This Pie Crust is buttery, flaky, delicious, and totally fool proof thanks to a secret ingredient that allows you to roll and re-roll as many times as you need to without losing that perfectly flaky crust.
When it’s pie time, are you tempted to reach for the prepared crusts at the grocery store? It could be that making crust feels like an extra hassle on top of all of the other cooking and baking, or maybe you haven’t made great crusts in the past, so you would rather not risk it. You can put all of that behind you! This recipe is awesome because it is simple, it makes a perfect crust, and you can make crusts in advance and freeze them for the anticipated pies. It doesn’t require a whole lot of effort, and the payoff is amazing.
This recipe uses a technique for making pastry that cuts cold butter and shortening into a mixture of flour, salt and sugar. The reason for this cutting-in of the butter, is to create tiny little pockets of fats that in turn create layers of buttery, flakiness. This step can be done with a pastry cutter or blender or even in a food processor. Once that coarse mixture is made, you will add chilled water and vodka. This brings the dough together without over-combining those little pockets of butter and shortening. After that, the dough is chilled and then rolled into your pie crusts. It’s just that simple! You will love the way these crusts turn out. Follow the included instructions for pie crusts that need to be baked in advance.
Why does this pie crust recipe call for vodka?
Vodka prevents the formation of gluten once the flour in the recipe is hydrated. Gluten gives flour elasticity, which is great for making bread, but not so great for pastries and pie crusts. By inhibiting this elasticity, the crust remains flaky, even if you have to roll it out multiple times.
Do I have to refrigerate the dough?
Yes. Refrigerating the dough allows the butter and shortening to chill up again. This prevents it from getting over-worked into the dough, and makes it possible for it to melt quickly when it is being baked. That quick melting action is what creates those lovely little flaky layers we love in a good crust.
How do I make pie crust in advance?
Yes. Dough discs can be formed and then frozen for up to 3 months. Be sure to wrap the dough really well when freezing. Just thaw the dough discs in the refrigerator overnight before you intend to use them. We always make a bunch of these at the beginning of November so we’re ready for the holidays.
How do I pre-bake a pie crust? Do I have to use pie weights?
Recipes often call for a pre-baked pie crust. One of the concerns when baking an empty pie shell is that there is nothing to hold the dough in place and it will then slip down into the pie plate. For a pre-baked pie crust, place parchment paper on top of the shaped pie crust to create a bowl to hold pie weights. Pie weights are small ceramic or metal balls that are used specifically to weigh down a pie crust while “blind baking” or pre-baking. If you don’t have pie weights you can also easily use uncooked rice, or dried uncooked beans in place of the pie weights. This weight will prevent the pie crust from sliding or bubbling. Then, bake in a 400 degree F oven or 12-15 minutes, until crust is lightly browned. Gently remove the pie weights after baking. If you used rice, the rice can still be used in cooking as the toasting adds a slightly nutty flavor.
Butter versus Shortening in Pie Crusts
Pie crusts require a fat and which fat you choose is a matter of personal preference. Butter, shortening, and even lard are the most popular options and each can be used interchangeably in the same quantities, but the results will be slightly different due to how each of these fats interact when binded with flour and exposed to high high heat.
- BUTTER: provides the best flavor but the fat doesn’t separate from the flour as quickly resulting in a less flaky crust. A butter based pie crust may also slip or shrink slightly more than other fats as it contains up to 15% water, which will evaporate during cooking.
- SHORTENING: provides a flaky crust because as the crust bakes, the flour and shortening are forced apart until the shortening melts. By this point, the pie crust will be set, creating that highly sought-after flaky texture. Shortening, however, often lacks in flavor. For a better flavor, use butter flavored shortening.
- LARD: is very similar to shortening as they have similar melting points, but usually comes from pig fat. It has a distinctive flavor which can be overpowering depending on your personal taste preferences.
- COCONUT OIL: A popular trend in baking today is to use coconut oil. Coconut oil can be used to make a pie crust, but you’ll want to measure and freeze the coconut oil first and increase the temperature in the oven by 50 degrees. Because coconut oil has such a low melting point, results are better when making smaller pies so that the baking process happens faster and more evenly, forcing apart the fat and flour as quickly as possible.
How to Cut Butter or Shortening into Flour:
- GRATER: The easiest way to cut fat into flour is to grate it using a cheese grater. This only works well for cold butter. Be sure to grate the butter as finely as possible so that the pieces of fat can be more evenly distributed throughout the dough.
- PASTRY CUTTER: A traditional, old fashioned way to cut fat into flour is to use a pastry cutter. This specialized kitchen tool has 3 to 4 curved blades attached to a handle so that you can cut the fat into the flour using a rocking motion.
- FOOD PROCESSOR: A food processor is a great modern small kitchen appliance that makes it really easy to cut fat into flour. Simply place your flour mixture into the bowl of the food processor along with your cold fat. Using the S-blade, pulse the mixture together until it resembles coarse meal or sand.
- TWO KNIFE METHOD: The hardest method uses two knives to cut the solid fat into the flour by cutting the knives parallel against each other. This may be physically more difficult, but it doesn’t require any specialized kitchen tools. Hold one butter knife in each hand. Criss cross the two knives to form an X-shape, with the flat sides of the blades touching each other. Place the knives in this shape into the fat and flour and slice the blades against each other in an outward motion repeatedly, similar to how scissors work.
What should you put in that awesome crust? Check out these fantastic pie recipes:
Watch the video below where Rachel will walk you through every step of this recipe. Sometimes it helps to have a visual, and we’ve always got you covered with our cooking show. You can find the complete collection of recipes on YouTube, Facebook Watch, or our Facebook Page, or right here on our website with their corresponding recipes.