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Nov 24, 2011 12:32 PM

Pie Crust-- how do you really make it?

After spending hours making homemade mincemeat (which is great, if anyone happens to be interested I have the recipe), the most annoying thing is to end up with a pie crust that's brittle and just falls apart even before baking. I've tried recipes with the typical flour, butter, ice-water, Crisco in different proportions, and unless I'm doing something terribly wrong, the dough just never has a good consistency.

One thing that occurs to me is that maybe I should try something with lard, of course in the current animal fat-phobic environment that's hard to find. In any case, any ideas or links would be much appreciated.

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  1. this may help you

    don't overwork your dough
    use ice in water
    roll into a ball, wrap lightly with plastic wrap, place in frig 30 min
    (this makes the butter hard and cold again
    )take out
    roll out (but don't over roll cause that defeats the cold butter)

    1 Reply
    1. re: iL Divo

      This is the recipe I've gotten the best results for the crust I want. I found that I need the butter very cold, cut it up and put it back in the fridge til you're ready to make the dough. Then using a pastry cutter, I cut the butter into the flour and I actually put cubes of ice into the water to keep extra cold. The last time I made pie dough, the one thing I did differently than other times was that I made sure it looked like dryish wet sand (next time I'll take a picture) if you can envision that-great! once, the butter was worked in (using my thumbs, pointers and index fingers) I got what I thought looked like the wet sand. Then I patted it into disk, wrapped it in plastic wrap, and back into the fridge for 30 mins. When ready to roll, use a little bit of flour on the board and the pin (not too much), and work fairly quickly rolling it out. 1/8 inch is what's recommended, that hard to do, but you don't want a thick crust. Anyway. The dough for me was perfect. It puffed up a little almost like a puff pastry. We're celebrating Thanksgiving on Saturday since my kids work weird shifts, so I'll try to remember to take some shots when I make the pies.

      You mentioned that one thing that bothers you is that some turn out brittle. I don't know what causes that, but my pet peeve is tough leathery dough that doesn't break. It's all subjective, no one is going to love the same kind, but by just experimenting and trying suggestions you're bound to find the one that's right for you. Believe me, making a pie and the pastry has been one of the most trying things I've done when it comes to cooking/baking! Good Luck!

      Happy Thanksgiving!

    2. I thought this article was a good read, from a pastry chef ... here's the quote that got my attention:

      "I have about 12 people on staff among the 10 restaurants and bakeries I oversee, yet only four of them are allowed to make pie crust."

      The article is titled "A pastry chef shares her perfect pie crust recipe" and is at this link"

      1 Reply
      1. re: willyum

        i used to do part lard but i now go butter all the way. i wish i read this article before baking my pie today. every time i make my pie i always think i need to cook the filling and do a blind bake on the bottom crust. but i fall back into old habits and question my question. well, this article confirms it. i'm blind baking and cooking the filling next time!

      2. I use lard (and swear by it), but by far the trick is making sure you get that perfect moisture content. If it's dry outside (and in most of the country this time of year will be less humid) you may have to add another tablespoon of water - it's all about feel, and of course the only way to learn that is by making a lot of crusts.

        Don't over-flour your counter, either. I lightly sprinkle, then kind of swipe my fingers through, leaving a trail of "cleaned" counter space. But my best tip is to buy a pastry knife/dough scraper - you can kind of work it under the dough to roll the dough onto your rolling pin if your dough is being finicky. I'd be lost w/out mine, and it helps so much during cleanup, too.

        2 Replies
        1. re: shanagain

          by lard is that the same as manteca?
          I bought 3 boxes of manteca from Vons the other day, cause they were on sale.
          not that I know what it is, but knew someone could help me with my fun find :)
          and for the record, I immediately stuck them in the freezer, all 3 boxes.

          1. re: iL Divo

            Yep, that's the stuff. Aside from pie crust, it's great for frying chicken (seems to give it a slightly softer crust than vegetable oil which is completely wonderful if you're not in a "so crisp it shatters" mood). Oh, and carnitas - I cook my meat and finish them in really hot lard in my cast iron. Hmm, and also refried beans. But seriously, it makes fantastic pie crusts.

          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            ... and there's probably a dozen more out there that you haven't linked to.

          2. After I tried this (and I followed his instructions *exactly*) I know it's the best I've ever made.
            Impressed myself!