I wish that I could go back in time and ask my great-grandmother the important questions in life. Such as, how do I make my pie pastry as good as yours? I've learned some of the secrets, pieced together from memories, old handwritten recipes on note cards, research and trial & error. Let me share this info with you, so you can pass it down.
Perfect Pie Crusts
The perfect pie crusts are golden brown with a blistered top. They are flaky, crisp and hold their shape when cut and served.
Only Four Ingredients
Pie pastry is made with a simple 3-2-1 ratio. In other words, if you are making a single pie crust for a 9" pie you need 3 parts flour (12 oz), 2 parts fat (8 oz) and 1 part water (4 oz) and a pinch of salt (1 tsp).
- Flour -- Use unbleached, all-purpose or pastry flour. Bleached flour won't brown as nice. Bread flour has too much gluten and your crust will be chewy.
- Fat -- Shortening or lard is the only way to go. Butter and margarine have too much moisture, which will result in a soggy crust. You can mix some butter with the shortening if you want a buttery flavor. Make sure these are cold!
- Water -- This needs to be cold! If it is too warm your pie dough will be hard to roll out, and will crack.
- Salt -- Regular table salt
- Pie pan -- The type of pie pan you bake with will make a huge difference in the finished crust. Always go with an aluminum pan, but avoid the shiny pans. These reflect too much heat, and will cause a soggy crust (not tasty). Also stay away from non-stick pans. These cause shrinkage to your crust, and your pie will leak out the edges (not pretty).
Fat Daddio's anodized pie pans achieve the perfect pie crust every time.
- Work mat -- A silicone baking mat is highly recommended when rolling out pie dough. (Fat Daddio's SM-Half) I know that my great grandmother didn't use one. But I'm convinced that she would have, if they had been available. When you roll out on these, you need very little flour, and sticking is minimal. I would also recommend placing a piece of wax paper on the top of the dough.
- Rolling pin -- I love my stainless steel rolling rod from Fat Daddio's (RPS-14P). It really is the perfect tool for creating pie pastry. I stick it into the fridge along with my dough, so that it chills and doesn't warm up the fat in my dough.
- Pastry cutter -- A pastry cutter makes it easy to blend the ingredients, however using two butter knives will work too.
Preparation for Single Pie Crust
- Follow the 3-2-1 ratio above and add ingredients directly onto your baking bat. Mix gently, don't over mix or you will get a tough crust.
- Using your pastry cutter, blend ingredients together until it forms small pebbles. Form into a disk and place in plastic wrap. Chill in the fridge for 15-30 minutes. (If you have a stainless steel rolling pin, put that in the fridge as well.) You can chill for up to 24 hours. If you chill longer than 30 minutes, let the dough sit at room temperature approximately 20 to 30 minutes before rolling.
- Flour your hands generously. Tilt the rolling pin and sprinkle it with flour as you rotate the rolling pin. On a lightly floured work mat, form pastry into a ball; shape into a flattened round. (For two-crust pie, divide pastry into halves and shape into two rounds.) Roll pastry 2 inches larger than an inverted pie plate with a floured rolling pin. For best results roll from center to the edge, repeat in all four directions. Do not overwork the dough, as it will become tough.
- Fold pastry into quarter folds and ease into pie plate, pressing firmly against bottom and sides of pie plate.