Let’s face it, making homemade pie crust for some people, might always feel like such a daunting task. Just the idea of turning out a perfect pie crust seems to certainly make us put an undeniable amount of pressure on ourselves. Especially when it comes to making pies for Thanksgiving. We all just want to place that beautiful pie on the table.
Well, quite a few years ago, that was me – wanting to present that perfect pie. A group of handsome young men were coming to join us for dinner in our home for Thanksgiving, and you better believe I wanted to make sure I impressed them with my grand pie making skills. So I set out to make my mom’s apple pie. I thought I did fairly good, until their faces proved otherwise and the teasing began from my siblings in reference to my “nutmeg” pie. Because all it tasted like was nutmeg. So, lesson learned and I don’t think I made a pie for quite some time after that.
When I decided to start making pies again, I set out to find the best pie crust. There are so many recipes and techniques out there, so I did as I always do and started recipe testing. After going through dozens of recipes, I came across what I feel like is the perfect, foolproof pie crust. They key that I found in creating this pie crust, is using a combination of shortening and butter. For me personally, this has always been my favorite crust to use. I know there are so many opinions out there that argue whether to use an all butter crust, or a combination of both butter and shortening but I personally prefer to use both.
There are a few simple components that will aid in making a perfect pie crust. Get ready for a bit of reading. It will be worth it, I promise. Pie crust is basically flour, water, fat, sugar and salt. For the flour, use all purpose. I love using King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, in my recipes. It gives me consistent results every time. Make sure you always store flour in an airtight container for maximum freshness.
One of the most important components is to make sure that you use good quality, fresh unsalted butter. I always use Land O’ Lakes brand for consistently good results. The key with unsalted butter and shortening, is to keep them both very cold. The reason for this is that when combined with your dough, the cold butter will help retain the separate layers of the flour/water combo. When the “fat” hits the steam in the oven, it will begin to melt and aid in keeping those layers separate, which creates tender, flaky layers. The shortening in the recipe helps the dough to retain a beautiful, more manageable shape in your crust. Allowing for cut outs, and intricate designs to hold their shape. So the combination of the two, is a match made in pie crust heaven.
I like to use fine kosher salt as opposed to table salt or a more coarse salt. If you only have table salt, use a bit less than the recipe calls for. And, finally water. Use ice cold water to ensure the best outcome for this recipe. There is a small amount of water that is added to the dough, and it is crucial to use the amount noted in the recipe. If you use too much or too little water, the crust won’t come together and will begin to crack as you roll our the dough. Too much water and you’ll have a sticky mess. If you follow these rules and techniques, your pie dough will turn out perfectly.
For this recipe, I use a food processor to mix the dough but I will also give instructions on mixing by hand. Measure the ice water by adding ice to a measuring cup and filling it with slightly more than the recipe calls for. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use. Cut the butter and shortening into small cubes. Place in a glass bowl and store in the refrigerator or freezer until you are ready to use it.
In the bowl of a food processor, or a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt. Pulse in the food processor a few times to combine or whisk by hand in the bowl. Remove the butter/shortening mixture from the refrigerator or freezer and add to the flour mixture. Pulse the mixture until the butter is the size of peas, with a few larger chunks.
Or using a pastry blender, mix in the butter gently pressing and cutting the butter into the dough . Be sure to remove the ice before pouring. With the food processor running, slowly add the water until the dough begins to come together.
If you are mixing by hand, add the full 1/2 cup of ice water slowly, and begin mixing with a spatula first, then using your hands, gently press the dough together, adding more water if needed 1 T at a time. Place the dough onto a lightly floured surface, cut the dough in half and shape into two discs. Take care to handle the dough gently. Overworked dough will end it a tough crust. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for one hour. The dough can also be stored in the freezer for up to one month if you aren’t using it right away.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it rest for a few minutes. To roll out the dough, flour a smooth surface, or use a pastry mat. Using a rolling pin, gently begin to roll it out from the center outward. Try not to roll back and forth with your rolling pin, this will over work the dough. Gently lift and turn the dough clockwise in between rolling it out, to prevent the dough from sticking. Continue to roll out the dough until you have a rolled a 12 – 13 inch circle.
Using a pastry scraper, place it underneath the dough to aid in the transfer of your dough.
Using your rolling pin, fold the dough over the rolling pin, lift and transfer the dough to your pie plate. I use a 9″ pie plate.
Cut any excess pie crust from the edge, using a sharp knife. Leave a slight overhang for crimping and decorating the edge however you’d like.
To create a fluted edge, fold the dough underneath itself to create a high edge on the rim of the pan. Then using your index finger and thumb, pinch the dough around the rim to form the fluted edge.
When you are done shaping the pie, poke the bottom of the dough with the tines of a fork to prevent dough from puffing up while baking. Place it in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes until ready to use.
You can also decorate the edge with pie cutters. I love using these from Williams Sonoma.
To ensure these cute cutouts stick to the dough, use an egg wash consisting of 1 egg white and 1 tsp water. Using a pastry brush, brush the egg wash around the edges of the dough and place the cutouts directly on top for a beautiful pie crust.
For a double crust pie, fill the pie plate with desired filling, then place the second dough round on top and fold the two underneath to create a seal. There you have it. It seems overwhelming but it is actually very easy. Please feel free to comment with any questions. Enjoy making your holiday pies!