** CAN MAKE BY HAND OR USE FOOD PROCESSOR Divide the butter into two parts: 3 tablespoons and 9 tablespoons. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes, keeping the two parts separate. Wrap each portion with plastic wrap (preferably Saran brand) and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.
Food Processor Method:
Place the flour and salt in a food processor with the metal blade and process for a few seconds to combine. Add the smaller amount of butter cubes and the cream cheese and process for about 15 seconds or until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the remaining butter cubes and process for 4 to 6 seconds or until the remaining pieces of butter are the size of small peas. Do not over-process or crust will not be flaky.
Add the ice water and pulse 4 times. The dough will be in moist fine particles which appear dry but should hold together when pinched with the fingers. Dump the mixture into a plastic bag and press the outside of the bag until the dough holds together. Knead the dough briefly in the bag until you can form a smooth ball.
Remove the dough from the bag and divide it in half. Wrap each piece of dough with plastic wrap and flatten it into a disc. Refrigerate it for at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.
Place the flour and salt in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut the butter and cream cheese into the flour, the first addition into coarse meal, the second into small peas just as with the food processor method. When adding the ice water, sprinkle it on, tossing the mixture lightly with a fork. Use your hands to gather the dough together and knead it briefly on the counter until it forms a smooth ball. Divide the dough into two equal parts, wrap each piece with plastic wrap and flatten it into a disc. Refrigerate for at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.
- -- Saran Wrap is the ideal plastic wrap for rolling the dough because it lies very flat.
- -- Don't fold the dough when transferring it to the pie plate because it is likely to crack a little. Rolling it loosely around the rolling pin works best.
The secret to success is incorporating the cream cheese and part of the butter into the flour, which keeps the flour from absorbing too much water and forming gluten, which would make the crust tough. The remainder of the butter is incorporated in larger pieces, which serve to separate the layers, resulting in the desired flakiness.
Very little water is needed because the cream cheese is 51 percent water. The addition of a small amount of water activates a little gluten, strengthening the structure just enough to prevent cracking (which would result in leaking of the filling) when the crust is baked. This pie crust does not shrink or distort as much because there is less gluten development than usual.
Flattening the dough into a disc before refrigerating makes it easier to roll without cracking. The dough is rested to relax the gluten, making it less elastic and easier to roll. Chilling firms the butter, preventing sticking during rolling and the need for extra flour, which would toughen it.
For a two-crust pie, I divide the dough in half because I like the top crust, which gets the crispest and most delicious, to be thicker than the bottom crust. (The bottom crust is rolled 1 inch larger.)
Makes: pastry for a two crust 9-inch pie KEEPS: At least 2 days refrigerated, 3 months if frozen.