I’m not sure how I managed to graduate both the Culinary and Pastry programs at school without being able to make pie dough, but I can assure you that it was indeed the case. I left the fat too big and had holes in my crust, too small and had dense crust, at one point I wasn’t using enough fat and had tough crust. Like many comforting things, I was eventually shown mercy and was taught by someone who learned from her mom, who learned from her mom…. I tweaked the method a bit, but the recipe has stayed the same- why change something that works, right?
This crust is great for fruit pies, great for meat pies, works well as a base for quiche and can be used for cream pies when pre-baked. This recipe makes enough for 5 double crusted pies- it freezes well, even in the pans with pie fill or portion it out so you can pull what you need.
- 225 g butter, cold
- 225 g shortening, cold
- 5 g salt
- 10 g sugar
- 1 kg pastry flour
- 1 egg beaten in a 1 cup measure, the remainder of the cup filled with cold water
Measure the pastry flour, salt and sugar in a wide and shallow bowl (a big one!).Grab your grater- this is best with a box grater (see picture above- those one sided graters on a handle will just make you want to break something, throw it out and invest in a real grater, $10 at the restaurant supply store) and grate the shortening into the flour. Every 4 or 5 strokes of shortening on the grater, force a handful of flour through the grater holes (as if you were grating flour)- this helps separate the fat threads. When all of the shortening is grated, lightly toss the shortening in flour, breaking up any large chunks. Grate the butter into the flour, forcing a handful of flour over the grater every few strokes. Clean off any fat that stuck to the grater, remove the grater from the bowl, we are done with it.
Using your fingers, quickly fluff the fats and flour together- this will start breaking up the fat even further. Any large chunks of fat are easily broken up, pick them up with a good amount of flour in your hands and squeeze- literally make a fist or clasp your hands together really tightly. Do this as quickly as you can to prevent the fat from warming up too fast- keeping the fat cold is important to the end product, it makes the crust flakier and more tender. When all of the large chunks are dispersed, pour the egg water in and use your hand to mix it, with your hand posed like a rake, keep raking the flour and fat back and forth until you see no liquid, make sure your hands rake the bottom of the bowl so you don’t have any flour pockets- it’s going to look really dry. At this point just start pushing the dough together- if you feel it needs a bit more liquid, dip your hand in some water and sprinkle it over the dough a few times-the dough can go from dry to too wet quickly. Knead the dough 3 to 5 times only, just enough to make it stay together- working it any more can result in tough pie dough- I’ve done this, even a great filling doesn’t hide a tough crust.
Flatten your dough into a disk- it’s easier to cut portions out of, and it chills to the center a bit faster, wrap it in plastic wrap and pop it in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. You will get better results and less sticking to rolling pins if the dough is cold plus the fat stays in nice little fat bits so you have a flakey crust. The chilly rest also good for the dough, it relaxes and is easier to roll.
After the rest, you are good to use the pie dough for whatever you need- sweet pies, savory, butter tarts, homemade pop tarts… the pie is the limit!
General cooking instructions:
- Start your filled pie crust at 375F for about 20 minutes to set the crust a bit faster and then drop it to 350F to finish and cook to the core- this can take an hour or more.
- Blind-baking: this means you need to pre-cook your pie crust before filling for pies like lemon or chocolate pudding pie. Line your pie crust with a piece of parchment paper and pour pie weights* into the shell and bake at 350F for 15 minutes, turn and then another 10 minutes. When you lift the parchment, their should be no raw/ translucent looking crust. Cool and use as needed. *Pie weights don’t need to be fancy expensive, most professional kitchens use dried beans- chick peas work and are pretty inexpensive. The beans can be re-used- I throw them out when they stink.