Use very cold or even slightly frozen butter and cream cheese in this recipe. If you don’t have cream cheese, just use all butter. To make this without a food processor, cut the butter and cream cheese into the flour with a pastry blender (aka pastry cutter) or, working quickly, with your fingertips; then gently stir in the liquid ingredients.
Two tricks to making the dough into a circle: Roll the dough from the center to the edge; then give it a one-third turn — not a quarter turn, which leads you to a square. After the dough is rolled out, you can even out the edge by running a knife around a large pizza pan or other round plate laid on top.
You don’t need to chill the dough before rolling it out; chill it after rolling if possible. —Sharon Kebschull Barrett
Yield: one 10-inch double crust, which is enough for 12 6-inch circles to top individual pie pans or ramekins; to fill and cover a 10-inch pie plate; or to cover two 10-inch square dishes
- 2¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon fine salt (preferably sea salt)
- 6 ounces very cold, unsalted butter, cubed (1½ sticks; use 1¾ sticks if not using cream cheese)
- 2 ounces very cold cream cheese, cut into about 8 pieces
- 1 tablespoon white or cider vinegar
- 6 tablespoons iced water or more as needed
- 2 tablespoons half-and-half or cream or 1 beaten egg
- poppy or sesame seeds
- grated Parmesan cheese or large-grained salt
In a food processor, mix the flour and salt. Add one stick of butter and the cream cheese to the food processor. Pulse just until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
Add the remaining butter, and pulse again eight times—until the butter looks cut in but some pea-size chunks remain visible.
Add the vinegar and 6 tablespoons water, and pulse just until the dough starts to look crumbly—not until it forms a ball. Squeeze a bit of the dough between your fingertips; if it doesn’t hold together, add 1 tablespoon water, and pulse a few more times. Repeat if needed.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured rolling board, gently press into two disks and pat them smooth.
Use a lightly floured rolling pin to roll out one disk to 1/4 inch thick and 1 inch bigger in diameter than your baking dish; trim the edges into a rough circle if they appear very uneven. If you have time, place the dough on a baking sheet and chill, covered in plastic, for at least 30 minutes and up to two days. This allows the gluten to relax and the butter to chill so the dough holds its shape during baking. Repeat with the remaining disk.
If you wish to make a pot pie with top and bottom crusts, fold one crust in half, and transfer it to a baking dish, unfolding and gently tucking it into the corners of the dish without stretching. Add the filling. Take the remaining dough, fold it in half, lay it on top of the filling, unfold and tuck the edge under the bottom crust. Flute the edge or press in a pattern with the tines of a fork. If you prefer a top-crust-only pot pie, simply lay the dough atop the filling, tuck the edge under and flute.
Lightly brush the dough with half-and-half or cream or a -beaten egg. Sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds, grated Parmesan or large-grained salt if the filling isn’t salty. Bake according to the pot-pie recipe directions.