A foolproof pie crust is a wonderful thing to have in your culinary arsenal. After all, pie crusts are used for pies, of course, but also galettes, quiches, hand pies, and tarts. Here are a few pointers to help make your next pie crust the best.
Cube the butter and then keep all of the ingredients in the refrigerator until needed. Chilling the ingredients helps the fat coat the flour, not be absorbed by the flour when combined, which helps produce a flakier crust.
Butter vs. Shortening
Our grandmothers most likely used lard to make a pie crust but lard can be difficult to find these days and the flavor may not be what you are looking for. Butter adds flavor to the crust and it contains around 20 percent water, which evaporates during baking. This produces steam that causes the layers of dough around the butter to rise, creating a light, flakey texture. But all this steam also causes the crust to lose some of its shape. A recipe with a combination of butter and shortening helps keep the shape of the crust without losing too much of the flavor.
Cut In, Not Mix
Cut the butter and shortening into the flour when combining. Cut is a culinary term that means breaking it up, not mixing together. Be careful not to overmix.
Flakey Pie Crust
Cut the fat into the dough until the butter and shortening are the size of a pea. This type of crust is ideal for fruit pies when the crust and filling are baked together.
Cut the fat into the flour until it looks like coarse cornmeal. This type of crust is better for pies that require a pre-baked crust like a cream pie or a custard pie like pumpkin, which could absorb the filling and become soggy.
Be Stingy with the Water
Use as little water as possible to create the dough. Too much water and overmixing makes a tough crust. It could also cause it to shrink during baking.
Choose a pie pan with a lip around the edge. Pie pans come in all shapes and sizes but if you want a beautiful crust around the edge of the pie, it is much easier to accomplish when the edge of the crust can rest on the edge of the pan.
Cool your crust in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes after the dough has been formed, and then another 30 minutes after the crust has been put into the pan and before it goes into the oven.
Keep it Covered
When pre-baking a pie crust, press aluminum foil into the bottom of the crust, up the sides, then crimp it around the top to support those tender edges. Pierce the bottom to vent and then top with pie weights or cover the bottom with dried beans to avoid air pockets in the bottom of your crust. Gently peek under the aluminum foil after about 10-15 minutes to see if the crust is set. Once it is, remove the foil and weights or beans and continue to bake.
Start the crust in a hot 425-degree oven and then turn down to 375 degrees once the crust has set and the foil and weights have been removed.