How to Make Perfect Pie Crust
Pie. It’s such a simple dessert. One which has stood the test of time for centuries. One which incites memories of childhood and feelings of comfort for nearly everyone of American or European decent. Pie is a tradition that is to be honored and passed through the generations for many centuries to come, just like it has in the past.
Pies can be sweet, savory, and anything in between. The fillings you choose are up to you, and are what everyone raves about in the end. But what makes a pie really a pie is the flaky crust it sits in. I have decided that a terrific crust can make a mediocre filling still a good pie. Adversely, I’ve also found that a horrible crust will completely ruin a pie, no matter how delectable the filling is. So it is with great concern that I teach you how to make a perfect pie crust.
There are many varieties of crusts out there. And just as many theories of what makes them good. Some call for vinegar or other crazy things like vodka. Some like to use shortening, while others stick with butter.
Today I’m going to teach you the pie crust taught to me by my mother, who learned it from my grandfather on my dad’s side. Grandpa was a baker his entire life. He owned several bakeries and provided for his large family with them. He taught the trade to my father, who worked with him at the bakery. When my dad and mom married, she joined him in the bakery, and they later had a couple bakeries of their own. Thousands and thousands of pies were made using this simple recipe, and thousands more happy customers sought out these pies for many years.
Shortening was always used in the bakeries, and is still what my mother uses today. Shortening makes a very flaky crusty due to the way the hydrogenated oils combine with flour when baking, and is what most commercial pie crusts are made with. I, however, am not a big fan of the hydrogenated oils in it, and prefer to use butter whenever possible. The butter also gives the crust a nice buttery flavor. Butter still results in a flaky crust, but does result in a slightly different texture, though it is hard to explain the difference. You can use either you like, and perhaps a perfect choice would be to use half and half. I like butter, mom likes shortening. I leave it up to you to decide for yourself.
Perfect Pie Crust Recipe
- Half as much butter/shortening as flour
- Half as much cold water as butter/shortening
- Pinch of salt
Did you get that? All you have to do is remember half. This formula works no mater the size of pie dough batch you are making. So how much flour do you start with then?
For 1 single crust:
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 cup butter/shortening
- 1/4 cup very cold water
- pinch of salt
For a double crust pie:
- 2 cups flour
- 1 cup butter/shortening
- 1/2 cup very cold water
- heavy pinch of salt
Isn’t that simple? If you think it sounds too simple to be perfect, you’ll just have to make it and see for yourself. The Bald Gourmet does not lie about such sacred things as pie.
Technique for Making Perfect Pie Crust
Now that you know the recipe, we need to discuss the technique of putting it all together. You can’t expect to just throw it all in a bowl, mix it together, and have a wonderful flaky crust. Pie crust takes love, tenderness, and care. But is ridiculously easy to make. Just follow these steps for a pie crust that will make you famous:
1). Place flour and pinch of salt in a mixing bowl
2). Cube cold butter/shortening and then add to the flour
3). Add butter/shortening to flour and cut into flour with a pastry cutter. If you do not have a pastry cutter, use a fork (is works just as well if not better)
4). Continue cutting butter/shortening into flour until a grainy sand-like texture is achieved
5). Add ice cold water to the flour and butter/shortening mixture
6). Using your fingers, gently fold water into the flour and butter/shortening mixture until just combined. It is important that you don’t mix and work the dough, otherwise the crust will turn out tough. Rather, just gently toss the ingredients together until they just hold together into a loose ball or cake. Kind of like you were making biscuits.
7). Remove dough from bowl and cover completely with plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or more. This allows the dough to rest and the butter/shortening to chill. This will make rolling easier and will result in a flakier crust.
8). Place dough on a floured surface or onto more plastic wrap. Roll out with a rolling pin into a circle about 1 inch larger than your pie pan.
9). Roll up onto your rolling pin (if on floured surface), or lift plastic wrap to place dough into pie pan and fold the edges in on themselves.
10). Flute the edges by pressing your index finger to your thumb (in both hands) around the folded edge, then squeeze your hands together to form the fluted edge as shown here.
11). Bake with pie weights/beans if filling with a cream pie later, or fill now with your favorite pie filling to bake together according to your pie recipe instructions.
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The Bald Gourmet teaches time-honored recipes passed down from his forefathers, like Perfect Pie Crust.