’t! Be sure to refrigerate it. Keep it cold and roll it quickly. It’s enough to make your head spin, and usually I had to patch about 5,000 different holes in my pie crust and never tasted as good as what I had built up in my mind. The last recipe I tried before discovering this recipe was by one of my all-time favorite bloggers and remains to this day the only recipe of hers that I haven’t liked. It had SO much shortening in it and tasted rancid. I was about to give up, when I discovered a little show on Hallmark Channel that lead me to this life-changing recipe.
Lucinda Scala-Quinn is the host of Mad Hungry, a great cooking show on Hallmark. She’s also one of Martha’s people, so this isn’t some rinky-dink show, okay? I love her show, and shortly after starting to watch, I decided that I needed to invest in her cookbook, also titled Mad Hungry. And in that cookbook was this recipe, surely Heaven-sent. It has changed my life, and I will never weep into my pie crust again.
Start by setting out one stick of butter and half of an 8-ounce block of cream cheese to soften at room temperature. I use neufchatel, which contains 1/3 less fat than regular. Once the cream cheese and butter have softened, place them in the bowl of your food processor and add 1/4 cup of heavy cream or half and half. Turn on the food processor and mix until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add 1 1/2 cups plus two tablespoons of flour (I use white-whole wheat and it works great-and is just as delicious and flaky as all-purpose!) and 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt. Turn the food processor back on and spin until it comes together into a ball. Scrape it out onto a sheet of plastic wrap. This makes two crusts, so you can divide it now or later-I usually wait until later. I just wrap it up in the plastic and press it down into a disc. Refrigerate the crust for at least 30 minutes. If you refrigerate it for an extended period of time, you will want to take it out of the refrigerator for 15 minutes before rolling.
When you are ready to roll, unwrap the dough and divide it if you haven’t already. Sprinkle flour on your rolling surface and on top of the dough. Roll it a little bit (I use a French rolling pin with tapered ends) then turn the dough an eighth of a turn and roll some more. Continue doing this, adding a little flour at a time to keep the dough from sticking, until your crust is sufficiently rolled out, then proceed with your recipe as directed. This dough has never broken on me. It’s very elastic….and I promise, it is the most delicious crust I have ever tasted!
By the way, if you only use half the dough, the other half will freeze beautifully! Chicken pot pie recipe to come soon….