Okay, everyone! We’re getting down to the Holiday Baking wire. If you’re anything like me, you’ve got a houseful of guests looming. This recipe for Mealy Pie Dough is something you must have in your back pocket. Not only will it be the base for your Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year’s-Three King’s Day pies; it’ll make for great quiche crusts for crowded brunches.
Because of the multitude of ways this Mealy Pie Dough can be used, I make it in bulk. This particular recipe will make four ten-inch single crusts (for pecan or pumpkin pies and/or quiches) or two crusts (the standard apple or cherry pie set-up).
What is a Mealy Pie Dough?
Mealy pie dough is one that stands up to wet pie fillings. The dough’s fat is worked into the flour more than in flaky pie dough, which means it resists soaking as the latter does. Many bakers prefer to use a mealy pie dough as the bottom crust while reserving a flaky dough for the top. I’m somewhat ambivalent about it. Mealy pie dough is what I use with all of my custard pies: pumpkin, pecan, or sweet potato, because I don’t want to end up with a crust that falls apart. Besides that, I don’t have a pie dough I use exclusively.
What’s the difference between a flaky and a mealy pie dough?
One of the most significant differences between Flaky Pie Dough and mealy pie dough is how the fats are blended (or cut) into the flour.
When making mealy pie dough, you want to cut the fat into much smaller pieces than for a flaky dough. The mealy version resembles coarse cornmeal when mixed. The flour is coated in the fat, resulting in a tender (short) pie crust and one that won’t absorb as much liquid as its flaky counterpart. This is why most mealy pie doughs are used for bottom crusts, whereas flaky doughs are used for top crusts.
Truth be told, my children aren’t Michelin guide food critics, and neither is the Soldier. They couldn’t care less about which dough I use where, so long as the pie crust is tasty.
Both of my pie doughs make pies that are flaky and tasty, which are musts around here.
Why bother with making pie dough at home?
While I kinda get why people buy store-bought pie crusts, I also kinda don’t.
You can make your own pie dough in a matter of minutes, wrap them in plastic wrap and freeze them until you need them. All it requires is water, sugar, salt, flour, shortening, and butter. Like, that’s it. So, while the convenience of buying the pre-made stuff is tempting, it’s also more expensive and mass-produced…in factories. Ew.
Don’t think, “Oh, well, it takes so long to prepare,” because it doesn’t. Measuring out the ingredients is a snap and mixing the dough is just as easy. I’ll prove it to you.
Always use ice-cold water for your mealy pie dough
First things first, start by dissolving the salt and granulated sugar in cold water. How cold?
(please tell me you know where that’s from)
Do this because the salt and sugar have to dissolve before being added to the flour. Not dissolving these two in the water will leave you with a grainy dough.
An issue arises because of the absolute need to use ice-cold water for making our pie dough. While the cold mixture prevents the fats from melting when we handle the dough (during cutting in the fat and kneading the dough), attempting to dissolve granular substances in cold liquids takes longer.
Help the process by adding the sugar and salt the ice-cold water in a wide-mouth pint-size mason jar. This helps encourage the dissolution of the sugar and salt. This is also the reason I recommend doing this before you do anything else.
Screw the lid onto the jar and shake, shake, shake. Let the mixture sit in the fridge while you measure the rest of the ingredients before giving it another vigorous shake.
Types of fats used in a Mealy Pie Dough and why
The fats I use in my mealy pie dough are hydrogenated shortening (like Crisco) and unsalted butter.
I typically avoid using shortening in my kitchen, but even I have to admit that shortening stands up to the handling required to make pie dough. It tastes like crap on its own, though, so that’s where the butter comes into play. Sometimes, I use butter-flavored shortening to increase the palatability of the dough. The balance of the high-temperature, yet firm shortening, along with the flavorful butter, is what makes this pie dough easier to work with and tasty at the same time. Even if you opt to use plain shortening, though, the dough will still taste great.
Add the shortening to a large mixing bowl along with the flour.
Additionally, very cold, unsalted butter is added. Always bake with unsalted butter to control the sodium in your recipes. Go ahead and grate the butter into the bowl with the flour and shortening.
How do I keep my pie dough from being too stiff?
The proper culinary term for incorporating fats into flour when making doughs is “cutting in.” The process creates a strong pie dough, but it isn’t too hard or too soggy after baking.
Working quickly, cut in the shortening and butter with a pastry blender, or rub it between your hands and fingers. You can see which avenue of approach I take. Extra dishes is whack, yaknowwhatI’msayin?
Rub the two fats into the flour to encapsulate it, which adds a waterproof barrier of fat around the flour. This all helps to contribute to that lack of absorption mealy pie dough is known for. Working quickly minimizes the amount of gluten developed. This latter precaution cuts down on a chewy pie crust.
Cut in the fat until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
How much water do I add to my pie dough?
Once you have that coarse cornmeal consistency, give the salt-sugar water another vigorous shake and pour it into the flour mixture.
Water is one of those things that is a necessary evil. We need it to develop some gluten (texture) in the pie dough, but too much of it will leave us with a tough, rubbery mess. Too little water and our pie dough will fall apart because the proper amount of gluten will not have developed. Oh, woe to us!! Whatever shall we do?
Um…nothing. Because we will add the right amount, and all that I’ve written before this will be a moot point.
It’s important to be conservative in the amount of water you add to the flour-fat mixture. Add the water, then knead, gently, just until there’s no loose flour and the dough holds together. Even if it seems a smidge on the dry side, don’t add any more water. As the dough rests (which it must), the flour will continue to absorb the water and become hydrated. The proteins in the flour will plump up and you’ll find a perfectly mixed dough on the tail-end of the resting period.
How many pies can I make with this recipe?
Once your dough is mixed, flatten it out into a disc.
Next, use a bench scraper, or a knife, to divide the dough into four equal pieces. This recipe will make 8 single-crust 10-inch pies or 4 10-inch double-crust pies. Because I never have enough pie dough ready to go, this is perfect for me. If you’re less of a “doomsday pie prepper,” you can cut the recipe in half.
Can I use pie dough right away?
Not if you want a pie dough that won’t shrink and look crazy after baking, you can’t. No, it’s best to let your pie dough relax, both before rolling it out and before baking.
Wrap each section of dough in a double-layer of plastic wrap and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for at least thirty minutes before rolling it out. This rest period allows the flour to hydrate fully and gives the gluten in the dough time to relax, which will prevent your mealy pie dough from shrinking as it bakes. That thirty-minute rest is crucial if you want to bake up a beautiful pie crust.
Even better is letting the pie dough rest overnight!
Can I freeze this Mealy Pie Dough?
If you don’t need the pie dough right away, i.e., you’re pre-planning (you genius, you!!), place the wrapped discs of dough into a freezer storage bag and freeze them. Mealy pie dough keeps in the freezer for up to two months.
Before using, allow the pie dough to thaw completely in the fridge.
Even if it isn’t frozen, you should still pull the dough out of the fridge 15 minutes before rolling to let it warm up a bit. Not doing so will cause cracks to form in the dough as you’re rolling it out.
When you’re ready to use, just roll out a disc using a rolling pin and bake as your recipe instructs!
These are great ways to use a mealy pie dough:
Mealy pie doughs are great for custardy pies like this Crème Brûlée Pie. The fat-coated flour in the dough doesn’t absorb the hyper-liquid custard filling of this pie, making it the perfect base for the dessert.
My Maple Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie also has a very runny filling. This mealy pie dough doesn’t even bat an eyelash at it, though.
Both of these sweets are great ways to utilize your new Mealy Pie Dough recipe.
What to do with leftover pie dough?
After the first roll of the dough, the remainder tends to become really tough from over-handling. I like to cut the pie dough scraps into chip-size pieces and bake them with a sprinkling of cinnamon-sugar. My family- especially the Twins- tear these up as sweet snacks. There’s not much else to do with them because a pie made from these crusts just doesn’t bake as tender or flaky as one made with a dough that’s only been rolled once.
If you must reuse the dough scraps, press them into a pile, but don’t knead them together. Wrap the scraps in plastic wrap and let them rest in the refrigerator for an hour. Then knead, lightly, and re-roll. This would be best suited for a quiche.
Pin this recipe to your baking boards to make finding it easier. Then get started on your batch for the holidays!
Mealy Pie Dough
- 10 ounces (320 ml) ice water
- 3 1/2 teaspoons (12 grams) kosher salt
- 1/4 cup (32 grams) granulated sugar
- 8 1/2 cups (1 kilo) all-purpose flour
- 2 cups (375 grams) shortening very cold
- 14 ounces (400 grams) or 2 3/4 sticks unsalted butter very cold
- In a pint-sized jar with a tight-fitting lid, dissolve the salt and granulated sugar in the ice-cold water. Shake the jar vigorously to encourage the dissolving of both the sugar and salt.Keep the jar in the refrigerator while you measure out the remaining ingredients.
- Add the flour to a large mixing bowl.Next, add the shortening to the flour in the bowl.
- Use a cheese grater to great the ice-cold butter into the flour or dice the butter with a knife and add it to the flour. Cut the shortening and the butter into the flour using a pastry blender, or just rub it between your hands and fingers until the mixture resembles a coarse cornmeal.
- Remove the salt-sugar water from the fridge and give it another vigorous shake before pouring it into the flour mixture. Knead the flour gently just until there's no loose flour and the dough holds together.
- Once your dough holds together, flatten it out into a disc. Divide the dough into four equal pieces weighing approximately 14 ounces each.
- Wrap each piece in a double-layer of plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest in the refrigerator for at least thirty minutes. This gives the flour time to hydrate and also allows the gluten in the dough time to relax.
- When ready to use the pie dough, just roll out a disc using a rolling pin and bake as your recipe instructs!
- Pack the wrapped discs of dough in an airtight food storage bag and keep in the refrigerator for 2 days.
- Fifteen minutes prior to using, remove the disc of dough from the refrigerator to allow it time to soften.
- If you don't plan to use the pie dough within two days, place the wrapped discs of dough into freezer storage bag and freeze them for up to 2 months.
- Thaw under refrigeration for 3-4 hours, then allow the dough to warm up slightly on the countertop before rolling.