Pie. Need I say more? It is truly one of the Almighty’s blessings–evidence of his love for mankind. A good pie requires a bit of time, but is more wonderful than any from the box cake. Pie has substance and fills you with comfort. There’s a reason why it’s Thanksgiving pie and not Thanksgiving cake ;).
One of the most important parts of a pie’s anatomy is the crust. They can be sweet, salty, flaky, buttery, made of crushed graham cracker or cookies, double crust, lattice patterned and more. Nothing can save a pie from a bad crust, but a good crust can take a mediocre filling and make a phenomenal pie.
This pie crust recipe is a basic pie crust, not sweet but very flaky if done properly. I use it for fruit pies, cream pies, quiche, pot pies and other random sweet or savory pies. Be sure to read the tips during and after the recipe. It took me a few months to realise why I wasn’t getting that perfect flaky crust that I remember from mom’s pies.
For one pie crust:
- 1 cup flour: All purpose flour is what I use most and find works the best. I have also used whole wheat flour or a combination of the two. The crust doesn’t get as flaky, but is still good and can work if you’re trying to make a healthier pie.
- 1/3 cup shortening: Traditionally, this pie was made using lard, but as I never have lard on hand–thus shortening it is. I’ve heard of crusts that use butter or margarine, but I find it harder to work with because it’s harder (while shortening is softer), and it melts quicker.
- 1/2 tsp salt: As small a mount as this is, you’ll need it. I once forgot the salt, kinda disgusting and disheartening–since it was the first time I figured out how to get a flaky crust. Imagine a perfectly flaky crust that is also perfectly inedible.
- 3 tablespoons of cold water (probably more): It is important that the water is cold–you don’t want the fat (shortening) to melt yet. Regarding the “probably more”, it all depends on your climate and the flour. I usually take the measuring cup and mostly fill it with cold water. Then just add a little bit at a time, as needed.
- Cut shortening into flour and salt mixture until particles are about the size of small peas. You can use a knife or fork to do this (I use a large fork) TIP: It’s very important to not over mix. You want the pieces of shortening to melt during baking creating the flakes (it’s more complicated than that, but ya).
- Sprinkle in water. Toss with a fork until all the flour is moistening and the pastry dough comes almost clean from the side of the bowl. You may need to add a bit more water until you get that consistency. TIP: Try to limit the contact the dough has with your hand. If this is done quickly, all the better: especially if it is hot in your kitchen.
- At this point, I usually take the bowl with the pastry dough and put it in the fridge while I begin preparing the pie filling. It’s a good idea to let the crust chill before proceeding with the next step.
- Gather pastry into a ball. Shape into a flattened disk on a lightly floured wax paper. (TIP: Put a few drops of water underneath wax paper so it doesn’t slide around). Sprinkle a little flour on the pastry, the put another sheet of wax paper on top.
- Roll the dough into a circle about 1/4 inch thick. TIP: In order to roll it into a basic circle, imagine a clock. Start by rolling towards 12 o clock and back again, then between 1 and 2 o clock, the 3 (and so forth). You’ll have to go around the clock a couple of time, but it’s easier than realising you have more rectangle than circle and trying to fix it. You may notice, almost a marble like design in the dough as you roll it out: it is effectively light swirls of shortening. Don’t be concerned–I usually consider it a sign that the crust will be flaky.
- Use a fork to press down edges. Then use a knife to cut off excess dough. (Save the extra dough if it’s a decent amount, they’ll be a recipe at the end with what to do with it)
- Follow the directions for your specific pie recipe: some require you to pre bake the crust and others don’t. TIP: If while baking the crust edges start to burn, or brown too quickly, cover them with aluminum foil.
Recipe for reserved pie crust:
Whenever my mom made pie, she would take the left over crust and make these little cinnamon roll pie crust cookie things. I absolutely adore them, and have at times even foregone making the pie, and just make a batch of crust to make these cinnamon rolls. There is never any left for tomorrow–despite my plans). This is how I make them:
- reserved pie crust scraps
- butter or margarine
- brown sugar
- Roll out the pie crust into a rectangle about 3-4 inched on it’s short side (the length depends on how much crust you have)
- Lightly butter.
- Sprinkle/spread brown sugar over the buttered dough.
- Sprinkle the cinnamon.
- This next step I’ve done in two different ways. One is to roll up the entire pastry from the long side, then slice 1/4 to 1/3 inch. Take the pieces and put them on a greased cookie sheet. OR Using a pizza cutter slice 1/4- 1/3 inch wide strip (so they end up being about 3-4 inches by 1/4-1/3 inch). Then roll up each strip and place them on a greased cookie sheet.
- Bake them. I know vague, I usually put them in with the pie and bake for 8-12 minutes. They should be a light golden color (not burnt!). Promptly remove them from the cookie sheet to a plate. If they stay on the cookie sheet the caramelized sugar will dry to the cookie sheet making it a devil to clean and a devil to remove. Enjoy!