This easy-breezy method lets the stand mixer do all the work. (Just like cookie dough or cake batter, but way quicker.) The big advantages: Using the paddle attachment instead of your hands means the butter is less likely to melt, and you’re more likely to get a flaky crust. And using the open mixer instead of a lidded food processor means you can see everything super clearly.
A few notes about ingredients: I’ve taken to using Gold Medal bleached all-purpose, a la Stella Parks, because of its protein content (about 10 percent, just right for pie dough). I developed this with Diamond Crystal kosher salt (if you have Morton’s, use half the amount). And for the very cold water—if you keep a pitcher of water in the fridge like me, that works, or add a couple ice cubes to a glass of cold tap water and let sit for a few minutes.
Cut the butter into pieces—aim for 10 from the full-stick and 5 from the half-stick (so each one is slightly smaller than 1 tablespoon). Put the cut-up butter in the freezer for a few minutes, while you work on the dry ingredients.
Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix for a few seconds, just to combine, then turn off.
Add the butter pieces to the dry ingredients. Mix on the lowest setting possible for 5 to 10 seconds—pulsing on/off if necessary, so the flour doesn’t fly out of the bowl—then turn off. Err on the side of undermixing at this step. You want each butter piece to be coated in flour and slightly bashed by the paddle, but most of the pieces should be barely smaller than when you started.
Turn on the mixer to the lowest setting possible, slowly pour in the 1/4 cup very cold water. Once it’s all in, let the mixer run for a couple more seconds, then turn off and check in with the dough. The end goal is a very shaggy dough that holds together when squeezed, with some dough starting to grab onto the paddle attachment, and a few flour streaks on the side of the bowl. If the dough is still quite powdery and dry in some places and the sides of the bowl are still flour-coated, continue to mix while adding another tablespoon of water, and letting that incorporate for a couple seconds. (Repeat with more water—but only a very small amount!—if needed.)
Use your hands to gather the dough into a mass and dump onto a piece of plastic wrap. Use the plastic wrap to form the dough into a ball, then smush into a disc with your hands, so the plastic wrap is extremely snug. (You can wrap with another piece of plastic wrap for extra insurance, which I always like to.)
Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before using, or for up to 2 days. This can also be frozen for up to 1 month.
Emma is a writer and recipe developer at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram and Twitter at @emmalaperruque.