Pie Crust

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Desserts | Pie Crust Image

(American dessert pastry crust)

Pie crust was once a staple recipe in every American home. But most cooks these days are afraid to even attempt a homemade pie crust. The mere thought scares the bejesus out of people, but it shouldn't. Pie crust is simplicity itself. Just keep two things in mind: keep all the ingredients cold, and work the dough as little as possible. Follow that advice and the following recipe and you'll have flaky perfection.

Image Creative Commons by Robert S. Donovan

Makes 1 9-inch double pie crust, or 2 single crusts

Ingredients

  • All-purpose flour -- 2 1/2 cups
  • Salt -- 1 1/2 teaspoons
  • Cold butter, cut into small cubes -- 3 ounces, or 6 tablespoons
  • Cold shortening, -- 5 1/2 ounces, or 11 tablespoons
  • Ice water -- 1/2 cup

Method

  1. Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Add the butter and toss lightly to distribute the cubes and cover them with flour. Add the shortening and cut it into the flour using your fingertips, two knives or a pastry blender until the butter and shortening are about the size of small peas.
  2. Add half the water and gently stir it into the flour until the dough comes together. Drizzle in additional water a tablespoon at a time if you need more, until the dough holds its shape when you press it into a ball. Do not knead; work as little as possible.
  3. Divide the dough into two portions, press each out into disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour. (You can also freeze the dough at this point. It will keep for a few months. Defrost the dough in the refrigerator before using.)
  4. Lay out a couple of pieces of parchment or wax paper on a work surface to cover an area about 15 inches square. Place one of the disks of dough in the center of the paper and cover it with another two pieces of parchment or wax paper. Working outwards from the center of the dough, use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a circle about 13 or 14 inches in diameter. Turn the dough occasionally as you roll it to get an even circle.
  5. Remove the top layer of paper from the dough and lightly sprinkle the surface with flour. Then fold the dough in half and peel back the bottom layer of paper. Fold the dough in half again so it is folded in quarters and remove the paper.
  6. Lay the dough in a pie pan with the folded corner in the center. Unfold the dough and let the edges drape over the side of the pan. Gently push the dough into the bottom of the pan. Trim the edges so only about 3/4 inch remains draped over the sides of the pan.
  7. Single-crust Pie: Fold the edges of the dough under to form an even edge. Krimp the edge decoratively with the tines of a fork. Or form a scalloped edge by placing the thumb and forefinger of one hand on the outside of the pie pan and pressing in to form a V shape around the index finger of the other hand, continuing around the pan to finish. Bake using your favorite open-faced pie recipe.
  8. Double-crust Pie: Roll the second disk of dough out as with the first disk. Fill the bottom crust with your desired filling and brush the edges of the crust with an egg beaten with a little water.
  9. Fold the second disk in half and in quarters and unfold it over the filling, draping the edges over the side of the pan. Trim the edges to the same size as the bottom crust. Fold the edges under to form a clean edge and crimp or scallop the edges as with the single crust.
  10. Cut three or four small, decorative holes in the top of the crust to vent and brush all over with the remaining egg wash. Sprinkle with regular or turbinado sugar if desired, and bake as directed in the filling recipe.

Variations

  • You can make an all shortening crust if you like, but it loses the flavor butter adds. There are butter-flavored shortenings on the market, but why not just add the flavor of the real thing? All-butter crusts taste great, but tend to crumble easily and spill the filling. A crust made with a ratio of 70% shortening to 30% butter is generally considered best. Experiment to find a mixture you prefer.
  • Most shortenings are available without the dreaded trans fats these days. But if you want to avoid shortening altogether, use lard. It's the original pie crust fat, and good lard packs some mighty flavor. Rendered pork leaf lard is the best.
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