Pie crust pastry seems to be one of those items that a lot of home cooks would rather not tackle. Which is a shame because it is SO good and So easy. And while yes, store bought pastry works just fine in a pinch, nothing compares to fresh, homemade flaky pie dough. Nothing.
Now there are a couple schools of thought when it comes to pie dough and it mainly comes down to those on the side of Team Butter or Team Shortening. The argument is while shortening makes for a flakier pie crust, nothing compares to the taste of fresh, quality butter. This is why for my pie crust I choose to do a combination of both. Hooray for compromise!
A quick word of advice on pastry making:
Now before you begin there is something you need to know about making pie dough. If you want delicious, flaky pie crust you must, and I mean must, keep it cold. Cold butter, cold shortening and ice cold water. This is because when you bake your pie all the remaining little chunks of butter and shortening are going to release steam, which releases air pockets, which make for a deliciously flaky crust. If your fat melts into your flour mixture before you put it in the oven you simply won’t achieve a truly magnificent crust, and if you are going to all the effort to make a homemade crust then it definitely needs to be truly magnificent.
So work fast, stay cool, and if at any point you feel like things are getting too hot for your butter just wrap it up and pop it into the freezer for a bit to chill out.
- 2 ½ cups All Purpose Flour
- 1/4th cup COLD vegetable shortening (I use Crisco), diced
- 10 tbsp COLD butter, diced – I prefer to use salted butter for my pie crust but if you would rather use unsalted butter then be sure to add about 1/4th tsp of kosher salt
- 8-10 tbsp Ice Cold Water
- Pinch of sugar, or around ½ tbsp (optional)
- Pinch spice (optional) – I tend to add a pinch of whatever spice is dominant in my pie filling recipe, so if I use nutmeg in the filling, I’ll put a pinch of nutmeg in the crust. Feel free to leave this out though.
- Mix together flour, sugar, and any additional spices or salt.
- Add in cold butter and shortening and use a pastry cutter or fork to incorporate, breaking up any larger pieces of fat but letting smaller chunks remain.
- Add ice cold water to the mixture a couple tablespoons at a time while, using your hands, you bring the dough together into a ball. This dough should not be too sticky, so be sparing with you water. However, make sure that you add enough so that you pick up all of the excess flour from the bottom of the bowl and the ball of dough maintains its shape after you pack it tight.
- Wrap the dough in cling film or a freezer safe bag and put it in the freezer to chill.
- Make sure to give the dough at least 30 minutes for the fats to firm back up before rolling it out for your pie.
- Any dough you don’t use can stored in the freezer for several months. Hooray!