Pie Crust Project: #1 and #2

We follow the scientific method around here at BB&B – yeah that’s right – so I’m making two different pie crust recipes for a true taste test comparison.

It’s pie crust, people. Flour, butter and water. I refuse to believe this can really be that hard.



Martha Stewart, Smitten Kitchen and Simply Recipes all have the same recipe: a classic pate brisee. It seems to be the classic all-butter crust, and because I don’t want to use shortening (all-butter crusts just taste so much better and plus I feel like they have more pure ingredients, somehow) I’m going to test it.

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon table salt.
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces or 1 cup) of very cold unsalted butter
  • 8-10 tablespoons (8 tablespoons is a 1/2 cup) very cold water


I’m also going make essentially the same recipe, but with a touch of vanilla extract added to the water for flavor and with kosher salt rather than table and a lot of it.  The vanilla could just end up making the flavor really weird, but I feel like if it’s just barely added, it might bring out the flavor of the butter.  We’ll see if I’m right….

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt.
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces or 1 cup) of very cold unsalted butter
  • 8-10 tablespoons (8 tablespoons is a 1/2 cup) very cold water – Measure 1 cup cold water and mix 1/4 teaspoon vanilla into it, then add the water/vanilla mixture to the dough by tablespoons

Side Note: Cooks Illustrated has essentially the same recipe as those above, but mixes the unusual ingredient of sour cream into the water.  I’m not sure how I feel about that.  Furthermore, their explanation says it was difficult to work with by hand, so they switched to the food processor.  I’m so curious about the sour cream that I might have to try it anyway!

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The Pursuit of Perfect Pie Crust

Oh, pie crust. The goal is the flaky, lightly browned, crispy yet soft enough to cut with a fork perfect crust we all imagine but rarely encounter.


I’ve tried several different pie crust recipes and still haven’t found the perfect one. Just because my mom makes great crust (and she does) doesn’t mean her recipe will work for me (and, since I don’t have a food processor, it doesn’t). I don’t know why, but it’s just one of those things that you have to figure out for yourself, like eyeshadow colors and significant others. So I’ve decided to test out pie crusts until I find the recipe that works for me every time, and I’m going to share my attempts in the hope that maybe one of the options will work for one of you.


Yes, you read me right: I will be blending it by hand because I don’t have a food processor and honestly don’t really want one. I have a big kitchen by NYC standards, but it’s small by any other standard and I don’t have room for an appliance I’ll rarely use. I can see wanting one someday, if I get tired of hand-chopping and not being able to blend various things, but in the meantime I’ll happily use my pastry blender and get a nice arm workout.

Here is my problem: who will eat all the pies that are going to result from my experiments?  My friends are forever avoiding sweets and never want to take entire pies home with them for fear of gorging themselves (which, of course, is exactly why I try to give all the sweets I make away!).  I really need to make better friends with my neighbors so I can just force a constant stream of desserts on them.

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