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Pie dough: favorite recipe and kneading technique?

I'm relatively new to baking (though not cooking) and am still trying to perfect my pie dough. I've tried a bunch of recipes (Julia's, Rose Levy Beranbaum's, Cooks Illustrated, and a few on epicurious.) I seem to have the most consistent luck w/ Rose's Flaky cream cheese pie dough (apparently the cream cheese removes some of the guess work for adding water.) But I still can't seem to figure out the best way to "knead" the dough to get it to adhere before the first chill and rolling.

What do you do? Pie and pastry suggests putting it in a plastic bag, but that has never worked in practice for me. Julia Child suggests a "frisee" where you smear clumps of dough in front of you. That helps it adhere, but I worry about loosing the flakiness.

So, what do you do? What's your foolproof technique?

Happy baking!

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  1. I actually use my food process - using the pulse and not overdoing it. The best tip I learned years ago was that the dough should be more on the wet side rather than dry. I don't knead, just bring together until it forms a ball. You don't want to activate the gluten, which happens when the flour is worked, and results in a tough dough. Same idea as when making biscuits - work the dough as little as possible.

    1. Pie crust should not be kneaded. If you have a food processor it is quite simple. If you don't you can use a pastry blender, 2 knives or even an electric mixer.

      For a 2 crust pie, cut 2 sticks unsalted butter in to pieces (tbs. spoon size is good) and freeze them for about 1/2 hour.

      Put 2 C. all purpose flour in to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel knife. Add a hlaf tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. baking powder (shake the can before spooning it out) then give it a pulse or two to blend. Distribute the butter over the flour. Put the lid on and begin pulsing until the butter and flour until it looks like large peas. Then add 4 Tbs. iced water and pulse. Feel the dough, it won't be holding together yet but see if it feels dry. If it does add another Tbs or two of the iced water. Then pulse until it just comes together on the blade. Turn out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and smush it together into a round and wrap well. Chill an hour or a few days, it will keep. In the meantime while it is chilling go to BB&B and buy a mat made for rolling out pastry.

      When ready to roll it out flour the surface of the mat well. Divide the dough in two. Flour the surface of the dough with flour. Then I cover with another sheet of plastic wrap. Roll from the center out, do not roll back and forth. Use short brisk firm strokes. Fit into your pie plate and repeat with the top.

      1. One more hint: Lay the dough into the pie pan, but do not stretch it. If you stretch it it shrinks back when baking.

        1. no NEED to KNEAD. Moisture should hold dough together. Kneading will make a tough pastry crust. Be tender, and tentative when dealing with pie crust. A light hand makes a tender crust.

          1. My favorite piecrust making secret is: After you add the water and you know your dough is moist enough, dump all the crumbs onto a 14-15 inch piece of saran wrap, close up all four sides to enclose all the crumbs. They should all be in an enclosed rectangle. Now just roll over it in different directions with your rolling pin. It will fill in any holes and completely compact the dough. Roll both sidesuntil it is tight and smooth, and then just refrigerate until you are ready.

            It only takes a few minutes, your hands stay clean, and your hands do not heat up the dough. It works great!