I consider myself a confident, adept baker. I can make cookies with one eye closed, and my muffins never fail to please. But when it comes to making pie—as I have been asked to do this Thanksgiving—my chest tightens up. It has nothing to do with the filling, and everything to do with the crust.
I love a buttery, golden, flaky pie crust, and take great joy and pride in pulling one out of the oven. But the process makes me exceedingly anxious—specifically the rolling-out stage. The dough never seems to hold together. When it does, it sticks to the counter. Then the butter warms up and starts to melt. There’s not enough to cover the tin. It’s awful.
You may be thinking: Just buy the bloody crust! I will not buy the crust. Store-bought crust is insipid and often made with unpronounceable fats. Even if it tasted as good as homemade—which it does not—I would simply be too proud.
But this year will be different. It will be different because I have figured out exactly how to ease dough-induced anxiety: Just make twice as much dough as you need.
Conventional butter crust wisdom—here’s the recipe I’m currently trying—calls for making the dough into balls and wrapping them in wax paper or cling wrap to chill before rolling. The beauty of having one of those extra dough balls in the fridge is that if your first ball of dough gets too warm and sticky as you roll it out, you can just throw it back into the fridge and take out the other one. If you finally get the perfect rollout, but it’s too small for your pie plate, you can just tack on a piece of your auxiliary dough. Ditto if you want to be one of those people that puts leaf-shaped cutouts on the top of your pie. (Not I.)
Even if you don’t end up using that second ball, this will cut down on your nerves about making the pie, which is of utmost importance. I once read about an anxiety-stricken man who didn’t actually take the pills prescribed for his condition; he just needed to know they were there. This is the way I treat my extra wad of pie crust.
As the blogger and cookbook author Joy the Baker explains, the ingredients can smell your fear. If you are hesitant in your dough-making and rolling, it’s going to turn out badly (and you will resent your loved ones for putting you in charge of pies). A bit of extra flour and butter is a small price for peace of mind.
What’s more, that dough won’t be wasted. When your perfect pie is done and eaten, you’ll find your lovely little extra dough ball nestled among the leftovers in the fridge. Then you can roll it out for a savory galette, or mini pies baked in a muffin tin, take a deep breath, and pour yourself a celebratory drink.