There is nothing I have ever found (after much looking) that you can buy at any store in the world that comes close to the absolute yumminess that is homemade pie crust. And making it really is pretty simple stuff.
Pie crust is about a simple ratio of 3 parts flour, 2 parts fat, 1 part liquid (although I find that this often becomes 0.5 part liquid if your fat is not super cold and firm). This ratio is often called the 3-2-1 pie dough recipe and a key is ice-cold ingredients (other than the flour).
When baking, you are always better to use weight than volume. I encourage you to buy a small scale (digital models can be had for $20-30). You’ll be surprised how often you use the thing…
Any fat will work (butter, lard, rendered fat) but the secret is to have it cold and firm. The ultimate technique is to freeze ‘sticks’ of your fat and grate them with a cheese grater (or even better, a food processor with a crater attachment on it). This allows that fat to remain as ‘little chunks’ in the dough which create a flaky crust.
A second key is not overworking your dough – mix it together (by hand, with a dough hook or plastic blade on a food processor) just enough to bring things together. Gravity will hold it in the pan – you don’t need to knead it into a steel-like structure.
Lastly, add your water slowly. You can’t take it out once you put it in. Being careful not to over-knead is especially important once the water is added so this is a tricky balance (if using a food processor, just use your pulse setting sparingly rather than running it on full speed).
Here’s a sample recipe (double for a ‘lid’):
- 6 ounces of flour
- 4 ounces of lard
- 1-2 ounces of ice water
- a small pinch of salt to season
- Quickly mix dry ingredients.
- Combine fat and flour by hand or with machine to form pea-sized bits of flour-fat. I like to use the food processor, plastic blade and frozen grated-lard. I prefer the machine as the heat of my hands and length of time to produce generally heats the lard.
- Add a bit of ice water, pulse the mix. Repeat until comes together (scraping the side of the machine as you go). I pulse the mixture for less than a second, add water and repeat…
- Turn the oven to 325 to preheat.
- Flour a cutting board and roll into a disc, cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 15 minutes before rolling into a circle.
- Place your dough in a buttered pie pan. If it rips, gently work it back together in the pan – it’s not the end of the world.
- To prevent the pie from buckling when it is filled with ingredients, pre-bake the crust. You need to weigh it down at the same time. I do this by lining the flour-lined dough with parchment paper and fill with 2 cups of dried beans (I use the same ones every time and will never eat them as they are super-dry from all the oven baking).
- Cook with the weight on for 20 minutes. Remove the beans and parchment paper (sometimes a bit of the top layer of dough attaches to the parchment paper – I remove the beans with a spoon before carefully peeling it back).
- Cook for another 15 minutes until the dough is slightly browned.
We’ll share a Quiche recipe tomorrow and show the finish product once it’s all cooked!
Any other crust tips out there?