Pie Crust: Flaky, Perfect
It’s that time of year, when the world falls in love . . .
. . . with pie. But let’s be real. It’s all about the pie crust.
I have been making pie crust since I was a little girl during the snowy, frigid, Canadian winters. Oh nostalgia. All recipes are basically the same: flour, fat, and water. It’s the method and simple tricks that make the difference in the pie crust. Julia child explains it best in The Art of French Cooking. (Best Christmas gift I ever received You can click here for an affiliate link to gift yourself or someone else with it).
Many people are intimidated by pie crust, but they really shouldn’t be. It takes under ten minutes to throw together and there is no comparison. If you are going to bother making pie, make the pie crust. Once you are comfortable with the idea of making amazing, flakey, show-off like a middle child, jaw-droppingly good pie crust, you can make it. Here’s how you do it.
Tips for Perfect Pie Crust
- It’s all about the temperature. Keep everything as cold as possible. Leave the butter and shortening in the fridge until the last minute and use water with ice in it. You want everything to stay cold so that the fat doesn’t soften and combine with the flour. You want them to stay separate because that is how the flake happens. And good pie crust is all about the flake.
- Touch the dough as little as possible. This goes back to pro-tip number uno. Keep it cold baby. Going from making pie crust by hand to pie crust in a food processor upped my pie crust game by 100 %. You can most definitely make wonderful pie crust by hand, and I did for 15 years. But now? Now I am ruined forever and will own a food processor until the day I die for the pie crust alone.
- Work quickly. Read through the recipe a few times so that you know what you are doing. Work quickly so that your butter doesn’t soften. If at anytime you have to pause, throw your crust in the fridge.
Basically it comes down to this: Don’t let your butter soften.
Directions for Great Pie Crust
Place your flour, salt, and sugar in the food processor. Pulse it twice (or whisk it, if working by hand).
Cube your butter. Try not to touch it too much while doing this. (If you are working by hand you want to cube the butter as small as possible)
Place the butter and shortening in the food processor on top of the flour. You can’t skip the shortening or you will have a brittle crust. With American flour you need the shortening to ensure a soft crust.
Now pulse it a few times until the butter and flour are a crumby mix. (If you are working by hand this is where it is important to work quickly: rub the butter between your fingers in the flour until it is in little, tiny crumbs you. You can also use a pastry cutter, if you have one, before moving to crumbling with your fingers.)
Once the butter has been reduced to tiny flour covered crumbs, add the ice water. You are not adding ice. I keep a cup of ice water on the table and then pour a half cup of water into a measuring cup. Flick on the food processor and add the water. It will just take a few seconds before it begins to amass on the blade. This is when you turn it off.
If you are mixing by hand, you will do the same thing. Mix with a wooden spoon while pouring the water. Continue to mix until you get a big lump of dough, as you see above.
Now for the final blending of the butter into the dough. Sprinkle a little flour on your table, and using the heel of your hand, smear the dough away from you. You can do this once or twice.
This is called the fraisage. You are not kneading the dough, just smearing the dough. Then scoop it up into a ball, wrap in parchment paper and plastic wrap (or baggie) and put in the fridge while you prepare the pie innards.
I like to have it in the fridge for at least an hour. You can make the crust the day before. I never do. But you can. In fact, as long as it is wrapped in wax paper and plastic, it will last in the fridge for 2-3 days or in the freezer for a few weeks.
Once you are ready to roll it out, be sure to turn the crust after each roll. You want to roll, not stretch your crust. If you stretch the crust, it will shrink. If you roll the crust, it will stay where you put it. So roll, turn the crust, roll turn, roll turn. You are shifting where the crust is on the table when you turn it , making sure it isn’t sticking and stretching.
Now you just have to fill ‘er up. I always like to brush my finished pie with milk or an egg white and sprinkle with coarse sugar before baking. It is so pretty.
When you become famous with your family and friends for your pie crust, remember me.