This is the recipe for pie crust that I always follow. For a slightly different take, see Amber’s rhubarb pie recipe. This one is straight from the source: Irma S. Rombauer’s Joy of Cooking]. It makes two 9” crusts.
- 370g (2.5C) sifted regular flour – sift your flour, just this once
- 1 T powdered sugar or 1t granulated sugar
- 1 t salt
- 0.5 C shortening
- 1 stick (8T) cold butter
- Ice cold water (if you don’t have an infinite supply, then you have better things to do with it than bake pies)
- Part I
- Mix the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt) thoroughly
- Add the butter, chunked up into about 1T chunks, and the shortening
- Cut the butter into the flour until the largest chunks are slightly smaller than peas. A few points are in order here. First, overmixing is bad – you’ll end up with a very flat crust, as the melting butter won’t open up any spaces for pastry-fluffing. Second, you can’t just stare at the ceiling and think of England when you’re cutting. Whether you’re using knives (old school!), a pastry blender (traditional), or a food processor (I promise I won’t call you names), you have to pay attention both to the overall consistency you’re getting, and to the size of the largest pieces of butter. I like hand-cutting methods, because I can seek and destroy the remaining big chunks of butter without overmixing the pieces that are already at the right size.
- Take a minute to make up your own theory of crust-making, and practice making self-righteous comments about it. It really makes the crust taste better.
- Mix in the ice-cold water (without the ice) just until the dough holds together into a ball. instead of crumbling apart. Irma calls for 1/3C plus 1T, which is a good place to start. It’s important not to overwork the dough at this time: every time you touch it, you build more gluten bonds (think of kneading a yeast dough) which will hold the pastry tight against the butter’s fluffing effect. So jump right in with Irma’s measurement, then add more water a bit at a time until you get there. Overshooting with the water isn’t as bad as overworking the dough.
- Cut the dough into two equal-sized chunks. Stick each chunk in the middle of a piece of plastic-wrap, squish it into a disc-like shape with your fingers, wrap the plastic around it and toss it in the fridge. It should stay in there for a few hours – long enough to re-freeze the butter.
- Part II
- Remove the dough from the fridge, plop it down on a lightly floured board, and start rolling.
- Once the crust is flat and about 8” on a side, wet half of it, fold it over, wet half of the remainder, and fold again, then keep rolling. This adds more layers, and also gets you some edges that aren’t all dried out
- Work quickly but carefully. If the edges of the round start to crumble, tuck them back toward the center until the cracks disappear. Working the dough like this makes the edges a tiny bit tougher (for all the reasons mentioned above) which helps them to hold together.
- When you’re ready to transfer to the pie plate, fold the dough in half across its center, then fold that in half again, leaving a right-angle wedge of dough. Position the center of the wedge in the center of the pie plate, and gently unfold.
Follow the recipe’s instructions from here on out regarding pre-baking, covering, venting, etc. Crust gets a nice sheen from either egg whites or milk, both of which will hold a sprinkling of granulated sugar quite nicely. Do something exciting, like weaving the top crust or carving a portrait of your cat as a vent.