This flaky pie crust is perfect for all kinds of baked pies. This recipe makes enough for one double-crust pie or two single crust pies.
Vegetable shortening is great for making pies because it stays firm and produces a flaky crust. Unfortunately, it doesn't have any flavor. Butter adds amazing flavor, but it tends to melt, which causes all kinds of problems when you're working the dough. The solution: Use half butter and half vegetable shortening.
Flaky and mealy pie crusts differ in the size of the fat globs. Flaky crusts use bigger globs of shortening, usually around the size of peas or hazelnuts, while mealy crusts will resemble cornmeal.
Why use one or the other? Mealy crusts don't tend to get as soggy as flaky crusts, making them ideal for the bottoms of fruit or custard pies. Flaky crusts are used for top crusts and for making prebaked pie shells.
So, if you're making a custard pie, which only has a bottom crust, you'd make a mealy pie crust. Just cut the fat into the flour a little longer, until it resembles cornmeal. If you're making a fruit pie, you'd make one flaky top crust and a mealy bottom crust. That means making two batches, and either freezing the extra or just making two pies.
Tip: It's actually a great idea to chill everything — the flour, the bowl, your pastry blender, your spoon — before starting. Also, be sure to weigh out the flour using a digital scale set to grams. Volume measurements like cups are too imprecise to ensure the dough comes out right.
And of course, you need to chill your butter and shortening. You'll simply cut it into small cubes, then chill the cubes in the freezer. They don't need to be frozen solid, just cold. But also check out this alternate technique for making flaky pie crust.
- Dissolve the salt in the water.
- Using a pastry blender, cut the butter and shortening into the flour until the fat blobs are about the size of large peas. Or, for the mealy crust, until it's the consistency of corn meal.
- Slowly drizzle in half a cup of salted water and gently mix with a wooden spoon until the dough holds together when you pinch it. You won't necessarily need more than half a cup, but drizzle in a tablespoon more if you need it to hold the dough together. But don't overwork the dough, or the crust will be too hard.
- Gather the dough together into two piles and then press each one into a disc.
- Wrap the dough tightly in plastic and chill for at least two hours before using, or you can refrigerate it overnight.
Note: For a more tender crust, use half all-purpose flour, half cake flour. The total should still weigh 315 grams.
Also, see this shortcrust pastry for making sweet or savory tarts and small pies.
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