Thursday, November 20, 2008

Homemade Pie Crust

When you have a food processor, making a homemade pie crust is so easy it's sinful. You can still make it without one of course - it just takes a bit of extra work.
When you have a food processor, making a homemade pie crust is so easy it's sinful. You can still make it without one of course - it just takes a bit of extra work.

Homemade Pie Crust

I know some of you love the pat in the pan pie crust because it's so easy. You just stir the ingredients right into the pie plate and then press it in. It forms a crumbly crust and probably works best for cream pies, which help it hold together, but frankly, I've tried them and have to say that I am not a fan. Maybe I'm just a pastry snob, but when I go to the trouble of making a scratch pie, I want a pie crust that is tender, crisp and flaky and the pat in the pan versions of pie crust just don't give that result.

Sometimes referred to as Pâté Brisée, though that actually requires using butter, I prefer using pure lard or a good vegetable shortening instead. Butter is so tender and melts so easily with any heat and that heat will totally destroy the flakiness. I just find that lard or vegetable shortening holds up so much better, although some folks like to use a combination of butter and shortening.

The #1 secret I can pass on for a perfect flaky pie crust, like a great biscuit, is to use COLD COLD COLD ingredients! Plan ahead and put the flour, along with the shortening or lard, in a covered container and put it in your freezer for several hours.

This recipe is written for using a food processor because I own one and let me tell you, this is one of the best uses for that machine, well next to the dicing attachment, because I really love that! It just makes it such an easy process of making pie dough, and it takes seconds so you'll wonder why you keep buying prepared pie dough - not that there's a thing wrong with that, I do too sometimes!

Using the regular steel blade, place the flour, shortening and salt in food processor.

Pulse 5 or 6 times until it looks mealy.

Add water to a measuring cup and place ice cubes in the water so that it is very cold. With machine running on low, add the vinegar first, if using, then begin to add the water, in a steady stream about a tablespoon at a time through the tube, just until dough begins to gather around the blade - usually only about 10 seconds, rarely more than 30 seconds – you don’t want to over-process. The little crumbles you see here, I just gather up with the dough.

Remove dough from the machine, make a ball and then press into a thick disc – like a giant burger- two discs if you made the double recipe.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least an hour before rolling it out. The cold will help to keep the fats intact, resulting in a nice flake, but it's helpful if you do let it rest a bit before trying to roll it out. By the way, those dispensers like the one in the background? If you don't have one, get one. After continuously getting cut on those package blades I did and I have no idea why I waited so long!

This dough may also be made several days in advance and stored in the fridge till needed, or frozen. Allow 2 to 3 hours for thawing before rolling out.

By the way, if you don't own a food processor, of course you can still make a homemade pie crust by hand, you'll just need a little extra elbow grease. I've included some basic guidelines in the recipe.

Recipe: Homemade Pie Crust

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 10 min |Inactive time: 1 hour | Yield: 1 or 2 crusts


Single Pie Crust
  • 1-1/2 cups of all purpose flour, chilled
  • 1/2 cup of lard or vegetable shortening, chilled
  • 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 4 to 8 tablespoons of iced water
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons of white or cider vinegar, optional
Double Pie Crust
  • 2 cups of all purpose flour, chilled
  • 2/3 cups of lard or vegetable shortening, chilled
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 5 to 10 tablespoons of iced water
  • 1 tablespoon of white or cider vinegar, optional

Using the regular steel blade, place the flour, shortening and salt in food processor and pulse 5 or 6 times until it looks mealy. With machine running slowly, add the vinegar first, if using, then begin to add the water in a steady stream through the tube, just until dough begins to gather around the blade, about 10 seconds, but never more than 30 seconds – you don’t want to over-process. You may not need all of the water – you don’t want your dough to be wet or sticky to the touch. The dough should hold together when squeezed. If your dough is crumbly, it needs more water; add in a tablespoon at a time.

Remove dough from the machine, make a ball and then press into a thick disc – like a giant burger- two discs if you made the double recipe. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for about 1 hour before rolling out. Can also be made several days in advance and stored in the fridge till needed, or frozen. Allow 2 to 3 hours for thawing before rolling out.

Let dough rest at room temperature for 10 minutes, then roll the dough out on a lightly floured piece of waxed paper, and sprinkle a tiny bit of flour on top of the dough disk. Use a light forward motion only when rolling (don’t rock the rolling pin back and forth - roll only in one direction) but periodically lift and turn the dough to prevent sticking and to keep it circular in shape. Add a bit more flour to the surface only if necessary. Roll out to about 2 inches larger than the pie plate, about 1/8 of an inch thick.

Gently roll the dough up around the rolling pin, or simply fold it over to make it easier to transport to the pie plate. Position and unroll or unfold, carefully molding from the inside of the pie plate to the edges. Trim excess dough with kitchen shears and either flute the edges by using the forefinger of one hand and pinching the dough next to it between your forefinger and thumb of the other hand and continuing around the crust, or simply take the rolling pin and roll firmly across the top to trim. Finish as directed in your recipe, as to pre-bake or not.

Cook's Notes: Substitute half cold vegetable shortening and half cold unsalted butter.

To Make by Hand: To make a pie pastry by hand, first use a large glass or metal bowl and chill it in and any kitchen utensils you'll be using (pastry cutter, fork, etc.) in your freezer before starting. A larger bowl will minimize the splash out of flour. Using a pastry cutter, or two butter knives, cut the fat into the flour. It'll take you about 5 minutes. Once it gets mealy, or like small peas, then add in the salt. Use the pastry blender or a fork to start mixing in the vinegar if using, and the iced water. Continue adding water and using the pastry blender to work it in until dough is shaggy. Gather the dough together - if it's still too crumbly, add a bit more water. Gently shape the dough into a disk, taking care not to handle it too much, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Blind Baking: If your pie requires a pre-baked crust, dock the crust before baking using the tines of a fork to poke holes all around the bottom of the crust. This will prevent the crust from bubbling. You can also line the crust with parchment paper or aluminum foil and fill the foil with pie weights. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 15 minutes, remove paper or foil and cook another 5 minutes, or until crust is dry, but not browned. Allow crust to cool before filling and proceed with recipe.

To Freeze: Prepare crust all the way to forming into a disk. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and freeze in disk form inside freezer bags. Allow 2 to 3 hours for thawing before rolling out dough. For best quality, use within two months.

Why Vinegar? Add in an acid, like white or cider vinegar, or lemon juice with your pie crust. The acid, in combination with the fat, creates a reaction to help shorten the gluten strands that are formed when combining water and flour. Scientific facts aside, it will simply result in a more tender, flaky crust. For the one crust use 1-1/2 teaspoons; for the two crust, use a tablespoon.


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©Deep South Dish
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Posted by on November 20, 2008

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  1. I saw on American Test Kitchen where you could cut the water in the recipe by half and use vodka for the other half. Vodka will keep the pie crust moist with out allowing the glutton to get tough and make it easy to handle. When heated, the vodka will evaporate and leave the crust flaky. Vodka doesn't leave an after-taste.

    1. I tried the vodka, and we could taste the vodka. It ruined the pie.....

  2. Interesting! I have pretty good success with this recipe and I've never heard of this before - but it'd be interesting to see how it works - thanks!

  3. What is the purpose of the vinegar?

    1. Hi Bonnie! The explanation is at the end of the recipe in the notes, but basically adding in an acid, in combination with the fat, creates a reaction to help shorten the gluten strands that are formed when combining water and flour. It will give a more tender, flaky crust, though I generally exclude it with great results too.

  4. What is the purpose of the vinegar?

  5. Ah, nevermind. I just read further down which answered my question. Sorry!

    1. No problem at all Bonnie! It's an "old school" method some folks still swear by. The pie crust is quite good without it though!

  6. Mary, can I prebake the crust without using the pie weights? If so, still 350 for 15 min.? Last time I tried to prebake a piecrust, I used a Pillsbury frozen crust, and when I went to take it out of the oven, the crust had shrunk all the way down to the bottom of the pan. i have a new kitchen aid processor that I haven't experimented with yet, and I want to try your piecrust recipe in it. thank you for your help, by the way, love your latest recipe you posted for the braised chicken thighs with mushrooms and onions!


    1. Hi Louise! Yes, I've done it both ways myself!! Sometimes without them the crust shrinks away a bit and becomes uneven but of course that just makes it "rustic," right?! :)

    2. Oops forgot - same temp but you'll need to reduce the time slightly since the crust is exposed. About 10 minutes or so.

  7. Thank you Mary, will let you know how it turns out!!!!


  8. Hi Mary, used my food processor to make your piecrust recipe. Did not realize how easy and quick it could be using the fp. Only needed 4 tbsp. of water, and I added the vinegar. Used a glass pieplate to bake the shell, it didn't shrink hardly any! Did not need to weigh down the crust. I docked it good all over. I will now be using your recipe, and fp to make my crusts from now on. Thanks again for your explicit directions, it gave me the confidence to use my fp to make the crust. The only problem I had was, at 10 min. in the oven, the crust felt damp, so I continued to bake it another 10 min., it didn't appear to be to overdone, thats going to take some practice to eye it, and know when its done. I put the choc. filling in it, and your meringue turned out good.. It only seperated a little bit, between one row of the stars in the middle, might not should've refrigerated it, but I did.


    1. That food processor is great for pizza crust too! Makes a super easy job of it. Glad to hear that the instructions helped boost your confidence & I know soon that you will be an expert pie crust maker!!

  9. would i use the double or the single for you souhern chicken pot pie recipe?

    1. Double. That pot pie calls for a bottom and top crust because that's the way I like it!!

  10. What if you don't have a food processor?

    1. The instructions for making by hand without a food processor are included in the recipe - you probably just scrolled right past it! Looks for where it says "To Make by Hand." Happy New Year!

  11. Mary,

    Can I use this for puff pastry dough? Thanks :)

    1. Hi Amy! I don't think so but then again I'm not really much of a baker. :) I would suggest Googling Martha Stewart Puff Pastry - I know she's made it many times!

  12. Blind baked this yesterday for your strawberry pie. Used frozen lard, and it was one of the best crusts I've made, flavor and texture. It took 15 minutes baking after removing the foil.
    Your tip that it should look dry, not brown, is a great one. Took it out when it looked dry, touched it and it felt damp, so baked it longer. Also great, the tip for adding the acid to prevent gluten. Got much better results. THIS WAS SO EASY using your hints!
    Now here’s a tip from me: have you ever noticed how your lard goes to the back of the fridge and you have to search and search? And then it has to be put in the freezer a bit to get extra cold? And then it’s not that much fun to scoop out and measure? (butter is so easy – slice it along the ruler on the wrapper.) Well, we ended up with the tail end of a large lard bucket after a charity tea. Now that you’ve taught me how to finally make decent biscuits and pie crust, I dug that bucket out and took the time to scoop and measure it all up: put some plastic wrap in the measuring cup before scooping, then wrap it around the lard “disk” formed. Put them all in plastic bags labeled “single crust ½ cup” and “double crust 2/3 cup” in the freezer on the door. Now it’s as easy as, well, pie! to grab one and make a crust. No more big bucket taking up fridge space. Then I did the same thing and made several baggies of measured flour and salt to get well chilled and set them on the freezer door beside the lard. (also, just slice a ½ cup disk in half for Mary’s biscuit recipe!)

  13. Hi Mary! Thought I'd share my mother's pie crust recipe with you. She got it from a set of cookbooks that the Culinary Arts Institute put out, in the 1950's and it's awesome! My children would even eat the outer edge of the pie crust, because is was so flaky.

    It was called Southern Pastry and was
    2 cups flour
    1 cup of shortening (I only use Crisco)
    1/4-1/2 teas salt
    4-6 teaspoons of ice water

    You prepare it like any pie crust, but the 2-1 ration of flour to shortening is what makes it so flaky. One holiday I used a different shortening, than Crisco, and it definitely didn't taste as good as when I used Crisco! Never did that again!

  14. Mary: I am making fried pies for my daughters upcoming wedding. How far in advance do you think I can make them and them still be good? I have to make 100-150!

    1. Oh my goodness, did this bring back memories of Mama and her sisters and my cousins are getting together to make things for my wedding. Mama didn't usually make too much too far in advance, but I'm sure the pies would hold up several months so long as they are sealed up from freezer burn. I would consider flash freezing and using a vacuum pack if possible. I'd say go for 3 months though I'm sure you could actually go even longer.


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