Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Sep 6, 2006 08:47 PM

Fool-proof pie crust?

The fool being me.

I'm really getting hyped about making an apple pie.

So hyped, that for the first time in a decade I'm thinking of making my own crust rather than my usual frozen shell ... no guarantee there ... I'm asking on my local board for pre-made, but might just use that for future reference.

I like a buttery crust but will listen to all suggestions.

I'm sure as usual, after another of my rare cooking adventures, the actual pain, to me, of doing this will bring me to my senses. However, when I do cook, I do it right ... time to plug in the oven.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I have been using the cream cheese pie crust from Rose Levy Beranbaum's "The Pie and Pastry Bible". It is very good, tender and flaky. And it is FOOLPROOF. It uses butter and cream cheese, and since the cream cheese contains water, there is an exact amount of water given in the recipe, so you don't have to worry about adding too much (or too little, but it is usually too much). If you don't like the idea of cream cheese, it doesn't go with all fillings but I think it works well with apples, she also has all butter, butter and Crisco, and lard versions. All have very clear directions so it would be very hard to go wrong with any of them.

    2 Replies
      1. re: Sophia C.

        Oh, wow, thanks so much to you both and thanks for the recipe link Sophia. I'm getting inspired ... or delusional. I might actually use the food processor for the third time in my life.

        Thanks for the other tips, Robert.

    1. The main never-fail trick is to substitute an egg for part of the water. Makes the pastry hold together better. The other trick is to roll it out between two sheets of wax paper.

      1. I make an all butter crust that I like quite a bit and I find it easy to work with

        Cut 2 sticks of unsalted butter in to Tbs. portions and put them in the freezer to become really cold and firm. Sift 2 1/2 C. all=purpose flour with 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. baking powder and place in the work bowl of your processor fitted with the steel blade. (I used to chill the bowl and blade too but don't bother anymore)Add the butter distributing it evenly on top of the flour. Have a glass of iced water at hand.

        Pulse the processor until the flour resembles coarse meal and there are no large pieces of butter visible. Add 4 Tbs. iced water to the flour and pulse 4 times then add another 1-2 Tbs. of water as needed, pulsing until the dough holds together.

        Remove from the food processor and divide in to 2 equaly sized balls. Flatten them slightly and wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour. You can hold teh dough for 2 days wrapped and for a week frozen when double wrapped.

        9 Replies
        1. re: Candy

          That's your basic standard pie pastry. I would not recommend it for a beginner, especially one who's looking for a no-fail recipe.

          I've been making pies for 30 years and I still prefer the no-fail (egg) recipes as I'm sort of uncoordinated and sloppy.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            It was perfect the first time I tried it and has never failed me. I find it very plastic and easy to shape and roll out. I have always had much more success with it than a shortening crust. I just got a bunch of true lard at my farmer's markeet, not the partially hydrogenated stuff. Pie crust is coming up. It made incredibly short and tender biscuits (OT I know but in the same vein).

            1. re: Candy

              Maybe you have cold hands and an instinct for pastry.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Oh no, warmest hands on the planet, gee if I could just use my toes! Wouldn't that be great? Oh ony after a pedicure of course. Do you know the Mahattten Transfer song Popsicle Toes? Suits me to a T. It took me a bit of time, see below to get pastry but I was determined. Now if I could get a marble slab to put put on my screened porch table in winter to really get it cold!

              2. re: Candy

                I hope you'll report on how the lard works out. I buy fresh lard from La Gallinita meat market in SF; it has a pronounced flavor and a café-au-lait color; great for frying and confits but I think too assertive for pastry. But I'm very interested in an alternative to hydrogenated lard or shortening.

                1. re: rootlesscosmo

                  Fresh lard makes great pie crust though the subtle porky flavor might seem odd to some people, or at least to go better with more savory fillings such as pumpkin or, obviously, mincemeat. Half lard and half butter's also very good.

                  The best alternative to hydrogenated shortening is natural coconut oil.

                  1. re: rootlesscosmo

                    I rendered a lot of lard from a pig we got last winter. Leaf lard which surrounds the kidney produces excellent lard for pastry. It has little flavor of meat, it tastes like a pure fat and is about the color of skim milk. Pastry from a 50-50 mix of butter and leaf lard is absolutely fabulous, the flavor of butter with melt-in-the-mouth flakiness. I've been making pastry forever and this is head and shoulders the best for piecrust I've ever tasted.

                    Fatback renders down to a lard which has a distinctly porky flavor and is slightly darker than leaf lard, also not as translucent. I use this for cooking and it's delicious but I wouldn't use it for pastry, the flavors are too meaty. I suspect that most commercial lard comes from fatback because there's so much of it on an animal compared to leaf lard.

                    1. re: rootlesscosmo

                      The lard flavor in the biscuits was fab. I am though born in SE Arizona on the Mexican and New Mexican border (Douglas) am a daughter of the south. Corn and pork are my life's blood. My great great grand parents moved west after the great unpleasantness throught Tex. and ended up homesteadng in Az, prior to becneng a state, but their cooking and foodways came with them. My very Ya kee husband has adapted beautifully

                      1. re: rootlesscosmo

                        Hmm, leaf lard... I don't know where I'd find that. I think La Gallinita's is rendered from fatback, based on the flavor and appearance. Home fried potatoes, yes, apple tart, I'm not so sure.

                2. This is my grandma's recipe. I've never had it fail.

                  3 cups flour
                  1 1/2 tsp. salt
                  1 1/4 cup shortening
                  1 egg
                  4-5 tbsp. cold water
                  1 tsp. vinegar

                  Mix flour and salt, then cut in shortening. Beat egg, water and vinegar together and add. Toss with fork and let stand 10 minutes (this is apparently part of the secret to being able to roll it good & thin), then roll as needed. This makes enough for a double crust pie, with a little left over to make bumblebees (spread rolled crust with butter, sugar and cinnamon, roll up & slice, then bake for 10 minutes).

                  1. My version uses 8 oz. AP flour (I weigh rather than measure), 2 Tbsp. sugar, pinch salt; pulse in the processor with 4 oz. butter and 2 oz. lard or vegetable shortening. (Real fresh lard from La Gallinita has, for me, too assertive a flavor; when I use lard I use the hydrogenated Farmer John or Armour. Yes, trans fats, same as Crisco. But this ingredient, I've been led to believe, promotes flakiness, so I surrender.) Then I empty the mixture into a bowl to add the liquid--an egg yolk plus enough cold water to make about 1/2 cup. I mix this gently with the tines of a fork; I've found it's too easy to overmix in the processor, producing a tough pastry. (Develops the gluten, I think.) My one "secret" is from ATK: don't worry about adding too much liquid, add enough so the pastry comes together--it isn't water that makes the pastry tough. Refrigerate and roll out; give the pastry a 90° turn every one or two rolls to prevent sticking to the board.

                    I think pastry has been built up as scary because people try it, have trouble, and conclude that the legends are all true. (Hollandaise sauce is a similar monster-under-the-bed kind of deal.) The thing to do, if you can stand it, is to keep at it; by the fifth or sixth time you'll begin to notice what it's doing and figure out your own ways to keep it under your control, and one day you'll realize you can do it successfully every time. Good luck.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: rootlesscosmo

                      I agree that a few times and you'll get the feel of it. There's too much hype and trepidation about pie crusts, IMHO. It doesn't have to be perfect -- only you will notice this, and then the next time you make one it will be better. and so on.

                      So I say pull out the food processor and give it a go!

                      A couple things I've learned: Chilling the dough after mushing together makes it easier to roll out. Don't be bashful about adding sufficient water for crust to hold together, particularly at beginner/trepidation stage. As long as you don't handle dough excessively w/ your hands, it won't be impossibly hard. Too little water and the dough will crack when you roll it out and THAT is aggravating and makes one want to swear off crusts forever!
                      Good luck and go boldly w/ your rolling pin!