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Standard Flaky Pie Crust - really not that hard?

Not sure if this belongs here or in general topics, but here goes.

Maybe I'm crazy, but can someone explain to me why everybody talks about pie crust as if it's difficult to make? I've been 'making pie' since I was about 3 years old and my dad let me 'help', and i've never had a complete pie crust failure (I make my own pie now btw). I've tweaked my recipie and technique over time (all butter and into the fridge at every opportunity) and of course it's gotten better, and more consistent from pie to pie, but I've never made a crust that didn't beat a pre-made store bought crust hands down.

Now of course I'm not claiming that I make AMAZING pie crust, but it's pretty darn good and mostly, it's EASY. So what gives? Why does pie crust get talked about like it some holy grail of baking? Am I missing something here? Does my crust have whole new levels of greatness it could achieve if only I was willing to work for them? Or does it have more to do with the pie lore handed down for generations, mistly memories of grandma's pie clouding your judgement? Anyone have an insight here?

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  1. Would you mind sharing a description of your current technique and recipe. It sounds like you've got it down pat.

    1 Reply
    1. re: China

      I don't have my flour and butter covered scribbly scrap of paper on me, so I can't give you exact proportions, but it's essentially a couple cups of flour and a dash of salt to A LOT of butter. The butter should be completely cold and cut up into 1/2" cubes (ish) or smaller. I throw the butter in the flour and then just squish it with my hands until most of the cubes are at least squished in half. I've found that really is easier than using a pastry cutter, or two knives or what-have-you, but you have to work quickly so you don't melt the butter with your hands. Then I start splashing in ice water a tablespoon or so at a time while mixing with my hand until I get it to just come together into something resembling dough. Keep folding and squishing by hand just until you can get it into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and pop in the fridge until it is thouroughly chilled again. Roll it out quickly with a minimum of flour and get it into your pie pan. (I like to roll it onto my rolling pin/wine bottle and then unroll into the pan.) Stick it back into the fridge until you are absolutely ready to put it in the oven. That's it. The only tweaks to technique that I've added over time is keeping it as cold as humanly possible and using all butter. The actual proportions I think originally came from Joy of Cooking I think...some classic like that anyway, but that part doesn't seem that important. More butter than you'd think, and probably less water.

    2. I totally agree with you. Trust me, I occasionally use refrigerated bought pie crust just because I don't want the floury mess or dealing with rolling it out (yeah, lazy)... but it's weird when I bring a pie into the office sometimes and have colleagues say, "You MAKE your own CRUST??" (maybe because I'm a guy????).

      Anyway, I just use the basic Joy of Cooking pastry recipe.

      To be fair, maybe it seems daunting for people to cut in the shortening, and a pastry blender tool is kind of 'specialty' equipment for a lot of kitchens. That makes a big part of it easier for me (who wants to deal with two butter knives?). The act of rolling it out may put some people off too, but you're right, it's not rocket science. I'd probably rather deal with that any day over boiling syrup to the hard-crack stage, or any number of more complicated tasks.

      One final note: I have a friend who still makes apple pie with "salad oil crust" because that's the recipe her mom always used, and while it tastes more or less fine, the whole idea of that is ridiculous to me.

      6 Replies
      1. re: allegro805

        No...I get the "you make your own crust!!??" reaction too. Most recently from my boyfriends family at my first Thanksgiving with them. Who knows. And I agree with the pastry blender being a PITA. That's why I've finally just switched to using my hands (see above).

        1. re: wawajb

          Even easier than using your hands (for me, at least) is to use my Cuisinart to cut the very cold cubed butter into the flour and salt. I use 1 1/2 cups flour (6.25 oz.) and a pinch of salt to 1 cube (8 oz.) butter. Process until mixed. With machine running, pour in up to (no more than) 1/4 cup of very cold water. Stop machine when mixture starts to form a ball. If it has formed a ball, you have processed too long. The dough can be rolled out immediately, if you want, or shaped into a patty and chilled or frozen for later use. As stated above, the secret, if there is one, is to keep the elements cold, and to roll out quickly with as few passes as possible.

          1. re: jmnewel

            I finally got a food processor for Christmas this year, so you can bet I'm going to give that a try on my next pie. Which may be sometime this weekend...the BF's been hinting about pumpkin pie a bit lately.

            1. re: jmnewel

              I do the same--use my Cuisinart to cut the butter in. Works like a charm every time.

          2. re: allegro805

            No..for me it's the fear of rolling, moving it to a pie plate, and crimping....

          3. One more thing: I love the bit of trivia in Joy of Cooking that said something like "the average Colonial housewife probably baked at least 8-10 pies per week."

            Compared to that, 2 or 3 per year doesn't seem that big a deal...

            1 Reply
            1. re: allegro805

              If we were cooking 8-10 pies or loaves of bread or anything else every week, in a little while we'd get pretty good at it, I bet.

            2. I'm also confused by the mystique surrounding pie crust and all pastry. I guess when I started fooling around with it, I was too young and foolish to be afraid. Now I make pie pastry in large quantities and keep it, frozen, ready for when the urge strikes. Pie-making season (summer, fall) I make pies every week for a couple of months until the freezer can't hold any more. Then we eat them through winter and spring.

              2 Replies
              1. re: cheryl_h

                My first solo pie crust making happened because I had gone berry picking in the woods out back and came home with about 2 gallons of mixed blackberries and rasberries. I was about 10 years old and when I told my mom I wanted to make pie she just let me give it a try. It came out pretty good if memory serves...although I had to learn the hard way that juicy fruit WILL boil over and you MUST put something under it to catch the drips. Mom let me give cleaning the oven a try too.

                1. re: wawajb

                  My mother encouraged me to cook and bake so she didn't have to do all of it. She never liked baking much so she was happy when I took over. I loved making the mess even if I had to clean it up (though not the oven, thank goodness). Pastry was just another recipe I worked through in my fearless youth. I'm sure the first efforts were awful but you get better, right?

              2. I've been frustrated making pie dough in the past. It's not the actual "making" of the dough, that is the simple part. It's the rolling of the dough without having it crack apart. I think if you've found a recipe that works for you, more power to ya! Many of them have yielded disastrous results, and I try to make a pie every so often to keep up my rolling skills. I've tried many over the years that have left me in tears. I now use the recipe from Stars Desserts cookbook and get nothing but huge raves. (With 3 sticks of butter per pie -how could it be anything but amazingly flakey?)

                2 Replies
                1. re: ThisNThat

                  I agree...more butter is always better. And as for the rolling out, that's the only thing that ever gave me any trouble, and I used to annoy my mom to no end getting flour everywhere, but I just kept going, patching with scraps, and made it work. Sometimes it didn't look terribly pretty, but it always tasted good.

                  1. re: ThisNThat

                    Here's the trick to successful rolling:

                    First, after you've mixed in your liquid let the dough rest for about 10 minutes before you try to roll it out. That allows it to relax and makes it easier to roll it thin.

                    The second tip, which I learned from my grandmother, is always roll out from the center. That may mean you're rolling in all directions, but it works the best.

                    Another thing that's pretty essential for making pie crust is a bench scraper. With that you can get under the sheet of dough and move it or fold it or add more flour under it if you need to, without tearing the dough up.

                    When you get ready to put it in your pan, fold it over, then over again, and you'll have a piece that's about the right size to pick up without sticking your fingers through it. Again, use the bench scraper.

                    My mom isn't a pie baker, so all I learned about pie is from my grandma. The recipe I have from her calls for shortening, but here not too long ago I made it with the same amount of butter instead and it was absolutely wonderful. A slight difference in texture and a huge difference in flavor.

                    If you're baking an empty crust, I find that poking it several times with a fork keeps it from bubbling up and eliminates the need to put anything in it to weight it down.

                  2. You are lucky, you "got it" at an early age. Some people just can't get teh hang of pastry making or making something that uses a similar technique, biscuits it can be very intimidating to non-baker. I had to teach my mom how to make pie crust when she was in her 70's. Her mother was great at it but my mother never got the knack so she would buy the pre-made stuff. I always thought, and still do that the pre-made stuff tastes like plastic. I use lard or butter in my crusts.

                    1. You know, wawajb's orginial theory that the mystique surrounding pie crust is what's freaking us all out brings to mind my own recent epiphany concerning cooking mythology. I was raised by a Japanese mom who was almost neurotic about the "correct" way to prepare certain dishes, Japanese as well as American. Certainly, Japanese cuisine is rife with cooking protocol, some of it valid but most of it not. Until recently, I've been reluctant to attempt certain things, like pie crust, because I always bought in to the mystique. But you know, once I took a deep breath and tried, I discovered that not only is the mystique a bunch of hype, but my own simplified approach produced much better results. Pie crust isn't as scary as I was lead to believe (by my mom), and mine ain't half bad.

                      1. Making pastry by hand takes a certain touch - and you, wawajb, must have a "white thumb" when it comes to it!

                        It can be frustrating for those whose parents didn't bake and they weren't around it growing up, to try it and find it's not as easy as a cake, brownies, cookies or other baked goods, in which there is just measuring, stirring and placing in the pan. The rolling and placing in the pie pan takes some care and deftness.

                        I think people too may start out with a recipe that doesn't work, and they either keep trying to make it work, or try others that aren't right either. I've had my share of flops too when younger - the worst was omitting the salt!

                        1. Can I admit here that I get a small, schadenfreudish, pleasure out of the "you make YOUR OWN pie crust?!!" exclamations?

                          While I always answer enthusiastically about how easy it is, there is an initial moment of pleasure in their amazement about something that I do without thinking, without a recipe, and with no other tools than a dough scraper. It's pretty much the only thing I can do with that level of ease!!!

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: WineWidow

                            That's not Schadenfreude.... that's just unadulterated, egotistical Pride. <wink>

                            1. re: allegro805

                              Pride it may be, but on your first encounter with your huge (really huge...9 adult brothers and sisters plus spouses and kids) italian family of new 'in-laws', it sure does feel good to have them ooh and ahh over your contribution to Thanksgiving dinner. :)

                          2. This reminds me of conversations I've been having with my friends, who are slowly realizing how fun/necessary it is to know how to cook (yay! The brainwashing is taking hold).

                            The thing I keep telling them is, MOST recipes are not out of reach. It's almost always possible to cook any one recipe, given the right ingredients, the right materials, a GOOD recipe, and an afternoon of free time. The results probably won't be fantastic your first time trying, but it will almost always be good enough to eat happily

                            Cooking becomes difficult when you have to cook for a crowd, deviate from a tried and true recipe, need to time your dishes, have to whip up 20 things for one meal, want to accomodate different eating habits, etc.

                            So cook away, cooks! Things usually turn out better than you'd expect.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Pei

                              Yah, cooking for a large crowd is difficult but I love doing it. I had a Christmas party for 30+ friends a few weeks ago and boy was it a task but so rewarding at the end. =)

                              Ever had an "Iron Chef" contest with friends? It's fun! For those cooking and judging!

                            2. Can I say how envious I am of you "white thumbs" out there? I've been cooking since I was 8 or 9 and usually gets complimented on my cooking but when it comes to me baking, its best if bought. Maybe because I'm not a very precise cook (cooking for me is based on taste and memory not recipe) and use to think that baking is a precise art.

                              Don't laugh, but this past holiday I baked my first batch of cookies and ended up making 300+ chocolate chip cookies to give away – everyone loved it! It's hard work but it’s quite enjoyable. I'm going to follow wawajb's tip and make a pie crust... now the real question is, what do I do after I make the crust? =) suggestions on best beginner pie to make?

                              11 Replies
                              1. re: Peechie

                                I'm with you! I'm an avid baker but pie crusts elude me.

                                Ironically, the first pie crusts I made about 15 years ago were great--flakey, tasty. I wonder if it's the Crisco I used back then but then changed to butter because of the trans fats. But since then, they're tough. I've tried all different recipes. My problem is also the rolling out, not making the dough. I can't get the right amount of flour on the surface--either it's not enough and the dough sticks or it's too much and it makes the dough tough. I want to give this a try again, too!

                                1. re: chowser

                                  Try rolling between two silpats. Or two sheets of parchment. You use less flour than without and you can pick up the pastry more easily than scraping it off a counter or board. If your pastry is still sticking, perhaps it's gotten too warm. I make my pastry with lard and butter so temperature is critical - too cold and the pastry will break, too warm and it becomes sticky. With trial and error you get to know how to handle it.

                                  When you reach that Eureka! moment, it will all be worth it.

                                  1. re: cheryl_h

                                    Great idea--I love simple solutions. I will use the silpats. Thanks--now I can't wait to try! I think we'll have pie tomorrow.

                                  2. re: chowser

                                    Hmm I'm a newbie baker, if I can call myself a baker..so I can't comment on how to make it not stick or not hard. Do you have problem rolling out the dough evenly? - That would be my problem I think.

                                    1. re: Peechie

                                      That's part of the problem but not as big as getting the dough up into the pie. I have no problems making tarts at all and the crusts come out fine (I do ones where you just put the dough in the pan and press). I also have problems w/ the dough ripping sometimes, or stretching as I'm trying to pick it up. I've been doing it on the rolling pin since it's what I've seen everyone do (easily!) on cooking shoes. I'm thinking that Cheryl_h's idea might be the ah-ha moment for me.

                                      1. re: chowser

                                        I use my dough scraper to pick up the pastry and place it in the pie pan, but if its too warm in the kitchen (like in August, peak pie making season) and I sense the pastry will warm up too much in the rolling out, then I will roll it out between two sheets of wax paper and peel it into the pie pan instead.

                                        I think I need to leave the office now and go make a quiche or something.

                                        1. re: chowser

                                          I've found that the easiest way to transfer the dough to the pan is to lift the edge and loosely fold it in half, then half again, so it's now a quarter-size wedge- then just pick it up, place in a quadrant of the pie pan, and unfold, adjusting as needed so the dough is evenly distributed in the pan.

                                        2. re: Peechie

                                          That was my biggest problem when I first started. I think the two best tips I ever got were to pick up your rolling pin before you get to the edge (so you don't have a big fat middle and little skinny edges) and to always roll away from you and rotate the dough every two or three passes until youve worked your way around. by the time you do that it should be about the right thickness. And if it cracks when you try to pick it up...don't sweat it. Just dampen the edges of the crack with a little water and patch it with a scrap of dough from the edge. Smooth it in really well and you'll never know the difference.

                                          1. re: wawajb

                                            Agree with this - roll away from you, apply light pressure and push, don't press down hard. Because I use silpats, turning the dough is easy. My silpats are huge so I don't run off the edge. Cracking is no big deal, no one will care if you patch it as long as it tastes good.

                                          2. re: Peechie

                                            Rolling the dough evenly is easy if you have 2 chop sticks. Use the chop sticks as guides for your rolling pen. Your dough should then have a uniform chop stick thickness.

                                          3. re: chowser

                                            Add a 1/4 tsp. of baking powder to the all butter crusts that will improve the flakiness and I also freeze my butter before incorporating it into the flour,salt, and baking powder. I also make my crust in the food processor.

                                            I roll out on my ancient Tupperwake pastry sheet (the idiots don't make them any more so I treasure it) and plastic wrap.

                                        3. I have never though that making pie crust was a big deal, but I hated rolling it to the proper thickness and transferring it to the pan. I have a sheeter at work to roll it, and a large spatula or rolling it around a French pin makes moving it around much easier.

                                          This recipe has been passed down from my great-great grandparents.

                                          This recipe make 2 open-faced pies

                                          3 C. pastry flour (AP will also work)
                                          1 1/2 C. lard or shortening
                                          1 Lg egg
                                          1 tsp salt
                                          1 Tbl white vinegar
                                          5 Tbl ice water

                                          Cut the fat into the flour and salt, and add the beaten egg, ice water and vinegar. Blend until it can be handled easily. Chill for 2-3 hours to relax/hydrate.

                                          5 Replies
                                            1. re: ChowFun_derek

                                              A sheeter is a form of a motorized rolling pin that is used to roll doughs in a bakery. http://www.tbfm.com/dough_sheeters.htm

                                              1. re: Kelli2006

                                                You got me excited!!...just what I need is another gadget....bummer, only professional models...I was hoping to use it for flattening cutlets in addition to creating pie crusts.....a gadget waiting to be invented..

                                                1. re: ChowFun_derek

                                                  Derek, I am sure that you could have a machinist change the rollers to the desired surface texture for tenderizing cutlets.
                                                  If you are interested, you can occasionally find a used sheeter for less than $500 at bankruptcy auctions.

                                                  1. re: Kelli2006

                                                    Yoikes! Maybe one of those old fashioned 'wringers" from a washer might work?!!

                                          1. I use the flaky, food processor pie crust recipe from Carole Walter's "Great Pies & Tarts" cookbook. Half Crisco, half butter and fully wonderful. I make many crusts at one time and freeze them (and have been known to give friends and coworkers just pie crusts so they can make their own pies). It's less daunting making a pie on a whim knowing that you have a fabulous homemade crust at your disposal.

                                            1. Judging from the number of times I've had tough, heavy pie crust that's anything but flaky (and I don't just mean store-bought or mass-produced!), I think it's harder for a lot of folks to make good pie crust than a lot of you think. And yes, misty memories of the Platonic ideal of pie are probably making my standards impossibly high--my mother made the best pie crust on earth (No, really, she did. On the footstone of her grave, we had them engrave a picture of a pie, because that's one of the first things people still talk about when we remember her).

                                              One key here is that a lot of the posters who say it's easy for them also say they started making pie crust as a child. I think it takes a LOT of practice to get it right--to know instantly, by feel, when the dough has the right balance of fat and flour and water, to be able to blend it and roll it and get it in the pie plate with a minimum of handling and fuss. My mom thought it was easy, too, and I don't think she ever measured anything--but she'd been doing it for seventy years or so!

                                              I'm getting better, but I'm not quite there yet. One thing I've done recently is to switch from Mom's Crisco to butter and lard (she has yet to return and haunt me for it, but I'm still looking over my shoulder). I could never get the results from Crisco that she did, but my first cholesterol-laden pie was an improvement over my past efforts. If I live to be 81 like she did, I may just get there!

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: MsMaryMc

                                                One of the "secrets" to a good Crisco crust was to combine the flour and salt, then remove a couple tablespoons of the mixture, mixing that with a couple tablespoons of warmish tap water. Cut the Crisco into the larger portion of flour/salt, then stir in the water/flour/salt mixture into the Crisco/flour/salt. Use forks or fingers to combine. Did your mom do it this way?

                                                1. re: Seldomsated

                                                  Interesting...no, she added the water (cold, right from the tap) to a slightly-beaten egg and and a tablespoon of white vinegar, then dumped it all into the flour/salt/Crisco mixture, and stirred it just until it was all moistened. I may have to try your method (sublime pie crust has become a kind of quest for me, so I appreciate any suggestions!)

                                                  1. re: MsMaryMc

                                                    Now, I find it interesting she used egg in her piecrust! Have not seen that before, but it must have worked! Maybe the vinegar dampened any leavening tendencies the egg would have had.

                                                    You can also use half butter and half Crisco in the recipe I described. Just don't scrimp on the salt if using unsalted butter.

                                                    1. re: Seldomsated

                                                      Here's her recipe (although I don't think she actually measured anything--she just made her best guesses in writing it down for me)

                                                      3 cups sifted flour
                                                      1 tsp. salt
                                                      1-1/3 cups shortening
                                                      1 egg, well-beaten
                                                      3-5 Tbl. ice water
                                                      1 Tbl. white vinegar

                                                      Sift together flour and salt. Cut shortening into flour with a pastry cutter until it has the texture of coarse crumbs. Combine egg, water, and vinegar (use only 3 tablespoons of water at first, and add the rest later only if you need it to make the dough hold together). Pour into flour mixture all at once. Blend with a spoon just until flour is all moistened. Gather into a ball and roll out on waxed paper. To place in pie plate, lift waxed paper and peel off when crust is in place. Makes one double (top and bottom) crust or two single (bottom) crusts.

                                                      1. re: MsMaryMc

                                                        I saw this one on another page here after i saw yours and i thought that it was so similar you might like to look at it


                                                        This dough has never let me down...it's light and flaky and so easy to make!

                                                        2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
                                                        1 1/2 teaspoons salt
                                                        1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
                                                        1 large egg
                                                        1/3 cup ice water
                                                        1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

                                                        Sift flour with salt into a large bowl and blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal with some (roughly pea-size) butter lumps.
                                                        Beat together egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl with a fork. Add to flour mixture, stirring with fork until just incorporated. (Mixture will look shaggy.


                                                        Turn out mixture onto a lightly floured surface and gather together, then knead gently with heel of your hand once or twice, just enough to bring dough together. Form dough into a flat rectangle and chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, at least 1 hour.

                                                        Cooks' note:
                                                        Dough can be chilled up to 6 hours.

                                              2. OK. You guys will probably freak, but I stopped making my pretty-good homemade pie crust after discovering Pillsbury Unroll and Bake piecrust. This stuff is just so so good that I stopped being a pie crust purist and just keep this stuff in the fridge and use it on my gourmet tarte tatin, etc! It is really an excellent product (part of their secret is the lard they use in the crust...)

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: adamgoodjunk

                                                  I used those once, and actually found them harder to handle than my homemade dough. Won't do it again.

                                                  1. re: adamgoodjunk

                                                    Really? I'm all for quick and easy shortcuts if it's good, but I just tried those last week just to see and I found it dense and tasteless. It wasn't flakey at all, and it didn't really taste like anything besides flour. Maybe I was cooking it at the wrong temp or something?

                                                  2. I agree that making pie crust is easy, and even rolling it out and getting it into the pan doesn't take that much. One thing I am curious about is whether anyone skips the pie weights, and if so, how they avoid the edge of the crust collapsing back into the pan. I would love to skip that stage.

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: MarkC

                                                      If you're blind-baking the crust I don't know how to avoid pie weights. Your crust is shrinking, not collapsing, back into the pan. After rolling out the dough and fitting it into the pan, allow it to rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes so the gluten can relax. Then bake. I always do this and don't have a problem with shrinkage.

                                                      1. re: MarkC

                                                        The use of pie weights has nothing to do with preventing the edge of the pie from shrinking back into the pan. Pie weights are used to prevent bubbles from forming in the dough. The reason that pie crust shrink back into the pan is because the gluten has been activated and the heat causes it to shrink. Letting the crust chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour after rolling will lessen the amount the crust shrinks when baked.

                                                        1. re: Kelli2006

                                                          I haven't tried this yet, but I've heard of using the same size pie plate and inserting this down into the pie shell, it is supposed to stop the bubbling and shrinkage when blind baked, and beans or rice or weights do not need to be used, it does seems MUCH easier...

                                                          1. re: ChowFun_derek

                                                            Ah! I found the instructions....
                                                            "For perfect pre-baked pie shells, set another pan of the same size on the top of the pie shell, then turn the two pans upside down and bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees F.
                                                            Press down on the top pan to keep the shell from shrinking and bake 10 minutes more.
                                                            Turn the pans right side up, and remove the top pan, and bake the shell 15 minutes longer until golden brown..."

                                                            adapted from "Baking With Jim Dodge" simon and schuster

                                                      2. I agree - it doesn't seem hard to me - I use the recipe on the back of the lard box (in Canada - Tenderflake) and it makes 6 crusts at a time and they freeze really well so pie can be a quick dessert to make.

                                                        I've never been happy with my crimping though - it's OK but nothing special - any tips?

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: ElizabethS

                                                          I always just go with the thumb and forefinger pinched together and pushing the crust in between them with my other thumb. Anybody else have something more decorative?

                                                          1. re: wawajb

                                                            Nah, if I want decorative I'll make a lattice top. The crimp around the edge is just like yours and that's enough.

                                                            1. re: wawajb

                                                              to make "fancy" looking borders, I use a knife or fork (the handel end of it) and press down with it - gives it little "dimpels" or valleys.... and it assures that you have sealed the dough well.

                                                              Good luck!

                                                          2. I, too, have been mystified by others' being mystified and amazed by the fact that I make successful pie crusts. I am mostly self-taught, as my mom was not a great baker. I learned almost everything I know from trial and error, and The Fannie Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham. She was the one who got me to switch to the hand mixing method and I've never turned back. Her instructions are clear, thorough, and not intimidating. Highly recommended for those wanting to perfect their crust-making skills and baking skills in general. This book is a treasure trove of classic baking recipes, with no fancy color pictures but lovely illustrations.

                                                            1. I watched my very proficient grandmother bake and make pies from scratch since I was too young to know what words meant. Being totally engrossed in what she did though, caught my attention. I do it just like I watched her do but hers were tender, and although I use her exact recipe, mine aren't nearly as tender. Is it in the hands? Is it how you treat the dough? Is it the coldness of the butter? Is it the lard that no one dares admits to using? I'm stumped.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: iL Divo

                                                                Um, yeah, lard is awesome, and I use it whenever I can get it.
                                                                And it is common for people to talk about having "bread hands" or "pastry hands." Bread hands are warm, pastry hands cold. So maybe.

                                                              2. I could never understand the awe that a homemade pie crust seems to generate. I have been making pie since I was 11 and have found that as long as I follow the instructions I am fine. A couple tips that have worked for me...

                                                                I use 1/2 butter and 1/2 crisco in the dough (both very cold)
                                                                I add a T of apple cider vinegar in the dough
                                                                I don't handle the dough very much
                                                                I let it rest for at least 20 min in the fridge before rolling

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: NE_Elaine

                                                                  thanks NE, can't wait for cold weather to make myself a perfect pie crust.
                                                                  I don't over handle the dough, that's the only thing on this list that we have in common, see, I'll use your tips...

                                                                2. I guess I'm just a klutz because I have trouble with piecrusts and I've been making them for years.

                                                                  Sometimes I use a pastry blender, but I usually use the Cuisinart. It's not the blending I find difficult (the Cuisinart is a godsend for cold butter). It's the rolling out. I make my ball from the blended dough and chill it. When it comes time to roll, I am always stuck with a crumbly dough that breaks when I breathe on it.

                                                                  My pies are always very rustic looking. I never get the crust in the pan in one piece. All of my piecrusts are just pieced together from the rolled scraps.

                                                                  But they're flaky. That crumbly texture is what I'm supposed to have, so I don't mess with it.

                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Avalondaughter

                                                                    gosh, I'd give a hoof or a snoot for a flaky pie crust, I think you're a winner, so, recipe that you use please post, really, please post it.

                                                                    1. re: Avalondaughter

                                                                      I think sometimes people are afraid of adding enough water and end up with a crust dough that's not quite wet enough to hold together (more like shortbread). I remember in culinary school, someone made a pie crust dough that was really wet - like, sticky-wet. His team member was furious and reaming him out for screwing it up when the chef came over and said that there was no problem. More water, more steam, better flakes! That seemed a little crazy to me (steam is steam, right? moist and soft-making?) But those crusts came out fine. And of course croissant dough is soft and fairly moist and what's flakier than the outside of a croissant? Anyway, a too-dry dough can make rolling out hard. Also, if you've chilled the dough thoroughly, it will need to warm up just a little before you roll it. I give it at least an hour in the fridge, then ten minutes at room temp (assuming a normal sort of room temp, not a blazing 100 degree day). Also, I don't put my dough in the fridge as a ball, but as a disk - partly-rolled. I don't use a pastry scraper - I lift the dough by flipping it over the pin and sort of loosely rolling it back up.

                                                                      1. re: curiousbaker

                                                                        That is my nightmare exactly--adding too much water! I'm not even sure why I'm so terrified of this. And like Avalondaughter, I have no problem ending up with a tasty flaky crust (simple butter/flour/salt recipe, working in with fingertips) but it's really difficult to roll out. I have to roll it between sheets of parchment and then peel it off in the pan--no hope of getting this stuff wrapped around the rolling pin.

                                                                        Thank you for enlightening me. I'd always assumed this difficulty with handling was the price to pay for an all-butter flakiness. Some happy day I will have fresh lard to play with. . . I have never considered making pie crust mysterious overall, but it's funny to realize there are these things that have gotten into my head as dogma (and made pie-eating a rarer event in my life than it should be!).

                                                                    2. Help w/ my crust. Followed the recipe to a "T" (Sherry Yard "Desserts by the Yard" recipe for Pate Brisee -flaky pastry), but turned out hard, thin & tough. I used quite a bit of flour to roll out to prevent sticking and didn't pay particular attention to not over-rolling the dough. Were these the culprits? I mean, it was so hard I needed a knife to cut through the crust. Trying to perfect my recipe b4 Thanksgiving.

                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                      1. re: pharmnerd

                                                                        Overrolling will make a tough pie crust for sure.

                                                                        Here is my thread from last year. For some rolling techniques, go to the link for the pictures and you can see how my mother-in-law makes her flaky crust.

                                                                        I have made umpteen pies since this original thread. The recipe for the crust, which you store the dry part in the fridge until needed, is still a winner.


                                                                        1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                                                          Thanks for the link. Great slideshow. Used about same amount of flour as your grandma when rolling out the dough, so seems most likely I just overworked the dough. Working on a new batch now, so will report back. May give your posted recipe a try, if I fail again. Thx.

                                                                          1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                                                            Tried the an America's Test Kitchen recipe that turned out better.. Was part shortening & butter, rather than all-butter in Sherry Yard's recipe. Still took longer to reach the "dry with no wet spots" point than expected, which could explain why it wasn't perfectly light & flaky. Made sure the oven was @ the right temp before baking. Could using rice instead of pennies or pie weights really make a difference?