We want to talk to you about our pies and, specifically, our butter crusts. If you have tasted one of our amazing pies, you already know we take pie very seriously (and if you haven’t, you are missing out!). All of our pies are made fresh, from scratch with the highest quality ingredients every week in our very own bakery without preservatives or other additives. And that includes our crusts and whip cream! We realize it would be easier to buy factory-made frozen pies or crusts and bake them off to sell; those are called “home-baked” to trick you into thinking they were “home-made.” You never know the quality of the ingredients that went into those pies or how long ago they were actually made. We’ll take you through our process for creating our legendary pie crusts. 

Why our Butter Crust is so Good: Our pie crust is so good because it’s a true butter crust. No lard or shortening, just rich flavorful butter. We take great care in keeping it cool, mixing it just right, and rolling it by hand to get the right thickness, and lastly, baking it to perfection. This process took several test batches to get the perfect amount of flakiness. It’s so good you can eat it on its own and find yourself wanting more (please don’t judge us!); it’s all about the BUTTER!

What Ingredients go Into it: 

We start with high-quality all-purpose flour. The one we use and have had excellent results with is King Arthur’s Special Patented flour. Next is the butter. We use unsalted Amish butter, containing 84% butterfat. The higher butterfat results in a creamier butter that is full of flavor. It’s hand-rolled in small batches and wrapped by hand. It reminds me of a European butter that’s kept at room temperature to spread on toast or crumpets. By the way, we sell it in the market and on our online market, just saying! The last two dry ingredients are in small amounts but important nonetheless: organic cane sugar and fine sea salt. Now to bind it all together, there are no shortcuts taken. We use the world-famous spring water from Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, one of the world’s best. 

Why Quality Matters: 

The better the ingredients, the better the crust. It’s not just throwing the ingredients into a bowl; it’s a process that takes time and attention. Most of our grandmothers hand cut the butter into the flour; I’m sure you’ve heard “until it’s the size of a pea” we do the same thing but on a bigger scale. This is where the attention comes to make that perfect crust, adding enough cold water to the dough to bring it all together. You want a crust that flakes off when you bite into it, sending your taste buds into overdrive and begging for more. There is nothing worse than biting into a piece of pie that has a wonderful filling, but the crust falls short. If you’re like me, you want the crust to be just as good as the filling. I want to taste that rich butter flavor, I want the crust to melt in my mouth, and it must be just as memorable as the filling. So YES, quality matters for a great pastry experience.

Jackie’s tips for a perfect crust: 

I have a few tips to share with you, some of them should be common knowledge, but I do have a few tricks on my apron strings…

Ice Water: All of you know that the water must be cold.  The best way to achieve this is while getting your ingredients together, put the water in the freezer. If it gets a skim of ice on top, all the better; that puts the water at nearly 32°F, which means no worries about melting the butter.

Cold Butter: I always work with cold butter. Keeping your butter in the freezer is perfect, but you’ll need to bring it out a few hours before you’re ready to make your crust. Make sure to keep it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to start baking. Cutting the butter into ½ inch cubes works best for me; since we make 30 crusts and use 6 pounds of butter while making them, the smaller, the better. Not all the pieces need to be ½ inch. You can have irregular pieces that will make the best crust because you’ll still have visible butter chunks that will be rolled flat, making a super flaky crust. In a nutshell, the most important thing is keeping your butter cold. You don’t want it at room temperature; it needs to be hard but not frozen. 

Coating the butter: We use a large stand mixer, which requires adding vast amounts of butter to the flour. Before we start mixing, we toss the butter in half of the flour, ensuring all the butter is completely coated with the flour. This helps with the next process. 

Cutting the butter into the flour: The trick is coating each grain of flour with butter; this helps keep the dough together, but it also creates pockets of air, so when the butter melts during the cooking process, it creates that flakiness we all love. 

I like the flour and butter to be like a very coarse grain with pea-sized pieces of butter still showing. Tip: chilling the mixing bowl along with the flour; I slip the bowl of flour into the freezer while the butter and water are chilling.

After the flour and butter resemble a coarse grain, I add the COLD water. If doing it by hand, gradually add the water, but when using a large stand mixer, pour the water in as the mixer is running. The mixture will start coming together, and at that point, the dough is ready! 

Once it’s mixed, dump it out on a cold table. I use a bench scraper to cut off about 270 grams of dough and shape it into a puck. Two hundred seventy grams is perfect for a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan.

Happy Rolling! By the way, our Executive Director Paul loves our pie crust baked as a pastry horn and filled with whipped cream. 

After you have your crust in pucks, wrap it in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for future use. It will last for several months frozen. If you’re ready to make pies, place it in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. Keep in mind; you want to keep the crust cold. You don’t want the butter to melt until it’s baked.

Oh! I almost forgot! Here’s a tip on rolling the crust: Don’t be too aggressive; allow the rolling pin to do the work. Well chilled pastry dough and rolling it to 1/16th of an inch is my preference.

To sum it up: cold, cold, and cold will have you on your way to that great tasting butter crust. Having a cold room and table would be a plus; the colder, the better. Coating the flour completely with butter, using the best ingredients, and having patience will make that perfect flaky pie crust you’ll crave. You might catch yourself cutting out the crust and baking it alone; it can be that addictive! Oh yeah! Rolling out that cold crust will give you tight tummy muscles and awesome biceps, a great work out for a buttery treat.

Jackie Milburn

Jackie Milburn

Bakery Manager

Hi, my name is Jackie. I love to bake! When I’m not baking you’ll see me behind a lens trying to capture a moment in time, or just out enjoying the natural world. I also enjoy playing with my beautiful black and white kitty, Mr. Felix.

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