A former college professor of mine recently reminded me of a very important fact: fruit pie season is upon us. And, indeed, with the first appearances of my beloved rhubarb gracing the produce stands – which will soon lead to deep red strawberries, plump blueberries, tart-sweet blackberries, and juicy peaches – he is correct.
With the advent of summer’s best gifts upon us, it occurred to me: I am yet to teach you how to make a pie crust.
Oh, sure, I’ve given you recipes for pie crust. I’ve even given you some quick tips. But really understanding how to make a great pie crust takes two things: seeing it done and practice. Now, I learned by watching my mother – the Queen of Pie Crust – for years before I took things into my own hands. If I had any video editing skills whatsoever, I would put together a video on this process – but that will have to wait for the future. For now, we’ll have to settle for a step-by-step photo tutorial.
The recipe I am using for this is the recipe I grew up on, and one my mother obtained in her high school home ec class (update: I was just informed that it is from her college food science class – either way, it’s been around for.ev.er). It is for a 9-inch single-crust pie and is – gasp! – an all-shortening (specifically, Crisco) recipe.
Now, lines tend to be clearly divided between all-butter and all-shortening pie crust makers. People like to sit clearly in one camp or the other, claiming their crust is the only way to go. We will explore the differences between the two camps in another post; for today we will focus on our method, as the method I am going to show you is the method I use regardless of the recipe I am using.
Start by whisking together your dry ingredients in a large bowl. Some people prefer to sift their dry ingredients – really I think this is purely personal preference, as I have never noticed much difference either way.
Add your fat – in this case shortening – and dust the top with a little bit of the dry ingredients. If you are using butter, you’ll want to make sure it is cold and cut it into pieces before adding it to the dry ingredients.
Use a pastry blender to cut the fat into the flour. Some people like to use two knives (which I find to be too tedious), their fingers (too messy), or a food processor (which I find takes away my control of the process) for this. I stick with the pastry blender.
You’re looking for a texture that resembles coarse meal, with a few pea-sized pieces of fat here and there. Those larger pieces are what will give you a flaky texture in the finished crust.