This was a great challenge for the finite foodie’s limited baking resources. Since you probably don’t own a pastry blender (and might not even know what it is), a rolling pin or even a pie pan, we wanted to find a way you could still impress your family and friends with a homemade pie. NOTE: Cutting butter into flour is a technique you will also need for making biscuits.
We’ll show you:
- How to cut butter into flour without the benefit of a pastry blender, and what a pastry blender is in the first place!
- How to roll out the dough without a rolling pin.
- How to form a pie on a baking sheet.
Before we go any further, remember that we try to use the most wholesome ingredients we can. For this crust we used 100% white whole wheat flour. What is that, you ask? It’s a type of wheat that’s light in color. The flour is still made from the whole grain, but it’s just not as dark as the regular red wheat we are more familiar with in the US. It has a milder flavor too, so the taste is not quite as strong as the other whole wheat flours available. Want to learn more? Read What is White Whole Wheat Flour, Anyway?
Next, we used butter (preferably organic) for the fat in the crust. We try to avoid shortening, which is a hydrogenated trans-fat, the type that is linked to heart disease, strokes and diabetes. Shortening may help the pie crust turn out light and flaky, but butter tastes much better and is a natural product that’s been eaten by humans for thousands of years. You could use coconut oil, but since it’s expensive and hard for some people to find, we normally chose butter. Pies are not a food we recommend eating very often, but if you do, use the most healthful ingredients you can. (Who doesn’t enjoy apple pies in the fall and pumpkin pies at Thanksgiving?)
How to Make Pie Crust by Hand:
Combine 1-1/2 cups white whole wheat flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon granulated sugar in a large bowl. (Of course, you can use refined white flour for all or part of the flour, but the nutritional value will be reduced.)
Use 1 (4-ounce) stick of butter. If you have a pastry cutter (the funny looking gadget below that is not butter or a knife), good for you! If not, take out two dinner knives.
With one knife, cut butter into small slices (whether you have a pastry blender or not) and add to your flour mixture. Next, hold a knife in each hand and cut across the butter pulling the knives outward as you do. (Alternatively, use a pastry blender for this step.)
Use your fingers to crumble up the pieces of butter further if desired. However, don’t overwork the dough, or it will be tough. This should all be done quickly while butter is still cold.
As soon as butter is in small pea-size pieces, add 1/4 cup ice cold water, then use your hands to mix in the water and form into a ball.
Place on a cutting board with a little flour and knead* with the heel of your hand:
*Knead – to work dough into a uniform mixture by pressing, folding and sometimes stretching with your hands, similar to giving a massage.
Press into a 6-inch circle, then wrap in wax paper and refrigerate until ready to make the pie, at least 30 minutes.
Now it’s time to roll out your dough, but wait! How do you do it without a rolling pin? Find a nice sturdy jar or wine bottle. Be careful not to break it! Spread some flour onto a cutting board. a clean kitchen counter top or even a piece of wax paper on the counter. A wooden cutting board is my favorite.
Start rolling from the center, out to the edges, until it’s about a 12-inch diameter circle and about 1/8-inch thick. Be sure to flip it over a few times, as you roll it out. It doesn’t have to be pretty.
Transfer it to a baking sheet. Fill with your favorite fruit, leaving about 2 inches of uncovered crust on the edges:
Finally, turn up the edges and seal the folds, to keep the juices from leaking out. Bake according to your recipe and enjoy a rustic pie, made by hand without any special baking tools!