My Best Pie Crust
“Pie Crust Anxiety”.
Oh yes, it’s real.
Of all the topics of cooking classes I’ve taught and of all the time I’ve spent with students and friends in my own kitchen, I’ve witnessed an incredible amount of angst and trepidation over pie crust.
It seems to be the American woman’s Achilles heel.
“Pie Crust Anxiety” hits an all-time peak around the holidays. Right about the same time all other anxieties come screaming out of nowhere and just come and sit on our heads like giant toads.
I’ve deciphered that “Pie Crust Anxiety” stems from two different things:
- You feel pressure to perform on the holidays:
You dream of making the perfect pie, but you fall short of your expectations. Friends, working with pie crust is a skill. It’s a skill that needs to be learned and practiced. I can help you acquire that skill. But first, let’s talk more about this “perfect” thing….
Dear pie crust Padawans, you must get “perfect” out of your head. It does not exist. Okay? Gone. Poof. Start to replace the word “perfect” with “excellent”. “Excellent” is based on what you can do given your circumstances. Did you do your best? Excellent. Did you improve from last time? Excellent!
Perfect is such an exclusive word. Exclusive, literally, in that it EXCLUDES. It excludes anything that does not meet the highest standard known. The highest standard CURRENTLY KNOWN TO MAN. Don’t do that to yourself.
I don’t believe in “perfect” and I get a little bristly around that word. I’m like Klingon “Urrr” around that word. No like.
2. You’ve were bullied in the kitchen when you were knee-high to a grasshopper:
Listen, some women can be real covert bullies. It’s called Female Aggression Syndrome (link). There’s a lot of power in food, and if the dominant female in your family of origin used food as a tool of manipulation and bullying, then sister, I’m sorry. Double whammy if everything you made had to be perfect. I’m double sorry. That was wrong of her.
People get really obsessed over the perfection of pies. It’s an American thing.
All I can say, friend, is that pie crust is a substance. It just holds the filling of a pie. If it causes you anxiety, I want you to know that you’re not alone. I hear about “Pie Crust Anxiety” every year about this time. I understand. Everything will be okay.
This following is my pie crust recipe. I’ve made hundreds of pies with this recipe. Do I still “mess up” and make an imperfect pie occasionally? Yes. Yes I do!!
It’s only pie. 🙂
Now, back to the technical aspects of pie crust. It’s true, the more you work with pie crust, the more you’ll understand how it all works. I use 50% unsalted butter and 50% lard. For this recipe, which makes “2 rolls”, basically the crust bottom and the crust top, I use 1/2 cup COLD unsalted butter and 1/2 cup COLD lard.
Pie crust has a great deal of fat in it. It’s about 1:1 ratio of fat to flour.
Basically, it’s not play dough.
I mean, I love play dough, but it’s totally warped an entire generation’s expectation of how dough should feel.
Some people still use vegetable shortening. You want to get me started on a geeky tirade? Just tell me that you still use vegetable shortening. Crisco. I honestly don’t know how that stuff is still on the market. Partially hydrogenated oils are SO BAD for you. Even one bit of partially hydrogenated oil in your body will cause things to go haywire. I heard it described once as like a grain of sand in a Rolex watch. Even a little will mess things right up.
So go LARD. Yes, ol’ pig fat lard. Seriously, much more of a friend to you than Crisco.
Flour, salt and sugar. I use this same recipe for sweet and savory pies. I really don’t think it needs to be adjusted. Besides, it’s too hard to keep track of all those different crust formulas. This is the recipe I use for pecan pie and Quiche, alike.
I make a lot of pie crust on a regular basis and I use a food processor.
I use the plastic blade. If you didn’t know, the plastic blade is for dough. It will do more of a rough-cut, which is what you want when you are dealing with flours.
So, 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, 1/2 cup cold lard. Both cubed. 3 cups all-purpose flour. 2 Tablespoons sugar. 1 Teaspoon salt.
I make this so much I have it memorized.
Pulse in a food processor. It’s going to be a bit like dry clay. Take the top of the food processor off occasionally and push the dough down because it has a tendency to get lodged up in the food processor.
It’ll be a little dry, but mostly incorporated. That’s when you know it’s time to add the ice water. Start the food processor again and add the water gradually.
Six tablespoons of ice water.
Here’s my baby daughter. She’s all into helping me. And why not? They grow up so fast. She wanted that ice cube.
After all the ice water has been pulsed into the dough, turn it out onto a floured surface. It’s going to be a sticky mess. Baby daughter still wants to help. haha. Did she ruin my “perfect photo”? No. She made it better. 🙂
I dust the dough with flour and form it into a nice ball. Baby daughter is enjoying eating this…. Aw, that chubby little hand. I love her.
I separate the dough into two parts then form into small disks.
She is going to be part of this whole process, I can see. I actually started an album of what she does while I’m working on my food photography. When I turn around from photographing food and I find her digging through flour, coloring on walls, coloring on herself, or with her hand in the Nutella jar, I just snap a pic. It’s becoming quite a hilarious album! ha.
Wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest for about an hour. You can pop it in the fridge for up to 2 days, or freeze it for a month or so. By the way, did you know that foods with a high fat content freeze excellently?! Yes, they do. Take potatoes….they freeze horribly, right? Well add enough butter and cream to them, and voila – freezes just fine.
Just thought you might find that interesting. I’m always freezing different foods. I have all kinds of weird experiments in the freezer right now.
Lightly dust your surface with flour. Just a little flour.
Flour content in your rolling process will really either make or break your entire operation. Too much and your dough is stiff and not flaky at all. Too little and you have a sticky mess.
This is when you will either freak out from “Pie Crust Anxiety”, or handle it.
Stay on target. Stay on target…..
It’s okay, buddies. You’re going to be just fine.
I’ve got so many pie recipes. Both sweet and savory, and in all different shapes and sizes. It’s one of the ways I keep things economical at my house! Pie crust is a super useful tool!! Not just for looking pretty, it’s a way you can turn leftovers into a gourmet feast! Chicken pot pie, bacon and potato hand-pies….. The possibilities are almost endless.
Here’s a recap of the recipe:
1/2 cup cold lard, cubed
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons ice water
In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar and salt. Pulse the butter and lard in until mixture is grainy. Add the ice water 1 Tbs at a time.
Turn out of lightly floured surface and work into a ball. Separate into two and form disks. Flour as needed to keep your hands from sticking to dough. The inside of the ball will be sticky. That’s okay.
Wrap disks in plastic wrap and let rest for 1 hour.
Roll out on lightly floured surface.
Have a good day. Pie recipes to come! Take care.