Pie Crust

This is my favorite pie crust recipe. It was adapted from The California Heritage Cookbook by The Junior League of Pasadena and The Complete Book of Pastry by Bernard Clayton, Jr. The Clayton book is a good one for your cookbook library and it is still in print.

This recipe is for a single 9″ or 10″ crust. Make two recipes if you need a double crust.

  • 1-1/2 c all purpose flour
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp salt (use 1/4 for a sweet pie, 1/2 for a savory dish)
  • 6 Tbs cold unsalted butter
  • 3 Tbs cold shortening or lard (if you use lard, be sure it is fresh)
  • 5-6 Tbs ice water
  • Food processor method:

    Pulse dry ingredients together. Cut butter into cubes and add to dry ingredients. Pulse for 3 seconds several times until butter is the size of grains of rice. Don’t overmix.

    With motor running, add just enough ice water to make the mixture start to lose its dry look. Don’t add so much water that mix actually comes together in a ball. Mix should still be crumbly, but no longer powdery. Pay attention, as the dough can turn from dry to too wet pretty fast.

    Dump the dough out and very gently press it together into a ball. You want it to come together, but use a light hand and don’t knead the dough much. If you do, the crust will be tough, not tender. If the dough is not coming together with gentle pressing, sprinkle some more water on it and try again. If it is sticky, you added too much water, but just let it be and sprinkle extra flour on your rolling-out surface. Don’t put it back in the food processor again.

    Hand mix method:

    Whisk together the dry ingredients. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients with two table knives or a pastry cutter until the butter is the size of small peas or large rice grains. You can also kind of flick the fat between your thumb and fingers to break it down into small flakes. I like doing it this way, but your hands can’t be warm and you need to maintain a light touch.

    Sprinkle on ice water while you gather the ingredients together with your fingers. Add only enough water to bring the dough together into a ball. You can gently knead it two or three times if necessary, but use a light touch and don’t work the dough too much or it will be tough.

    For both methods:

    Flatten the dough ball slightly and wrap the dough in waxed paper or plastic wrap. Refrigerate 30 minutes before rolling out.

    Dust your countertop or pastry board with flour and roll out the dough into a circle 1/16″ to 1/8″ thick, large enough to cover your baking dish. Roll from the center out to the edges. Don’t use a back-and-forth motion. Roll the dough onto your rolling pin or fold it in quarters and transfer to your pie pan or to the top of your pie, depending on your recipe.

    For a single crust recipe, trim the edges, leaving about an inch of dough overhanging the pan. Fold this overhang under along the edge of the pie pan and pinch it into a nice decorative edge. For a double crust recipe, follow the directions in the recipe for filling the unbaked bottom crust, then roll out a second crust and drape over the filled pie, tucking in the overhanging dough and pinching into a decorative edge. Follow your pie recipe for further instructions.

    To bake blind – If your recipe calls for a pre-baked crust, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Prick the crust with the tines of a fork in several places. Line the crust with aluminum foil and weigh it down with pie weights or dried beans if you have them (if you don’t, just fold over some extra foil into the center and sort of crumple it up to support the sides of the crust against the pan). For a partially-baked crust, bake for 15 minutes, then lift out the foil and weights and allow to cool before filling. For a fully-baked crust, take out the foil and weights and return the partially-baked shell to the oven for an additional 10-20 minutes until the dough becomes light golden brown. Different ovens will require different times, so watch the crust and don’t let it get too dark.

    Notes:

    Sometimes I use 5 Tbs of butter and 4 Tbs of shortening or lard. The key is to have a total of 9 Tbs of fat for this amount of flour. You can also use all butter (crust can be a bit tough and somewhat oilier) or all shortening (crust will be flaky, but less flavorful).

    The key to flaky, light crust is to keep everything very cold and to handle it as little as possible. I keep shortening in the freezer for this purpose and use it directly from the freezer. If you have hot hands, cool them before you handle the crust. Some cooks roll out their pie crust on a marble slab, which stays cool.

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