From Joanne Chang’s book Flour, this Pâte Brisée II is the ultimate buttery, tender crust. And prep-wise, it’s pretty unfussy, as piecrusts go. The egg yolk makes it rich and smooth, so it’s easy to roll out. Some people swear by lard, but I.M.H.O., you just can’t beat butter. Chang calls for a stand mixer, but you don’t need one. An old-school pastry blender or fork will do fine. (I actually prefer to blend it this way, and it’s quick.) Main thing is not to work it too much with your hands, because that’ll warm it up. And make sure the butter and milk are cold.
This makes enough for a single 9-inch crust.
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick plus one tablespoon of cold unsalted butter
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons cold milk
1. Whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Slice the butter into several pieces. Add them to the bowl and blend with a fork or pastry blender, until the mixture resembles coarse (pea-sized) crumbs.
2. Whisk together the egg yolk and milk. (Or just add both directly to the bowl if you want.) Use a fork to fold the egg and milk into the dough, until it begins to come smoothly together. You’ll see when it’s well mixed and ready to hold its shape.
3. You can handle it now, briefly. Gather the dough into a ball, place it on a sheet of waxed paper, and press it into a disk about an inch thick, or a little less. (This’ll make it easier to roll out.) Refrigerate a couple hours before using. Chang says at least four, but you can get away with less. The dough keeps up to four days in the fridge or a month in the freezer.
4. When you’re ready, place the cooled dough on a well-floured surface. Flour the top, and your rolling pin. Work outward from the center of the dough, turning occasionally—carefully!—to make sure it’s not sticking to your work surface. If cracks appear at the edges, press them back together, dust with flour, and keep rolling. To transfer from work surface to pie dish, use the rolling pin: hold it over the crust; gently lift one side and drape it over the rolling pin; do the same with the other side; have your pie plate right there, obvs., and make the transfer quick.
5. Once the crust is in place, you can trim the edges, form them into a ball and roll it out again to make your decorative leaves or sailboat or cookie-cutter lobster (yeah, we’re in Maine!) or whatever you can dream up to adorn the top of your pie. Brush an egg-yolk wash on the crust to stick the decorations on; then brush another layer on top. You can sprinkle sugar over that if you like, or leave it plain. It’ll turn a lovely golden color.