Easy Flakey Pastry
Pies have been one of the most popular desserts in North America for many, many years. Making tender, flaky pastry is a skill that is treasured by cooks and passed on from mother to daughter. I used to use only lard to make my pastry, because that is what my mother used. Then, there was the whole “animal fats are bad for you because they are full of cholesterol” scare, so I switched to shortening. Then, the nutrition community learned about trans fats and how they are worse for you than animal fats. Sigh, what’s next? So, you can use either lard or shortening for your pastry – as far as texture and taste, they both come out equally well. I usually use the Crisco that comes in a rectangular box, since I find this easy to measure and cut.
This is my recipe for one double crust pie or two single crust pies. It’s perfect for Christmas or thanksgiving when I make two pumpkin pies. I will also provide my recipe for a larger batch which makes three double crust pies in a subsequent post. You will notice that there is baking powder, brown sugar and vinegar in this recipe. Usually, pie crust only has flour, salt, shortening and water. The large batch pie crust recipe has become my favorite crust by far, so I have added these non-traditional ingredients to this pie crust recipe too, to make it more like the large batch recipe. Don’t worry – you will love it!
The secret to tender, flakey pastry is not to mix it or handle it too much. If you roll and re-roll the dough, it will get tough. This recipe and the pictures should help you to get it right the first time. And the more you make pastry, the more you will get a feel for it and be able to do it quickly and have it come out perfectly each time. (Actually perfect is not required – sometimes it just cracks and breaks and you have to roll it again. Just don’t tell anyone.)
Basic Pastry Recipe
This recipe makes enough for one double-crust pie, or two 9-inch pie shells.
- 2 cups flour
- ¾ tsp salt
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 1 Tbsp brown sugar
- ¾ cup lard or shortening
- 1/3 cup cold water
- 1 tsp vinegar
1) Stir together flour, salt, baking powder and brown sugar in medium bowl.
2) With a pastry blender, cut in the lard or shortening into the flour until it is the consistency of coarse meal, with a few larger pieces as large as peas. Don’t over mix.
3) Stir the vinegar into the water. Drizzle into the flour mixture slowly while mixing with a large spoon. Mix lightly until dough clings together and cleans easily from the bowl.
4) Test by gathering up half the dough and gently pressing it into a ball with your hands. If it fall apart and crumbles, you need a bit more water. Mix in additional water, one tablespoon at a time until the dough will hold together. Gently form into two balls with your hands, then press the balls between your hands to form a flattened disc, rotating the dough as you press and keeping one thumb on the outside of the ball to keep it from cracking.
5) Chill the pastry for about 30 minutes before rolling. This cools the shortening some, which is supposed to result in a flakier crust, according to King Arthur Flour’s website. Or, if you have some pie crust that you have stored in the fridge for a while, let it sit out on the counter for about 30 minutes to warm up a bit. Either way, it’s easy to remember: 30 minutes either way.
HOW TO ROLL PASTRY
Tear off two pieces of wax paper. Put one piece down on your counter (hint – sprinkle a bit of water on the counter first to hold the wax paper from moving around as you roll). Sprinkle with flour, and put one disc of pastry onto the wax paper. Continue to work the disc with your hands, pressing down with one hand and rotating the disc each time, while using the other hand to guide the outside of the disc, keeping it together and stopping any cracks as they form.
Sprinkle top of pastry disc with flour, and put the second piece of wax paper onto the pastry. Roll lightly, working from the centre to the edge each time, and pressing any cracks that form together, until the pastry is about 1 inch or so larger than your pie plate (more for a deep dish pie plate).
HOW TO LINE A PIE PLATE
Remove top piece of wax paper. Gently roll pastry over your rolling pin, easing it off the lower piece of wax paper. Unroll over the pie plate, easing into place, being careful not to stretch the pastry. If it is in the wrong place, you can usually slide it over and ease it into place using the flat of your hand. Trim off any extra pastry that hangs over the edge of the pie plate.
For double-crust pies, roll out the same for the top crust. Once the pie filling is in place, use your fingers and a bit of water to moisten the edge of the bottom crust. This will help the top crust stick to the bottom crust. Roll the top crust over the rolling pin, and unroll onto the top of the pie. Flute edges, and cut slits in the top crust for the steam to escape. You may also choose to brush the top crust with cream or beaten egg white, then sprinkle sugar or a sugar/cinnamon mixture over the top. Egg wash will give the crust a shiny look. Cream will provide something for the sugar to stick to. Either method helps give the top crust a nice browned look, and the sugar gives a wonderful crunchy texture.
HOW TO FLUTE EDGES OF PIE CRUST
Working around the edge of the pie, place your left thumb firmly on the edge of the pie, and use your right thumb and forefinger to pinch the edges together, pulling slightly toward the middle of the pie. This creates one depression and ridge. Then move your left thumb to right of the ridge you just made, and repeat. You are making a series of depressions and ridges around the edge of the pie. This serves two purposes. It presses the top and bottom crusts together, helping to prevent the filling from leaking out. And, it looks nice 🙂
How to bake:
If you are going to make a pie that requires you to cook the pie crust separately (coconut cream pie for example), preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Prick the crust all over to prevent it from bubbling up during baking. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.