Friday, December 7, 2012

Pie Crust

Now for the follow up from Wednesday's post....the pie crust!  For me this is always the hardest part.  When I mentioned before that making pies is really an art I was referring more so to the crust than the filling.

For me, making pie crust takes practice.  And lots of it.  Just like with anything else, the more you do it the more comfortable you are and the better you become.  It's kind of like my grandmother who doesn't measure any ingredients for her biscuits, but rather claims that it just has to "feel right".  With some practice you'll be able to tell as you work if the recipe needs more flour, water, etc.

I've used a few different pie crust recipes over the years, but this one from Smitten Kitchen is my favorite.  I completely agree with her reasoning regarding mixing the dough by hand instead of with a food processor.  I know everyone from Ina Garten to Alton Brown advocates the food processor method, but I've always found that (for me) it's much harder to overwork the dough by hand than with a food processor.  The food processor always seems to leave me with tiny bits of dough down at the bottom that get overworked and larger pieces at the top that never get down to the blade.  But hey, if you're a firm fan of the food processor you can certainly use the below recipe with one.

This past Thanksgiving I used this recipe for a pecan pie and for a custard pie.  But when spring rolls around the flavor of this crust will also be a perfect pairing for fruit and meringue pies.

The recipe below makes enough for two generous pie crusts, which I loved.  So often a recipe leaves me rolling the dough super thin just to try to get it to stretch over the pie pan by the time it's divided in two.

Also, make sure to read the tips down at the bottom.  I compiled that list based on things I learned from other food bloggers and also some insight that I learned myself the hard way :)

Pie Crust adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Printable Version
2 1/2 C flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 C fat**
1 C water plus a few ice cubes

**Butter, shortening or lard.  This is where personal preference comes in.  Some people swear by all butter while others swear by a combination of butter and shortening.  All butter is going to taste better while butter+shortening is easier to work with.  I used a combo of half butter and half lard and loved it!

Whisk together flour, sugar and salt in large bowl.  (Bowl should be large enough that you can get both hands in and work the dough).  Place bowl in fridge to chill for 30 minutes along with rolling pin and pastry blender.

Cube 1 C fat (of your choice).  Place in freezer for 15 minutes.

Remove bowl from fridge and scatter fat cubes into flour mixture, tossing to coat.  Use pastry blender to work fat into mixture until butter is size of small peas.  

DO NOT overwork the dough though!  Stop even if fat pieces are slightly uneven.  Overworking the dough will make it tough.

Drizzle approximately 1/2 C ice water into bowl, using rubber spatula to pull dough together.  Add additional water 1 Tbsp at a time as needing, just until dough pulls together.  

Divide dough in two, wrapping each portion in plastic wrap.  Use rolling pin to flatten portions into disc shapes.

Place dough in fridge to chill for 1-2 hours.

Dust rolling pin with flour and roll dough out on well floured surface, adding more flour as needed.  Roll edge of pie crust up onto rolling pin, rolling and draping the crust over the pin.  I just a spatula to help lift the dough.  Line pie pan with crust as desired.  Place lined pie pan in fridge to chill to additional 20 minutes before continuing with pie recipe.

Some tips: 
-EVERYTHING should be cold.  The colder everything is the less likely the fat is to melt and make it impossible to roll out your dough and shape your crust.  I like to put my flour/sugar/salt mixture in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes and put my fat in the freezer for this reason.  I know it seems like forever when you're chilling your dough, but trust me, it will be worth it.  Unless you're a pie crust pro this step will ensure that you'll have a much easier time pulling off this fete.
-Making sure not to overwork your dough and resting it in the fridge will keep too much gluten from forming.  More gluten=tougher crust.
-A lot of recipes call for using a food processor to mix your dough, but I prefer doing it by hand.  It's much harder to overwork the dough this way, which ensures a tender and flaky crust.
-When you roll your dough out you should be able to see fleck of fat (be it butter, shortening or lard) in it.  These little specks mean your crust will be flaky!


  1. Good day!
    Thanks for posting this---I have always had difficulty in making pie crust and resorted to the food processor method. The recipe I use has all butter but it says to add one tablespoon vinegar. Supposedly, this makes it flakier. I am going to try your recipe above and substitute half shortening along with butter. Let's see how this turns out for me. I won't use the FP this time either.

    1. I'm glad I'm not the only one :) Just thinking about it gives me a headache.

      Let me know how yours turns out!


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