The SECRET to Making Mouth Watering Pie Crust

May 19, 2017

A Pie Crust to be Proud of!

If you're anything like me you thought that by using the pie crust that was all rolled up at the grocery store you were doing pretty good! And don't get me wrong those can be pretty tasty but they're not near as tasty as piecrust made with leaf lard!

I was pretty intimidated when I started making my own pie crust. But, I soon became hooked on it! There are so many variations and so much you can do with it! 

The pie that Tina and I made for a friend's going away party. I made the crust. She made the inside. That's a deal!


Let me share with you my favorite pie crust recipe. This recipe was adapted from Ina Garten and it is always a big hit when I bring a pie with this crust to a gathering. 

INGREDIENTS

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) very cold unsalted Cottonwood Farm butter
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup very cold Cottonwood Farm Lard (leaf lard preferably)
1/2 cup ice water


INSTRUCTIONS
  • Cut the butter in 1/2-inch dice and return it to the refrigerator while you prepare the flour mixture. 
  • Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse a few times to mix. Add the butter and shortening. Pulse 8 to 12 times, until the butter is the size of peas. 
  • With the machine running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse the machine until the dough begins to form a ball. 
  • Dump out onto a floured board and roll into a ball. Cut the dough in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap, wax or parchment paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes. If you are in a hurry you can also put it in the freezer for about 15 minutes.
  • After the dough has been chilled roll each piece on a well-floured board into a circle at least 1 inch larger than the pie pan, rolling from the center to the edge, turning and flouring the dough so it doesn't stick to the board. (You should see bits of butter in the dough.)
  • Fold the dough in half, ease it into the pie pan without stretching at all, and unfold to fit the pan. With a small sharp paring knife, cut the dough 1 inch larger around than the pan. Fold the edge under and crimp the edge with either your fingers or the tines of a fork.


You can either make this in a food processor or use one of these handy tools to handle it. I try to go ahead and make up enough for two crusts (which this recipe calls for) that way if I only use one I'll have one locked and loaded is in the chamber ready to go for the next time. 

Make yourself some ice water so that it can be chilling. Then I go ahead and lay out two pieces of parchment paper about a foot long. 
Make sure that you're butter and lard have been chilled in the refrigerator. 

Pro Tips

Be VERY picky about what goes into your crust

Flour

You can make pie crust with just about any type of flour you have laying around, however, the lower the protein in your flour the more flakey it will be. 

  • Pastry Flour - (8% protein) will make a nice fork tender crust but it is harder to work
  • All-Purpose Flour - (11.7% protein) the crust will not be AS tender as with pastry flour but it will be easier to work
  • Whole Wheat Flour - makes a crust that will be noticeably grainy due to the bran and will be less tender. If you are going to go with whole wheat try to find one that is very finely ground. The crust will be more tender and delicate than the standard whole wheat.
  • Gluten Free -  requires a gluten-free flour. Don't simply replace flour with gluten-free flour in a recipe you like as it won't be geared toward the lack of elasticity in GF flour. Keep scrolling for a recipe I used that worked well. 
Fat

Why is fat so important in pie crust?
Tenderness and flakiness are the hallmarks of a great crust. How do you attain both?

It's all in how you combine fat with flour. By working part of the fat into the flour thoroughly, you coat the flour's gluten with fat; this yields a crust that's tender, rather than tough. Leave the rest of the fat in larger pieces, and it separates the wafer-thin layers of flour/water that make up the bulk of the pie dough. As the pie bakes and the fat melts, these layers stay separated; which comes off as flakey in your mouth.

  • Butter - makes a flaky crust that's packed flavor. The water content makes a "loftier" crust; as the butter melts it gives off water that turns to steam, which in turn separates the layers a bit, yielding a slightly puffy crust. Aside from the flavor and texture is has some awesome health benefits as well:
    - It contains many heart-protecting nutrients like Vitamins A, D, K2, and E, selenium, iodine, and lecithin.
    - Butter from grass-fed cows has powerful protection against cancer due to the presence of Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA).
  • Lard - yields an extra-flaky crust, rendered from pastured pig fat, has a higher melting point than butter or shortening + because of its molecular content has been shown to be more heart-healthy than its mono- or polyunsaturated fat brethren. In a study done by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, they found no evidence that the saturated fat consumption raises the risk of heart disease (see reference)
  • Vegetable shortening - yields a crust that holds its shape well in the oven however it lacks flavor, and an all-shortening crust may taste flat.
    - It contains many transfats which have been shown to cause damaging effects such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, type 2 diabetes and a myriad of other health issues.
Which fat should I choose?

I have found that a combination of butter and lard, makes a crust that is both easy to handle: flaky, tender, and full-flavored.

To make the decision easy for you lets just go ahead and throw away the Crisco or shortening all together. There now it's not even an option to cook with. 

Salt

Salt adds flavor but most importantly it strengthens the gluten in the flour making it easier to handle and roll out. 

Ice Water

Mixing water into the flour mixture gives it the structure it needs to hold together. Too much water and it will be sticky. Too little water and it will crack at the edges and not hold together well. 

Why is it important to keep the fat cold?

Flour and water combine to form thin layers (flakes) in pie dough. The chilled fat in the unbaked dough keeps its thin layers of flour/water separated; so long as that fat is cold, the layers stay separate. 

 

The Art of Handling Pie Dough 

Keep it All Cold, Keep It Cold, Keep It COLD

Believe me, I have learned my lesson. Working in a 90-degree kitchen will NOT lend much time to making a beautiful pie.

I like to use this beautiful marble cutting board that was given to us as a wedding gift from a dear friend. You can also just use parchment paper like in the video however, the beautiful thing about working on the stone is that it stays a cooler temperature than so the counter or plastic cutting board. 

This gives you a little more time to get it right because it works as a fridge for your

Dough Sticking
Even if you keep sprinkling your worksurface your dough will still get sticky from time to time especially if you are taking too long working it OR working too quickly. Yes, I know that sounds counter-intuitive. 

A solution I have found is to grab some of the fat you have included in your crust and rub it into your cutting board/ counter, and rolling pin. Then sprinkle flour over both of them often. 

The combo seems to help the surfaces hold the flour longer.

Rolling Out the Crust

As I'm rolling out my dough and spinning it to make sure it isn't sticking I like to make sure to pat the edges so that it stays a round shape. There will be small cracks on the sides and this helps me.

If there are bigger cracks, however, my mother taught me to keep the bit of ice water you used for making it and dab a bit on the edges of the broken area so that it gets sticky. Mend the area and sprinkle with flour...there, ... good as new. 

 

Clean Up
The flour, moisture, and lard WILL build us on your working surface. To avoid a permanent mess I just take a flat edged butter knife when I'm done and scrape off everything and throw it away with my parchment. 

Making It Pretty
You don't have to have a bunch of fancy pastry tools in order to make your pies stand out. Heres another video on quick stunning crusts made with tools you already have.

Gluten Free Pie Crust

Now don't go into making this crust thinking you will be able to roll it out and make all sorts of cute decorations with this recipe. I did. Let me save you some time.... it WON'T work. Because it lacks gluten it lacks the ability to be as elastic as you need in order to work your crust. 

I do not have a gluten intolerance... thank goodness, but I do have great friends that do. I think it's so sad they would be missing out on a delicious pie just because of one or two ingredients. So, I set to asking some of my most valuable resources (YOU) about how to solve this problem. 

STREAMS of texts and emails with pictures of recipes and suggestions came in. I picked a few, combined them, and this is what I came up with. 

This was a HUGE hit with our gluten-free friends at our last Thanksgiving!


It was a HUGE hit with the gluten-free crowd at our last Thanksgiving.

 

INGREDIENTS

Makes enough pastry for one 9-inch single crust pastry
2 1/2 cups blanched almond flour
1 cup Arrowroot Powder
1/4 cup coconut sugar
2 eggs, chilled
3 tablespoons cold water
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 tablespoons Cottonwood Farm Lard (preferably leaf lard)

INSTRUCTIONS
  • To make the pie crust, combine almond flour, arrowroot, coconut sugar, eggs, water, & salt in the food processor. Process for 10 seconds or until combined. Add the lard one tablespoon at a time pulsing in between each tablespoon. Pulse until pea-sized bits of dough are formed. (For me at this point it was one big hunk so I decided to stop processing)
  • Dump onto your parchment paper and gather into a tight ball and (if possible) flatten into a disk. Wrap and freeze for 1 hour. 
  • Transfer the dough into a 9-inch pie plate and knead with the palm of your hand filling in breaks with the dough. Mold it up the sides as uniformly as possible.  This part was hard for me because I wanted to treat it like a normal pie crust. 
  • To pre-cook, the crust line with parchment paper and bake with pie weights or old dry beans at 325 degrees for 10 minutes, then remove weights and bake 5 more minutes. Allow to completely cool before adding filling. (some recipes do not call for this) 

 

This is the GF free crust before the filling was put in. I didn't bake it beforehand and it was fine. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





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