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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!

            1. James Beard recommends lard, the purer, the better. Ideally "leaf" lard, which is from pork kidneys.

              1. I do it two ways. First way: I look it up in the red and white checked cookbook... maybe adding a bit more water, pulsing in the food processor until it just comes together.
                Second way, go the the store and buy Pillsbury, rolled, in the box, in a cooler. I usually do this. Everyone loves it.

                1. I've only recently started making pies, and have been using a recipe I picked up here, which includes vinegar and egg . The recipe calls for shortening, but I've been using half crisco and half butter, with good results. Using cold ingredients and chilling the dough before rolling really helps.

                  1. If your dough is brittle and falling apart it's because you're not using enough water. The dough should come together into a ball without falling apart. Add an extra tablespoon at a time until you get the right consistancy. It shouldn't be sticky, but it should be cohesive.

                    I swear by using the food processor for the mixing the dough. So much easier, and gives consistant results. Some say that it overworks the dough, but I've never found it to do so, if you use the pulse button conservatively.

                    1. I've tried gazillion pie crust recipes and the one I like best is probably the easiest - an oil pie crust recipe. No need for a food processor, you can mix it up in a bowl, pat into a disk, chill for 15 minutes - or not - then roll and go. It doesn't need extra flour for rolling, although you might want to use some if you find your dough is a little sticky. I chill all my ingredients before I make the crust, although that is not necessary for this dough. Pie crust is always flakey and delicious. If you're interested, I'll share recipe. It hasn't failed me yet.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: addicted2cake

                        sounds easy. i personally don't like the taste of leaf lard in my pie crust. i prefer the taste that butter imparts versus lard. for some reason, i always taste the lard and the mouth feels extra greasy. so i'm assuming i may not enjoy the crust with oil as well.

                        i think the big tip is to not make the crust too dry or wet (i've done the latter and you'll end up with a spongy bottom crust) and keep ingredients cold. Also handle the dough as least as possible. i do agree the whole vodka thing works pretty well.

                          1. re: paprkutr

                            Oil Pie Crust Recipe (for single crust pie)
                            1 1/2 C all purpose, unbleached flour
                            1/2 tsp. salt
                            1 tbsp. sugar
                            1/2 C vegetable oil (I use Spectrum Organic Canola)
                            3-4 tbsps.very cold liquid (milk, cream, juice, water)

                            In a medium sized bowl, combine or sift dry ingredients, then put in the freezer for about 1/2 hour (if you're in a hurry, you can skip this step). Put the oil in the freezer as well for the same amount of time (again, not necessary, but I like to work with well chilled ingredients - habit, I guess, from all those other pie doughs that screamed "chill, chill, chill"!!). Lightly stir liquid into oil then pour onto dry ingredients. With a fork or your hands, gently mix until dough looks crumbly but moist. Take a sheet of plastic wrap, drop crumbs onto it, then fold wrap around the crumbs, making a ball. It should come together rather easily. Flatten into a disk, refrigerate for about 15 minutes (not necessary, but I do this anyway). Take dough out of plastic wrap, put between 2 sheets of wax paper, then roll out gently, turning dough a quarter turn after each roll. (I use a pie bag I ordered from King Arthur Flour - makes rolling and measuring very easy. You could also use a galllon size freezer/storage bag). Keep pie plate close by and remove top piece of wax paper. Guide your hand underneath bottom piece of wax paper and flip into pie plate. Gently fit dough into plate. You should have enough dough for an overhang to flute your edge if you like. If the dough tears, don't worry, just patch.

                            You might want to watch the Winter Family oil pie crust recipe video on YouTube. There are others you could watch if you search "oil pie crust recipe" on the site. Good luck! I hope this works for you. Once you get the hang of it - and if you like the taste of the crust - it will be hard to go back to traditional crusts. Just my opinion. :)

                        1. Shortcrust pastry should be straightforward - a 2:1 ration of flour to fat + enough water to bring it together. Then chill it for 30 minutes before rolling out.

                          1. I do pie crusts all the time. I make it simply, and use ...gasp...the recipe on the side of the Tenderflake box. It is quick, easy, simple, reliable, makes a great crust. You have to remember not to overwork the dough so it stays flaky.
                            Sometimes the KISS principle works best. :)

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: freia

                              Yes freia, sometimes simple is so much better...just a few tips on not overworking the dough can make or break even the most wonderful recipe for crust. Fabulous crusts were made long before the food processors, gourmet butters & salts. Let us get back to where we came from!!!