Making the Perfect Pie Crust

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Making a great pie crust at home isn’t pie-in-the-sky thinking.

It’s actually VERY doable.

It’s a BIG secret and no secret at all. Throughout the years, there’s been NO shortage of experts out there to tell everyone how to do it. And you know what? It’s likely that every bit of advice they might have given about how to make a crisp, flaky, delicious pie crust is pretty much true.

Making the Perfect Pie Crust

So how come you can’t make one?

The answer is probably one of the following:

A) You don’t believe in it.
B) You’re living in denial, thinking you can cheat on the recipe and STILL make a great pie crust.

Wrong…

Actually, I think I know what the problem has always been here. Pie dough is SO simple in its ingredients that it just isn’t fair that you have to be so careful about how you combine them or follow the recipe.

At the end of the day, making a great pie crust is a combination of science, technique, good ingredients and patience–more patience than most people are willing to give to get the superior results they’d like in return.

Science? Patience? Isn’t baking supposed to be fun?

It certainly can be. And it’s even more fun when you create something wonderful and delicious. And that’s where we’re headed here.

The Ingredients:

2 ½ Cups CHILLED, Unbleached, All-Purpose Flour
1 ½ tsp Sugar
1 tsp Salt
½ Cup (1 stick) CHILLED Unsalted Butter
(Cut Into 1/2-inch Cubes)
½ Cup CHILLED Lard or Frozen Non-Hydrogenated, Solid Vegetable Shortening (Cut Into 1/2-inch Cubes)
5 TBSP (or more) Ice Water

The Lecture:

Yes, CHILLED means chilled, frozen means frozen and ice water means ice water, not room temperature or cold water. ICE WATER, please! Non-hydrogenated means NO Crisco. Crisco is hydrogenated (sorry, Crisco lovers). Lard and butter do combine for THE best flavor; get over it.

The Science:

By using chilled and frozen ingredients, you’re ensuring that the fat is separating from the flour into fat pellets and not being accidentally mixed into dough pellets instead. When the water is added, mixed to a dough, and then eventually flattened, the pellets of fat will form separate layers (like plywood). When you bake your pie, the dough gets hot enough to create steam, and the layers will flake apart and give you a tender, flaky crust.

The Technique: Chop, chop, chop the fat with the flour (salt and sugar) into pea-shaped pellets. A sharp knife is best. Avoid any mixing, pressing, or smashing. The fat pieces will get coated with the flour, but you don’t want the flour to actually mix INTO the fat pieces. When it comes time to add the ICE COLD water, drizzle it over the chopped fat and flour pile, and gently fold it in. Avoid kneading the dough into a clay-like ball. That will only invite gluten to toughen the dough, and that’s trouble.

You may not think you have enough water after 5 tablespoons. Perhaps a 6th might help but not more. The more water, the tougher the dough will be later.

Gently gather and gently press the crumbly pie dough into a disk-like form, and wrap it in waxed paper. Chill it in your fridge for at least 30 minutes, but 1 hour is best. This will allow the pie dough to relax and become tender. It will also help you roll it out later.

The Patience:

Don’t be tempted to short cut. Wait until ALL the ingredients are chilled before chopping them together, and DO let the finished dough rest an hour. Don’t be in a hurry. Your patience WILL pay off.

The Payoff:

When you’re ready to roll out your dough to make your pie, use additional flour sparingly. Use just what you need to prevent the dough from sticking to your counter or board. Typically, a pie crust is rolled to a thickness between 1/8” and ¼”. That’s 3/16”, but who is that precise? Think of a pencil and roll your dough out to just thinner than that.

Not all pies call for the same baking temperature, but your CRUST would prefer 375 F if possible.

Good luck! Now, make me proud!