For many years I was afraid of making my own pie crust and rightfully so if my earlier attempts are anything to go by. But my honest advice to anyone reading this is to keep at it, the process is neither difficult nor as time consuming as many may think. You just have to follow a few key steps when preparing the dough and you'll be an ace baker in no time!
Read all of the notes and tips in this post before attempting to make your crust as the technique is the key element in making pastry of any kind. With many types of cooking making minor changes and taking a few shortcuts is not detrimental to perfect results, but pastry making and baking is a form of science, where a fractions worth of change in the quantity of an ingredient or a step out of order means certain chemical reactions will not take place and your "experiment" will not work.
A small investment in some basic tools (apart from your basic measuring cups etc) that are listed below will help make the perfect crust and most are easily available at local stores such as Walmart, Target, Bed Bath and Beyond or Amazon. I'll give you alternate options if for some reason you don't have access to these, but my suggestion is to try and get them if you can.
1. Pastry Cutter
2. Pastry Mat
3. Rolling Pin
4. Pie Pan
5. Pie Shield
The recipe below is for 1 single pie crust. If you're baking something that requires a top crust such as apple pie or cherry pie please double the recipe.The ingredients are few and the directions instruct by simple steps, but since technique is important read my PERFECT PIE PRONOUNCEMENTS which will hereafter be referred to as the 3 P's in this blog.
1 ¼ Cups All Purpose Flour
½ Teaspoon salt
1 Teaspoon Sugar
¼ Cup Unsalted Butter
¼ Cup Shortening
¼ Cup Ice Water
1. Measure all your dry ingredients in a bowl.
2. Prepare your ice water and keep it nearby.
3. Make sure your butter and shortening are well chilled as you measure them. If in a stick form, slice them into small pieces and add to the flour mixture.
4.Using your pastry cutter, start blending your fats with the dry ingredients. This step is crucial. The butter and shortening must be well chilled and itâ€™s best to avoid using your hands at this point so the dough don't get warm. If you don't have a pastry cutter you can use 2 forks or a food processor instead. Mix these ingredients till you have approximately pea sized particles.
5. Taking a teaspoon of the chilled water at a time, gently start putting the dough together to form a ball. This step is also crucial as no kneading should be done and as soon as you have a nicely bound ball of dough, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for one hour minimum.
6. After an hour, take out the dough and flatten it gently into a disc about ½ inch thick on your lightly floured pastry mat. if you don't have one, a clean kitchen surface will suffice.
7. Start rolling out the dough till you have a round shape about 1 inch larger than the base of your pie pan.
8. Gently transfer to your pan and fold the excess dough that is hanging, crimping gently to form a neat edge.
9. Follow specific pie recipe instructions when baking the crust depending on the type of pie you are making.
PERFECT PIE PRONOUNCEMENTS:
1. USE THE RIGHT FATS
To get the perfect butter flavor use the best available butter, that with a high fat content. Here in USA that's Kerrygold which has 82% of fat versus the usual 80% that you find in most other brands. Besides the high fat concentration, Kerrygold is made from the milk of grass fed cows and has a richer sweeter taste. If you live in Europe, most butter brands will likely have an 82% fat concentration so you're in good hands.
To get the perfect flakiness use shortening. Shortening tends to have a higher melting point than butter and results in that flakiness we all desire. Most pie baking experts will tell you to use equal amounts of the two when making your crust.
2. CHILL ALL YOUR INGREDIENTS
Keeping your fats chilled is another key element that lends to a flaky crust. If the fat melts and is absorbed in the crust glutens are released and the resulting crust will be hard.
The best way to achieve this is to cut the butter into big pieces and when mixing use a pastry cutter, food processor or two forks so your hands don't warm the fat. Chilling your bowl before you start also helps with this and if you feel that things are getting warm and you're not done blending, pop the mixture back in the fridge for 20 minutes or so.
Have ice water on hand, as this will help cool things down when you add it.
Ideally, blending the fat and flour shouldn't take too long and slightly bigger pieces of the Mixture are okay and will lend to the flakiness.
3. DON'T OVERWORK YOUR DOUGH
Mixing the dough too much releases glutens, which are your enemy when making a crust. Blend just until you get large crumbly pieces of butter and flour, the bigger pieces of butter help create air pockets as steam is released and that's what creates the flakiness. Once the butter is cut down to size take a little water at a time, just enough to bind the mixture into a ball and immediately chill again. The dough may seem like it's rough and cracking a bit, but that will mean a flakier crust. As for appearance, you may have a more rustic looking pie but it will taste divine and I personally will pick taste over looks any day!
The 3 P's should become your Mantra when baking a pie, but here are a few other tips when it comes to rolling the dough, creating pretty edges and baking the crust:
- Instead of a ball form more of a disc when chilling the dough. This makes the rolling easier later on.
- After each roll of your rolling pin, rotate the dough a ¼ inch to get a perfect round.
- Create pretty edges with a knife as in the picture here or using a fork. It's easier than crimping and you can experiment with different designs.
- Use an egg and cream mixture to create a pretty glaze for the edges (1 egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream should be enough for one 9 inch crust).
- Chill the pie pan with the dough in it, especially when doing a blind bake to prevent shrinkage.
- the lower rack is best as its closest to the heating element and will result in a less soggy base.
- Blind Baking is useful when making a pie with a wet filling as it prevents sogginess. Line the crust with foil, add pie weights, beans, or even rice so the bottom doesn't puff up and bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Add the filling immediately after removing from the oven and continue baking per recipe instructions. You may need to cover the edges with your pie shield or foil if you don't have a pie shield.
Most of the tips here are a compilation from some of my favorite blogs that I've used over the years when perfecting my crust and I would like to acknowledge a few here today food52, Thespruceeats, sallysbakingaddiction.com and tasteofhome.com
Good Luck! Please Feel Free to ask for help via the comment section below!