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Is ice water necessary to make pie crust?

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There is another thread refuting the notion that pie crust is hard to make. Years ago, after much success with bread and pizza dough, I decided to try pie crust. Being cocky and naive at the same time, I scoffed at the need to "drizzle ice water into the cut flour and shortening". I added about 3/4 of the water all at once, mixed and added water to texture. It turned out great and I haven't made pie crust since because it didn't seem to be a big deal.

So... are there any pie crust gurus out there that can discuss the effect of ice water and comment on the need for it?

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  1. Ice water helps to keep the fat cold so it does not melt. This helps to keep the crust flaky. It is also why I freeze the butter before quickly cutting it in to the flour.

    1. I use a combination of ice water and orange juice. Don't know the whys and wherefores, but the acid makes the pastry flaky. I agree with freezing the butter also.

      1. Alton Brown had a great suggestion to put the ice water into a spray bottle and mist the flour/sugar/butter.

        1. Oh, Alton and his spray bottles! =P

          I use ice water when I have ice cubes, but if I don't, I'll just use water from the fridge. I also add either some vinegar or lemon juice about a T), as I agree the acidity helps with the flakiness. Also, sometimes, if I have the time, I'll cube up the butter/shortening/lard (whichever combo I'm using) and add it in the bowl with the flour and then stick the whole bowl in the fridge, so that everything is nice and cold.

          1. Cold is mandatory when using the Cuisinart like I do for crust. The machine has a tendency to create friction/heat, so my butter and shortening always are put in the freezer first. The water is iced down as well.

            1. The liquid of my crust recipe is just cold tap water, beaten with an egg and a teaspoon of vinegar. I run the water to be sure it's as cold as it can get, but I don't worry about having everything good and cold, and my crust comes out just fine.

              1. The ice water is especially helpful if it's kindof warm and humid in your kitchen, or if you're bowl and countertop are warm for whatever reason. As mentioned above, it's all about not melting the fat before you can cut it into the flour.

                2 Replies
                1. re: GDSinPA

                  Don't you cut the fat into the flour before you add the liquids?

                  1. re: revsharkie

                    Indeed - I suppose I'm refering to separation due to melting (disclaimer - the wife is the pie maker, so I just consulted her) - thanks for the clarification!