Best Friend’s Perfect Pie Crust
For me, pie crust has always been one of those things that just NEVER worked out. At first, I thought it was the recipe. But after trying Ina’s and Ree’s, the Test Kitchen’s and Paula’s — even mom’s and grandma’s, I knew. It wasn’t them — it was me.
Nothing worked. Not one single recipe ever worked. Finally, my exasperated mom decided to give me a lesson in pie crust making. One afternoon, she came over & we got to work. As I think back on that day, I am suddenly wondering what we did with all the kids, they are not a part of this memory at all … hmmm. We can’t blame them for what happened next!
Flour flew, butter did it’s things and the chilled water was drizzled. She dumped the pie crust mixture out onto a prepared surface — just like every pie crust recipe instructs ((I should know)) and it stuck like wet playdoh. It was a sticky, gooey mess. A mess I knew all too well – worthy of no oven, or sweet filling. But instead fit only for the garbage.
Her crust was a flop – in my kitchen, while I watched. “See!! I told you!!” No homemade pie crust will ever make it out of my kitchen alive!!”. She was shocked and from that day forward, she believed me and now makes the crust when I am in need ((in her kitchen)), and delivers it to me – true story.
And then I entered the Farm Girl Fair pie contest. At first, I was content to use a store-bought crust – and then my competitive side reared itself. I can’t submit a pie to a pie contest with a store-bought pie crust!
That is when my sister-friend, Laura, and I concocted a plan. Being the close friend that she is, she was well aware of my pie crust making disabilities: “You cannot use a store-bought crust for the FGF pie contest!! I have a really good recipe & I will make the crust for you ahead of time”, she initially offered. But after a few minutes of trying to figure out how to make the pie crust and get it to me, she decided I needed to learn the craft for myself. I reminded her of my troubled pie crust past but she confidently assured me, you can do this, I promise! Isn’t that the show of a true friend?! Give a girl a pie crust, she only has one pie — teach a girl to make a pie crust, she has pies for life!
Five days before the pie contest, Laura came over to MY kitchen, it was time to conquer the curse. Here is her recipe, ((which makes one double pie crust)):
- 2 cups flour
- ¾ t salt
- ½ cup shortening
- ½ cup butter (cold butter)
- ½ cup water & ½ cup flour
Let’s jump right into the pie crust lesson, shall we?!
First, get a 20″ long ((approximate)) piece of parchment and place it on a clean work surface. Add the first three ingredients to a large mixing bowl and work the shortening into the flour/salt mixture by hand. It should look like the photo below when done.
Next, grate the cold stick of butter (we used salted) over the flour/shortening mixture.
Work the grated butter into the mixture until it reaches a sandy texture as shown below.
In a small mixing bowl, use a fork to combine the remaining flour and water until a paste forms.
Scoop the paste onto the butter & shortening, flour mixture, dusting a little of that same mixture over the paste.
With you hands, work the paste into the other ingredients until a loose ball forms. Pick up the bits of dough sticking to the sides and press it all into one disk. Cut the disk in half, forming two smaller disks, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready for use.
To use, preheat the oven to 400°. Unwrap one disk and place it on the floured sheet of parchment paper.
Make sure your rolling pin is floured as well & begin rolling out and rotating the disk 90° (this helps keep the pie crust dough circular) repeating until the desired thickness & diameter (slightly less than ¼”) is reached.
You can hold your pie plate over the dough to make sure you are on the right track.
Once the crust has been rolled, it is time to fold the paper and crust in half and carefully place the dough over the plate. This is where you will know whether or not you did a good job of prepping the parchment, so be sure to to dust the entire surface at the beginning.
Once the dough is situated in the plate, trim the edges, add a decorative crimp ((practice makes perfect)) & then press the bottom and sides into the plate. Apply a firm enough pressure to ensure the crust doesn’t slide down the sides as it bakes but not too much that you press through the dough.
It sounds harder than it is. But let me pause and show you what happened because I was being too gentle:
So be bold and press away, bottom and all sides. Then, using a fork, prick steam venting holes on the sides and bottom. This keeps the crust from bubbling up during the par-baking step.
Once the dough is pressed in, the edges are trimmed & crimped and the vent holes are pricked – place the pie crust into a preheated oven for 10 minutes.
Hopefully, your crust will look like this:
Either save the remaining dough disk for another pie or fill the pie with your favorite fruit filling and repeat the steps listed above, lay it over the filling, trim & crimp and bake according to you pie’s recipe instructions.
- 2 cups flour
- ¾ t salt
- ½ cup shortening
- ½ cup butter (cold butter)*
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup flour
- If making the crust for immediate use, preheat your oven to 400°. In a large mixing bowl, using your hands, combine first 3 ingredients until the shortening is incorporated into the flour (pea-ish sized lumps). Next, grate the cold stick of butter into the flout/shortening mixture and continue using your hands to combine the butter, just as you did with the shortening. Once the texture of the mixture becomes sandy ((see picture for a better idea of the texture you are trying to achieve)), set the bowl aside and add the remaining two ingredients to a small mixing bowl. Using a fork, stir the flour and water until a paste is formed. Add the paste to the large mixing bowl and work it into the flour, shortening & butter mixture until a ball forms. Divide the ball into 2 equal disks, wrap with plastic wrap until ready to use or rolling our for immediate use.
- To roll out the dough, place an approximate 20" square of parchment on your work surface, dust it with flour and place one disk atop the floured parchment. Sprinkle an additional teaspoon of flour over the top of the dough and dust your rolling pin with flour as well. Begin rolling out the dough, turning 90° regularly to make sure the dough maintains a uniform circular shape. Continue rolling & turning until the desired diameter & thickness is reached. You can check that you have the right size circle by holding your pie plate over the dough. ((You want to have a little extra to drop over the side and tuck into a pretty crimp.))
- Once the size & thickness has been reached, carefully fold the dough in half and in one swift, confident motion, place it in the pie plate. Trim any edges that are too big, firmly press the dough into the plate**. Place vent holes in the sides and bottom of the dough using a fork, tuck the edges in and using your thumb and index finger, form a pretty crimp.
- Place into a preheated oven for 10 minutes to par-bake the crust. Once par-baking is complete, fill the shell with any filling of your choice and follow the baking instructions special to that pie recipe.
- Either use the remaining pie dough disk for a top crust or repeat this process for a second pie.
- This recipe makes two single crusts.
- *Laura uses salted butter.
- **This is a critical step, press the sides and the bottom firmly into the plate. This will keep the crust from bubbling up or slipping down the sides of the plate. But, be sure not to press so hard that your fingers make holes in the dough.