2 sticks (227 grams / 8 ounces) unsalted butter, very cold
2 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons (363 grams / 12.8 ounces) all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)
1/2 cup (4 ounces) buttermilk (or water), very cold
For rolling out the dough:
Egg wash (1 egg whisked with 1 tablespoon of water)
Demerara or Turbinado sugar (optional)
To mix the dough:
Take the butter and divide it into two parts: about three-fourths and one-fourth. Cut the larger portion (three-fourths) of butter into small pieces, about 1/4-inch cubes or smaller. Cut the smaller portion (one-fourth) of butter into a bit larger pieces, about 1/2-inch cubes. Place the diced butter into the freezer until you are ready to use it.
Combine the flour and salts in a medium mixing bowl and stir with a fork to distribute.
Add the larger portion of butter (the three-fourths portion that was cut into smaller 1/4 inch cubes) to the bowl. Quickly toss the butter to coat it with flour. Use your fingers to rub the butter pieces into the flour. Continue to rub the butter into the flour until no large chunks remain and the mixture looks like coarse meal.
Add the remaining butter (the one-fourth portion of larger 1/2-inch cubes) and use your hands to rub it into the flour. Continue rubbing the butter into the flour until it is in pea-sized pieces and the rest looks like coarse meal. You will be able to see visible chunks of butter and that is a good thing.
Make a well in the center of your bowl and pour in about half of the buttermilk. It should form a pool and not soak into the flour right away. This is how you know you did a good job working the butter into the flour.
Use a fork to gently toss the buttermilk into the flour mixture until the buttermilk is absorbed. Gradually add the remaining buttermilk 1-2 tablespoons at a time. Between additions, check the dough by squeezing a small amount in the palm of your hand. If it holds together easily, it is done. The dough is ready when it feels moist but crumbly and starts to form clumps. It should not feel wet but will hold together when pressed in the palm of your hand.
Turn the mixture onto your work surface and gently gather it into a small mound. Using the heel of your hand, push the dough away from you and smear the mixture across the surface of the table (this is a technique called frisage). Use your hand and continue smearing the dough outward until what was once a mound of dough is now completely flat and smeared across the table. You want it to lose the crumbly appearance and look more like supple dough. It will look marbleized with streaks of butter throughout and the edges should no longer be crumbly.
Gather the dough using a bench scraper and press it into a ball. Divide the dough into two equal portions and shape each ball into a flat, thick disk about 6 inches in diameter. Wrap each dish in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour before rolling.
To roll out the dough:
When ready to roll out the dough, remove one chilled disk of dough from the refrigerator. While it is still in the plastic wrap, use a rolling pin to gently thump the disk of dough a few times until it is pliable and flexible.
Unwrap the dough and place it in the center of a work surface lightly dusted with flour. Lightly dust the top of the dough and your rolling pin to prevent sticking.
Place your rolling pin horizontally across the center of the dough and begin rolling upwards by pressing the rolling pin away from you (towards 12 o’clock) in one even stroke. Stop before you roll over the edges, leaving about 1/4-inch unrolled.
Lift the pin, spin the dough 1/8 turn (somewhere between 1 o’clock and 2 o’clock) and roll upwards again. Continue rolling in single upwards strokes and rotating the dough 1/8 turns until the dough is about 1/8-inch thick and about 2-3 inches larger than your pie plate. Be sure to add more flour to your work area or rolling pin if the dough starts to stick in any spots.
When the dough reaches the desired size, brush away excess flour from the top. Fold the dough in half and brush away more flour. Finally, fold the dough in half one more time (it will now be in quarters) and brush away the last bits of flour.
Transfer the folded dough to your pie plate, position it evenly, and unfold it. Gently ease the dough into the pie plate, adjusting it to fit evenly and press it down into the bottom edges. Do not stretch or pull. It should fit loosely and be comfortably resting in the plate.
For a single crust pie:
Use kitchen shears to trim the dough overhang to 1 1/2 inches of excess hanging over the edge of the pie plate. Roll the excess dough underneath (an actual roll like a sleeping bag, not just a tuck or fold) and let it sit on the edge of the pie plate. It should be even with the rim of the plate. Finish the edge by crimping or using your desired decorative edge.
Use the tines of a fork to poke holes all over the bottom and sides of the dough. Freeze the dough for 30 minutes or refrigerate for at least an hour.
Once the dough is chilled, line the chilled crust with crinkled up parchment paper. Fill the pie cavity to the top edge of the crimp with dried beans or pie weights, making sure to press them into the bottom edges and up the sides.
Bake the crust at 375 for 20-22 minutes or until the crust starts to dry out and the crimped edges are set. Remove the beans and parchment paper and bake for another 8-12 minutes or until the bottom is golden brown.
If you ARE baking your filling, brush the edges of the crust with egg wash and sprinkle with crunchy sugar then fill and bake the pie according to recipe directions.
If you are NOT baking the filling, brush the edges of the crust with egg wash and sprinkle with crunchy sugar. Continue to bake the crust for another 10-12 minutes or until it is a deep golden brown. Follow recipe instructions for filling.
For a double crust pie:
Once you have the bottom crust positioned in the pan and pressed into the edges, trim the edge to allow 11/2 inches of excess overhang.
Use the same rolling method to roll out the top crust until it is 1/8-inch thick and about 11/2 inches larger than the pie plate.
If baking a fruit pie, sprinkle the bottom of the pie crust with 1 teaspoon of all-purpose flour and 1 teaspoon of sugar. This helps thicken the juices and keeps the bottom crust crisp. Fill the pie with the filling according to recipe instructions.
Place the top crust over the filling. Roll the top and bottom edges together underneath the bottom dough and pinch gently to seal. Crimp the edges or finish with your desired decorative edge. Brush the edges and the top crust with egg wash and sprinkle with crunchy sugar. Use a pairing knife to cut vents in the top crust. Bake the pie according to recipe instructions.
1 teaspoon of kosher salt can be used instead of the combination of salts. Water can be substituted for the buttermilk.
Recipe adapted from Zingerman’s Bakehouse Recipe