Holiday piecrust: Dough!

In following these steps laid out in Real Simple magazine, I suggest you let your thumbs absorb the experience:
How to make crust for holiday pies
Makes one 8- or 9-inch piecrust
Hands-On Time: 10 min.
Total Time: 55 min.


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening
  • 3-5 tablespoons cold water


  1. Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Using your fingertips, rub the butter and shortening into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Get your thumbs into it. Close your eyes. Soak in the sensation: Flour dust combining with scratchy grains of sugar and salt and the coating grease of butter and shortening. Resist the urge to apply it like a cosmetic to your face, or to your dry elbows and knees.
  2. Using a fork, blend in just enough water to make the dough come together. Shape into a disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for 45 minutes before rolling. Feel the moist cool of the dough as you grip it both hands, thumbs gently clamping the disk to the fingers that cradle it. You may want to fling it Frisbee-like, just to see how far it’ll fly. Again, resist.

How to roll the dough

1 Flour your rolling surface and rolling pin

Place a well-chilled piece of dough shaped into a disk onto a floured surface. Dust the rolling pin and your fingers with flour to prevent sticking. As you dust, pinch the flour between thumb and tips of  index and middle fingers. Imagine it’s sand in an hourglass, but don’t be in too much of a hurry.

2 Roll out the dough, rotating the dough as you go

Applying even pressure, press your rolling pin into the dough, rolling away from you and back. Rotate the disk as you go, and flip it over occasionally, to create an even circle. When the dough starts to feel sticky, apply a light dusting of flour. When the dough is a little less than a quarter of an inch thick, place your pie plate in the center of the dough, face up, to check that the dough you’ve rolled out is large enough to fit the dish. As you roll, close your eyes. Be conscious of your grip on the pin, the handle pressing into the V between thumb and forefinger. Use the weight of your body to press the pin into the dough so as not to stress your hands. If you do not have flour somewhere on your face, preferably on your nose and above one eyebrow, you should apply some now.

3  Transfer the dough into the pie plate

Flip the rolled dough in half toward you, creating a half-moon shape, and lift it over the plate. Set it down so that it covers half the plate; then open it so it forms a circle again and covers the entire pie plate. As warm-up, spread out your hands, palm up. Bring your thumbs across the palms toward the little fingers. Now apply this motion to the rolled dough.

4 Press the dough into the pie plate

With your fingertips, gently push the pie dough into the bottom and sides of the plate. Yes, be gentle. But let your thumbs get into the pie plate, where the bottom meets the sides. Revel in the thumbprints that’ll bake right into the pie.

5  Trim the edges

Use a scissor to cut any extra dough along the edge, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Fold the edge of the dough underneath itself so that it creates a thicker, 1/4-inch border that rests on the lip of the plate. Before the blades cut, the scissor holds the dough. That hold extends the human hand’s grip, particularly that of thumb and forefinger.

6  Crimp the edges

Create a patterned edge by pressing the thumb of one hand against the edge of the dough from the outside of the dish while gently pressing with the thumb and forefinger of the other hand from the inside. Rotate the pie plate until you’ve completed the pattern along the entire edge.  This is the coup de grace for the thumb as well as the rest of the hands. By this time, you should have dough somewhere in the hair framing your face.

Tip: Bake the crust right away, or refrigerate or freeze it for later use.

See how it’s done (although this baker doesn’t spend any time in thumb-contemplation):


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