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Flaky Pie Pastry

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Yields enough dough for one 9-inch double-crust pie.

  • To learn more, read:
    Perfecting Apple Pie
  • by Carole Walter from Fine Cooking
    Issue 81

  • 10-1/2 oz. (2-1/3 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. table salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 4 oz. (1/2 cup) chilled, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 4 oz (1/2 cup) chilled vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch pieces 
  • 5 to 6 Tbs. ice water; more as needed
Tip:
Don't have a food processor? You can cut the fats in by hand, but you must use a bit more flour—11-1/4 oz. total—and sift it first; you should have 2-1/2 cups after sifting. Also, the butter shouldn't be rock hard, so take it out of the fridge a few minutes before you start. Your finger should leave a slight imprint when you press the butter. To cut the fats in by hand, whisk the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Add the cubed butter and vegetable shortening and mix briefly with a fork to coat the fats with flour. Cut the fats into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or two dinner knives, working the mixture until the particles have a coarse, mealy texture similar to that of fresh bread crumbs with some larger pea-size pieces. From there, continue with the recipe as written to finish the dough.

Put the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Chill for 20 to 30 minutes.

Pulse the dry ingredients together for a few seconds to blend. With the processor off, Add half of the butter and half of the shortening. Pulse 5 times and then process for 5 seconds. Add the remaining butter and shortening and pulse again 5 times, then process for 5 seconds. You should have a mixture of both large and small crumbs. Empty the mixture into a large mixing bowl.

Drizzle 1 Tbs. of the ice water around the edge of the bowl, letting it trickle into the crumbs. Flick the moistened crumbs toward the center with a table fork, rotating the bowl as you work. Repeat with the remaining 4 Tbs. ice water, 1 Tbs. at a time. As you add the water, the crums should begin to form larger clusters. Once you've added 5 Tbs. water total, take a handful of crumbs and squeeze them gently; they should hold together. If they easily break apart, the mixture needs more water: add the remaining Tbs., one tsp. at a time, checking the consistency after each addition. If the crumbs still fail to hold together, you can add additional water, but do so sparingly.

Gather a handful of the crumbly dough and press it against the side of the bowl to form a small mass, flouring your hand as needed to prevent excessive sticking. Increase the size of this mass by pressing it into more of the crumbly mixture until you've used up about half of the total mixture in the bowl. Make a second mass of dough with the remaining crumbs. If some of the crumbs on the bottom of the bowl need more moistening, add a few drops of water.

Form the two masses of dough into balls, dust them with flour, and flatten them into 4- to 5-inch disks. Pat the disks to release any excess flour. Score the tops lightly with the side of your hand to create a tic-tac-toe pattern. With cupped hands, rotate each disk on the work surface to smooth the edges of the disks. Wrap each in plastic wrap. Chill at least 30 minutes before using.

Make Ahead Tips

You can make the dough ahead and refrigerate it for up to 3 days or freeze it for up to 4 months (thaw it overnight in the fridge before using). Before rolling, let the dough sit at room temperature until pliable.

This is a fairly fool-proof recipe and it was very tender, but the texture was more crumbly or cookie like. I'll try it again, but I'd prefer a more traditional approach.

Made this for Thanksgiving as I did not have my mothers recipe with me. I am now switching from my mothers recipe to this one! It was amazing and the dough held up so well, it made making the pie a breeze. I can see why they call this Pie Pastry and not a pie crust! Everyone loved it.

I just used this recipe to make butter tarts and it was fabulous. I followed the recipe exactly and it was very easy to handle and came out perfect and flaky.

The pie crust turned out beautifully; it handled well and tasted even better. I rolled it out between sheets of wax paper. Using this method I didn't need to incorporate any extra flour. For the bottom crust, I chilled the rolled out circle between the two pieces of wax paper in the freezer on a baking sheet, and then peeled off one sheet of paper easily (make sure there are no wrinkles in the paper or it will crack). I let this piece warm up a bit at room temperature for about 3 minutes and then pressed it into a pie dish (with the other sheet still attached). After trimming the sides, I chilled the dish in the frezzer for 10 minutes and then peeled the sheet off. For the bottom crust I rolled it ouu and chilled it the same way, but peeled off both sheets when I took it out and placed it on a lightly floured piece of wax paper. once it was warmed up enough to be pliable (test by lifting one side of the paper slowly and see how easily it bends) I placed it over the filled pie dish. I didn't try the towel method but it seems like a simillar idea. The wax paper method is foolproof and makes for almost no cleanup

A couple of weekends ago I made my first 'from scratch' apple pie, including the crust. I was intimidated by the crust but liked that this recipe has such detailed instructions. Honestly, I've never been much of a fan of pie crust... that is, til now! I loved this! Thank you Carole! I'm confident if I bring a pie to a party, mine will have the best crust. =)

Excellent pie crust recipe. Easy to put together and work with. Used the flat kitchen towel to roll out for the first time which was great - easier to roll out and transfer to pie dish. I think that using the egg wash on the crust prior to filling helped prevent the soggy bottom pie crust that plagues my fruit pies!

This is definitely the best pie crust I have ever used. Highly recommend that all try it. Thank you.

This is a delicious and easy to make pie dough. It comes together with no fuss and rolls out beautifully. It has a nice flake and versatility with sweet or savoury fillings.

I love the technique and recipe...the way water is incorporated eliminates the problem of overworking dough, and practically guarantees flakiness. I've never seen this method before. Also, it seems I never had quite enough flour (most recipes call for 2 c). Never considered adding baking powder; this may be the secret ingredient! This recipe has flavor and flakiness. Kudos, Carole.

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