“Karen Hatfield has been one of the most interesting pastry chefs in Los Angeles for years, but she has finally become a star,” LA Times critic Jonathan Gold wrote in his recent review of Odys + Penelope, Quinn and Karen Hatfield’s modern churrascaria on La Brea.
So, naturally, when we set out to discover the secrets to an ultra-flaky pie dough, we hit up the savvy veteran. Hatfield’s resume speaks volumes: she has been on the judges panel for the KCRW Good Food Pie Contest for three years, and also cut her teeth working for Jean-Georges Vongerichten as his corporate pastry chef. In other words, girl knows a thing or two about pastry doughs, and a hell of a lot about pie.
“There’s something about being able to make pie dough not in a Cuisinart or mixer that’s more rewarding,” Hatfield told us in the kitchen at Odys + Penelope. In order to recreate her gold standard dough at home, all you need is a rolling pin, a bench scraper, four ingredients, and arm muscle.
Her technique—which involves pressing the butter with the rolling pin to create flat sheets—results in a dough layered with flakes of butter. “The butter is moisture, which creates steam, which helps create the flaky layers. Having visible pieces of butter is also a sign your dough is not overworked and tough.” Hatfield says over mixing your dough is one surefire way to ruin it; the other is having your butter too warm when you start.
The finished product can be used for a variety of fruit pies—Hatfield likes classic fillings like apple, strawberry-rhubarb, and blueberry—as well as savory pies like quiche. Try to pick a filling that takes one and a half hours to cook, because that’s how much time it takes for the crust to cook properly. Or you can make hand pies using the same recipe, because if it’s done right, says Karen, “it acts almost like a puff pastry-type dough—so you can roll it out and lay your fillings on top.”
No matter what filling you plan to rock with, it’s time to learn the foundations of pie making. Let’s get to it.
How to Make Flaky Pie Dough, à la Karen Hatfield
Makes two ⅛ to ¼ inch-thick pie crusts
- 1 lb 8 oz all purpose flour
- 1 lb butter, cut into ½” pieces (Karen uses a high-fat European butter)
- 225 ml ice water, strained
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
- pastry scraper
- wooden rolling pin
1) Spread the flour into a rectangle on your work surface. “It’s very helpful to have a nice work surface—whether it’s marble or wood,” says Hatfield. “Be ready to make a bit of a mess.”
2) Cut butter into ½” x ½” cubes. Stick the butter cubes back into the refrigerator until they are cold. “Cold butter is very important. You want it to be very cold.” Place the cubes of butter on top of the flour.
Scatter the butter on top of the flour using a pastry scraper. Don’t worry about incorporating it into the flour at this stage—that comes next.
3) Using the rolling pin, begin to flatten the cubes of butter, eventually creating flat sheets.
*NOTE: It’s important to work quickly, and to not touch the flour and butter with your hands.
Scrape the butter pieces off your rolling pin using the pastry scraper.
Gather the flour and butter sheets together, scraping and folding up and in towards the center.
4) Repeat step 3 a few more times, until “most of the butter is flattened out, and you can see the flour get a little more yellow because it’s picking up some of the butter.” When the butter-flour mixture looks something like it does in the GIF below, you’re ready to add the ice water.
5) Get your ice water ready. Mix water with ice, then pour it into a measuring cup through a strainer. (You want 225 ml of ice water total.) Dissolve the kosher salt into the ice water.
6) Spread out the butter-flour mixture, then make a shallow well in the middle of the pile using the pastry scraper.
7) Pour the ice water-and-salt mixture into the well.
7) Scoop the butter and flour from the sides using the pastry scraper, and fold it up and over the water. The water can leak out kind of quickly, so work fast. Do a couple folds with the dough scraper.
“It’s ok if there are still a few dry spots of flour,” says Hatfield. “You don’t want to see too many dusty parts—but you do want a little bit of that. You also want to end up with some butter pieces.”
It should look “shaggy,” which is a pastry term for when all the flour hasn’t incorporated and there’s still some dusty parts. Hatfield says to remember, “Once it chills and you roll it out again, what hasn’t totally come together will come together.”
8) At this point, gather together the dough into a rectangle, and cut it in half.
9) Wrap the two pieces of dough tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 hours (or overnight).
10) Roll the dough out so that it’s between 1/8″ and a 1/4″ thick. Karen says getting it into the pie pan takes practice, and that you shouldn’t be overly concerned with making the crust pretty. No matter what it comes out looking like, one thing is certain: it will be super delicate, flaky, and buttery.