25 min. 10 min.
This post is late in coming, since I spent last week eating lots of pie (and touring some castles) with my grandma in England instead of cooking or writing blog posts. We had a lot of fun sightseeing, but really, the pie was the best part! Mmmm . . . Cornish pasties, lemon tarts, chicken pie, pecan pie bars, it was all so good! We both agreed that what really distinguished a great pie from a mediocre one was the crust.
Fortunately, I have the best pie crust recipe ever, and I’m going to share it with you! This pie crust is every bit as good as the best pastries we tasted on our travels. I cannot claim the credit for this recipe. My husband Adam created it and I just follow his instructions. He is a much better baker than I am, and his pies are always fabulous, mainly because of his pie crusts. Truly, they are FANTASTIC. His crusts always turn out so well that recently he was asked to teach a pie crust class to all the women at our church. They came away raving, and for good reason. The texture is flawless and it always tastes so good!
There are two key reasons why this pie crust is so great: first because it uses butter AND shortening. The shortening is necessary to maintain good texture. If you try to make pie crust using only butter, the water in the butter will melt before the fat has time to cook into flaky layers, and you will end up with soggy crust or a strange texture every time. However, if you make pie crust using only shortening, the texture might be perfect but the flavor will always be bland and disappointing. Combining both lends delicious flavor AND perfectly flaky texture.
There is one other key element that results from adding the butter. In order to minimize the melting element mentioned above, it is necessary to keep the dough as cold as possible. If you use luke-warm water, skip the refrigeration time, or simply leave the dough on the counter too long, it will not turn out as well due to more melting of the butter. Trust me, this has happened to me many times (usually when my kids want to help and it takes four times longer than it should). It is always disappointing when I realize the butter has melted and the end product is not as good. But if you can keep everything cold, this pie crust is truly fantastic!
I have listed two versions because I vary the crust slightly depending on whether I am making a sweet pie or a savory pie. I rarely make sweet pies, simply because they contain so much sugar. But I do make pies for dinner periodically (probably just because this crust is so good!): quiche, spinach pie, vegetable pot pie, etc. They are not the most healthy options on my rotation, but everyone sure gets excited when they smell the pie crust baking!
I almost can’t say enough good things about this recipe, although there is one downfall: if you make this pie crust enough times, most other crusts will be rather disappointing in comparison. Sadly, I acknowledge that I have become a complete pie crust snob! Thanks a lot, Adam! Now I almost never eat any other pie crust (at least in America) without thinking how inferior it is to this one!
But it’s definitely worth it. You should make this your standard pie crust recipe so you can be a pie crust snob too. We can start a club. And eat lots of pie. Yumm…
Perfect Pie Crust (two ways)
Makes 2 deep-dish bottom crusts, or a top and bottom crust
Prep time: 25 minutes
Bake time: 15 minutes
Sweet Pie Crust
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp white sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cold
3/4 cup shortening, cold
Savory Pie Crust
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour*
1-1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cold
3/4 cup shortening, cold
Place 1 cup of water in the freezer. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, and sugar (if using). Cut the butter into pieces and add to the bowl. Measure the shortening and add it as well (it is easier to get it out of the measuring cup if you line it with plastic wrap first). Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in the butter and shortening until the pieces are no bigger than peas. Mix in cold water 1-2 tablespoons at a time until the dough holds together in a ball, but is not sticky. Be careful not to add too much! If I am making a sweet crust, I usually use about 8-10 tablespoons, and with a savory crust, I use a little more (since the wheat flour requires more water). The amount of water you need will vary depending on the humidity where you live and other factors. Your amount of water may be different than mine!
When the dough holds together, shape it into two balls. If you are doing two bottom crusts, divide it evenly. If you are doing a top and bottom crust, make one ball slightly larger than the other. Wrap both in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 10 to 30 minutes. You can leave it in longer, but it will be harder to roll out.
On a floured surface, pastry cloth or mat, roll out the larger ball of dough for your bottom crust. It should be an inch or two larger than the top edge of your pie plate. Place in the plate and cut the excess off, leaving a little extra. Use this to flute the edges with your fingers, a fork, etc. If you won’t be filling or baking your crust immediately, put it back in the fridge to chill.
If your pie requires the crust to be pre-baked, line with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dry beans. Bake for 10-15 minutes at 400 degrees. Otherwise, bake as directed in your recipe.
If you have leftover dough, I highly recommend cutting it with a cookie cutter, sprinkling with cinnamon and sugar, and baking it for 10 minutes. My kids call it pie crust cookies, and it is one of their favorite treats!
* I use freshly ground white wheat flour. If you use commercially ground flour, or flour from red wheat, you may want to increase the all-purpose flour to 2-1/2 cups, and use only 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour. Otherwise your crust might be too grainy and crumbly.
This recipe is modified from the BYU cooking class pie crust recipe.
Photo credit for apple pie photography thanks to Robyn Mackenzie.