“That’s a pie crust promise: Easily made, easily broken.” Mary Poppins
Pie crust is actually easily made, I discovered after years of avoiding making them and making my pies from frozen Marie Callender crusts. The key is having the butter and water as cold as possible and mixing the dough as little as possible. I even freeze the flour for 15 minutes before mixing. It’s easier to mix the dough in a food processor, but you can also make this using a pastry cutter. Coat the pieces of butter with flour before pulsing them in. Make a butter and flour paste before adding extra flour and thenadd the liquid. Add an acid such as vinegar or lemon juice to tenderize the crust. Let the dough rest after mixing and after rolling to relax the gluten and reduce shrinkage. Use the fraisage technique to layer your crust. I obsessively researched many pie dough recipes. from advice my sister, pie queen Leanna Wolfe gave me, to Joy of Cooking, Julia Child, Susan Purdy’s The Perfect Pie, New York Times http://cooking.nytimes.com/guides/how-to-make-a-pie-crust, and Serious Eats http://sweets.seriouseats.com/recipes/2011/07/easy-pie-dough-recipe.html
Here we go: This makes enough crust for one 9″ pie bottom or an 11″ tart pan. Double it for a covered pie such as a fruit pie. I wrote the doubled ingredients in bold and in parentheses for your convenience.
1 1/2 (3) cups all purpose flour, divided
1/2 (1) tsp salt (I use sea salt)
1 Tb (2) sugar (for sweet pies)
1 cube (8 Tb) (2 cubes) cold butter
1 Tb (2 Tb) frozen shortening (Crisco)
1 large egg yolk
1 -2 Tb (2-4 Tb) ice water. I fill up a small cup with cold water and ice cubes and let it sit a few minutes, then measure it out. I used cold cinnamon tea for my apple pie.
2 tsp (4 tsp) white vinegar or lemon juice (you can use orange juice for sweet pies) This helps tenderize the crust.
1 beaten egg to brush inside crust
Nonstick spray to spray the pie pan
Slice butter into small pieces. Stir gently into the flour with a fork, so they separate and are coated with flour.
Pulse until butter and flour become a paste.
Break up the dough with a knife and then add the rest of the flour and pulse just a few times so that the flour-coated butter pieces range from from pea-sized to crumbles.
Empty processor into a medium-large mixing bowl.
Mix vinegar, or lemon juice or orange juice with 1 Tb (2 Tb for double crust) ice water and egg yolk. Add this to the flour and fat mixture and gently fold and press it into the dough with a fork. Drizzle in more ice water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until it’s barely moist.
Take a small piece of dough and see if you can press it into a ball. If so, you are done. It should not be sticky. If it’s too crumbly add another teaspoon of water, fold a few times and try again. Don’t over-mix or your dough will become tough!
Place a large piece of plastic wrap on a pate. Press entire dough into a ball, and then flatten it into a disk on top of the plastic wrap. Wrap the dough up in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
If making upper and bottom crusts, divide the ball of dough into two disks. Make the bottom crust disk slightly larger than the upper crust disk.
After dough has chilled for 10 minutes, pull out dough for bottom crust. You will now layer the dough with the fraisage technique. Pull an egg-sized piece off the disk and press down on a lightly floured surfaces with the palm of your hand, sliding forward about 4 inches. Set it aside and repeat with the rest of the dough, layering the each piece of flattened dough on top of it.
Form it back into a ball, then flatten with with your palm into a disk. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.
Cut a piece of plastic wrap to cover a wooden board or pie mat. Place the disk for the bottom crust down on the plastic and cover with the piece of plastic it was wrapped in. Roll the disk out on the board, pushing the rolling pin from the middle out, rotating the dough often so it’s even. Roll two inches larger than the diameter of the pie pan; for a standard 9″ pan, roll to 11 inches diameter.
Spray the bottom and sides of the pan with nonstick spray.
A fluted pie crust is a pretty way to hold in the fillings. Here are right-handed directions. (Lefties can reverse them):
Pinch your thumb and index finger of your right hand on the outside of the crust onto onto the index finger of your left hand on the inside of the pie pan, working your way evenly around the pan.
Prick the dough with a fork. Cover dough with plastic wrap. Freeze pie dough in the pan for 30 minutes. This will help the pie crust keep it’s shape while baking. You can make your pie crust a day ahead and refrigerate or freeze it.
Preheat the oven to 425◦. Make the filling while the dough is chilling.
Cover the entire crust with a large piece of parchment paper or foil. Be sure that it covers the edges to prevent them from burning. Tuck parchment under the pie pan so it won’t scorch in the oven. Fill the parchment or foil with ceramic pie weights. (You can substitute dry beans if you don’t have them.) Bake for 15 minutes.
While it’s baking, roll out the top crust (if you’re using one), then refrigerate it until the bottom crust is baked and filled.
Remove bottom crust from oven and pull out the parchment paper or foil with the pie weights. Brush the bottom and lower sides with a beaten egg to prevent the filling from getting the crust too soggy. Cover the crust edge with a pie shield or foil so it won’t burn. Place the crust back in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes until it’s light brown.
Pour filling into hot bottom crust.
.Cut vent holes on the top with the edge of a spoon.
To make a lattice crust, roll the dough into a circle the diameter of the inverted pie pan. Cut the dough into about eleven 3/4” wide strips. You can use a pizza wheel or knife, or for fancy lattice results, use a fluted pastry wheel.
Fold the strips back over the long piece.
Fill the bottom crust with the filling. Remove the lattice from the refrigerator. Using the sides of the plastic wrap, carefully flip the lattice so that it is centered over the filled pie, then gently peel off the plastic wrap.
Fold the rim of the bottom crust over the lattice strips and crimp decoratively.
Brush top crust (not edges though) with milk to promote browning.