Have your work area set up before beginning: you should have a clean area large enough to roll out the dough. Have your ingredients and tools set out ready to go. Keep the butter and ice water in the fridge until you need them.
Combine dry ingredients:
Combine the flour, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl.
Cut in butter:
Slice the cold butter into very small cubes - about ¼-inch sized cubes. I like to slice the butter lengthwise into 3 planks, then cut these into 4 sticks, and then cube them. Add these to the flour mixture. Break them apart and toss them until they're coated.
Work the butter into the flour using a pastry blender until the mixture is shaggy and crumbly. If any larger pieces of butter remain, flatten them between your fingers.
Add the vanilla extract to the bowl. Then add 4 tablespoons of the ice water to the mixture and use a spoon to toss it together. Add another tablespoon of ice water and stir it again. Continue adding ice water one tablespoon at a time and stirring until the dough is clumping together.
(For me, on a dry, winter day this will take 10-12 tablespoons; on a humid, warmer day it will be less.) Squeeze a handful of the mixture: if it holds together with little to no crumbliness it's ready - stop adding water.
Turn the contents of the bowl out onto a lightly floured surface. Squeeze the pile together with your hands a few times, gathering up the dry bits from the bottom. Use your bench scraper to get under the pile, pull it up and fold it over the top. Flatten it with your hands and then repeat. Knead the dough this way 4-5 times until the dough has just come together.
Do not over-work it - stop when the dough has just come together. There will still be pieces of butter visible in the dough, which is what you want: those pieces of butter are what will give flakiness to the baked crust.
Divide the dough in half. Flatten each half slightly with the palm of your hand and wrap the disk in plastic wrap. Chill the dough disk in the fridge for 30 minutes or until firm.
This recipe makes enough dough for 1 double-crust pie or 2 single-crust pies, about 24 ounces of dough.
OPTION: USE A FOOD PROCESSOR:
After combining the dry ingredients pour them into the bowl of a food processor. Cube the butter and add this in.
Pulse the food processor several times until the butter has been cut into the dough. It should have a shaggy appearance.
Add the vanilla. With the food processor running on low, spoon the ice water in a tablespoon at a time. Continue adding tablespoons of water until the dough JUST comes together.
Turn the dough out of the food processor and squeeze it together one or two times. Divide and refrigerate it as instructed above.
VARIATION: FOR SAVORY PIES
For a dough that tastes wonderful with savory pie fillings, omit the cinnamon and vanilla. Add a teaspoon of crushed thyme to the dry ingredients before cutting in the butter.
To roll out the dough:
Take a chilled disk of dough from the fridge. Set it on a floured work space and sprinkle a little flour over the top.
Place your rolling pin in the middle of the dough and roll towards the outer edge. Pick up the dough and rotate it a quarter-turn. (Don't flip it: keep the same side up the whole time.) Dust a little flour under it if it's sticking. Roll the dough again starting in the center and rolling towards the outer edge. Continue rolling this way and rotating the dough after each pass, until you have a large enough circle and the dough is about a ¼-inch thick.
To fit the dough into your pan:
Cut out a circle large enough for your pie pan. Gently drape an edge over your rolling pin, then use the pin to lift the dough up and into your pan. Press it in along the bottom and sides leaving an overhang all around. Lightly cover this with plastic wrap and pop it in the fridge while you prepare the top crust.
To blind-bake a pie shell:
Once you have fit the bottom crust into the pan, roll the edge under and crimp it firmly down to the edge of the pan. Gently press a piece of foil or parchment paper into the pie shell and fill the shell with pie weights or dried beans. Refrigerate the shell for 30 minutes while preheating the oven to 375° F.
Bake the shell for 20 minutes. Remove the pie weights and foil/parchment. Prick the bottom and sides of the shell all over with a fork. For a pie that you will bake after filling: bake the shell for 5 minutes longer, then remove from the oven and allow to cool. For a pie that does not get baked again: bake the shell for 10 minutes longer until it is golden-brown all over. Remove it from the oven and let it cool completely.
To add a top crust:
Once the cooled filling has been added to the bottom shell, roll out the top crust using the same technique you did for the bottom crust (roll from the middle, quarter-turn after each pass.) Cut out the circle appropriate for your pan. Make any decorative cut-outs in the dough now. Use the rolling pin to gently lift up the dough and drape it over the top of your pie.
Roll the edge of the top crust under the edge of the bottom crust, and do this around the entire pie. Firmly crimp the edge down to the rim of the pie pan. Lightly cover the pie with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 30 minutes before baking.
The wrapped disks of dough can be kept in the fridge for up to three days. The dough will be very hard after a long refrigeration. To make it workable, bang it with a rolling pin to help soften the dough. To freeze, wrap the dough disks well and freeze them up to 1 month. Let frozen dough thaw in the fridge.
The prep and chill times are for making the dough only. Remember to plan time for rolling dough, prepping fillings, more chilling and baking times based on your recipe.
This all-butter crust puffs up a lot during baking. Pies will have more of a rustic look, and you'll notice your crimped edge will puff up, too. This dough does work with simple cut-outs and lattice tops. However, very intricate cut-outs may lose their definition. For this kind of pie work, a dough made with all vegetable shortening or half shortening-half butter will be a better choice, though less tasty and flaky.
Cold butter is the most important part of a successful pie crust. Keep your butter in the fridge until you need it. Once the dough is made it also needs to stay chilled - take out only what you need for each step. If at any point the dough feels like it's getting too soft and warm, pop it in the fridge for 10-15 minutes.
Use a good quality butter in this recipe. It's worth it! This is a recipe where the flavor of butter really gets to shine. I like Cabot and Kerrygold unsalted butters.
Have ingredients and tools in place before beginning your recipe. This is important for making pie crust dough with ease. Have a clean work surface where you can mix and later roll out the dough. Have your flour, spices, measuring cups, spoons, etc. at the ready.
How much ice water you add to the dry mixture will depend how dry or humid the day is. Start by adding three tablespoons, stir, then add water one tablespoon at a time until you can squeeze a handful of dough together. This will perfectly hydrate the dough while preventing a too-wet dough.
Pie crust dough gets the very minimum of handling. Just squeeze this dough together a few times, knead it a few times, then stop. This light touch prevents gluten from forming and prevents the dough from getting tough.
Based on techniques I learned at the King Arthur Flour Education Center.