My Secrets for Making Great Pie Crust
Fruit pies are an all time fave, and…well, not to brag, but I can throw one together in about 15 minutes. When the grocery store is over an hour’s drive away, baking from scratch is a better option than a road trip to purchase something packaged in a box.
And, this girl makes her own crust.
If you are a first-time baker, making your own crust is considered leveling up in the pie-making game. Flaky pastry is the mark of a pastry master. And for flaky, you need cold fat globs bubbles (ok, so just go with me on this…my pie-crust/glob theory is big stuff)
In order to make flaky pastry, you need to keep the little globs of fat in the pastry in their little glob-like state. Using butter, vegetable shortening, lard…any of these fats have to retain the shape of small crumbles, the size of a green pea. The flour used in the pastry will coat the globs, which essentially become a crusty bubble. As the pastry bakes, the bubble-like flour coated globs melt, leaving bubbles of air between layers of flour, which gives you a flaky crust. Get it?
Making your pastry into a mushed-up paste is totally wrong. No bubbles, no flaky.
Cold Fat Bubbles
The critical elements for flaky pastry are:
- Cold fat, ice water
- Cold temperature keeps the fats from melting or making a paste, keeping the globs uh, globby…
- Proper cutting of the flour into the fat
- Spoons and forks can mash the globs, so I recommend using a pastry stirrup to cut the flour into the fat. There is a knife method as well, but I find it annoying. Just buy a pastry stirrup. I like this one.
- No kneading of the pastry
- When you make bread, you knead the dough to develop the gluten in the flour, which turns the dough into an elastic, cohesive mesh. The elastic dough captures the carbon dioxide released by the yeast, which makes the dough light as it rises with air. Pie crust works differently in that the fat glob bubbles puff out steam quickly, leaving hollowed air pockets.
- Add only enough water to make a dry, but cohesive dough
- Adding too much water weighs down your fat globs, so be careful. Too much water stops the air bubble puffing needed.
- Chill the dough for at least 1 hour before rolling out
- If any of your fats warm up and begin to mush as you make the pastry, chilling the pastry before you roll it out will firm up those globs so they make good strong bubbles.
Adding Nuts to your Pie Crust is a Game Changer
Once you have mastered the above basic pastry techniques, then you can add other tidbits to your pastry, as I did in this recipe that includes red walnuts. You could add chopped pecans, or hazelnuts instead, just cut them into the pastry mix at the last minute.
I know there are recipes for food processor pie crust, and those are ok, as long as the fat you use is super freezing cold and you don’t overwork the pastry. A brief pulse is all it takes to cut the fat into the flour.
But I always make my pastry by hand. I’m too lazy to drag out the food processor, just like I am too lazy to drive an hour to buy a store-made pie.Print
Pear and Cardamom Pie with Red Walnut Crust
- Prep Time: 15 min + 1 hour
- Cook Time: 60 min
- Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
- Yield: 12 servings
- Category: Baked Goods
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup vegetable shortening, cold
2 oz. red walnuts, finely chopped
2-4 tablespoons ice water
2 lbs. fresh pears, peeled and cut into chunks (I used Forelle pears)
¾ cup granulated sugar
Juice of one lemon
1 tsp. ground cardamom
2 tbsp. butter, cut into 4 pieces
Using a pastry stirrup, cut together the flour and vegetable shortening, until the mixture resembles a coarse meal with pea sized crumbles. Mix in the chopped walnuts. Using the pastry stirrup, add the water a little at a time, cutting the dough and adding just enough water to make a cohesive dough. Gather up the pastry into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap or wax paper, and chill in the fridge for one hour.
Meanwhile, you can make the pie filling. Add the pear chunks to a large mixing bowl, and stir in sugar, lemon juice, and ground cardamom.
After an hour, remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator. Heat oven to 375°F/190°C. Divide the dough into halves. On a floured surface (I prefer a pastry cloth sprinkled with flour) roll out one portion of the pastry to a ¼” (.63cm) thickness. Place the pastry sheet in a 9” pie plate or pan. Roll out the remaining pastry in a similar fashion for the top crust, or cut into strips for a lattice top.
Add the pear filling to the pastry lined pie plate, and top with the pieces of butter. Top the filling with the remaining sheet of pastry (or form the lattice top) and crimp pie edges together. Place the pie in the heated oven, and bake for 45-60 minutes. Top crust should be well browned.
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