Making pie pastry is something every baker wants to do well.
It’s one of those mysterious things (along with making fresh pasta and making homemade bread) that can be hard to explain how to make perfectly.
“If it’s humid outside, the amounts of liquid can change…you just have to decide when you feel the texture of the dough between your fingers” my old neighbour from Wales would tell me.
She made the best pastry.
Actually, she made the best pies…like, in the world.
But after trying and trying, I couldn’t get it perfectly flaky like hers.
She finally gave me her recipe…and, now it works like a charm. Once you get this recipe down, you can start fiddling with the whole humidity thing (but only once you’ve mastered this).
And, just so you know…when you are talking to pie enthusiasts, be prepared to get into an argument about how to make the perfect pie crust…”use all butter” some say…”it must be equal parts butter and shortening without ANY doubt” say others…
Just smile and walk away…you know, kill ’em with kindness!
5 1/2 – 6 c flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 1/3 c lard (I use Tenderflake – this amount is one block)
1 tbsp white vinegar or vodka
1 egg, beaten
1. In a large bowl, combine 5 1/2 c flour and salt; mix together with your hands.
2. Take your lard out of the package and cut it into squares to make blending easy.
3. Put the lard into the flour mixture and mix it in with your fingers (a good step-by-step explanation is here). If you don’t like getting your hands dirty (but, come on, really??), you can always use a pastry cutter or try this trick.
4. Now. here is the trick with the liquid. In a one cup glass measure, combine the vinegar and egg; beat together. Now add cold water to the one cup line (so, the egg, vinegar and water should all equal one cup…and it has to be cold so you can add one ice cube to keep it cold while you mix your lard).
5. Now pour the liquid into the flour mixture and mix with your hands (but be gentle because over-mixing can make the dough tough). It should look shaggy like this:
When you think it’s good, squeeze a bit in your hands…if it comes together, it’s done.
6. Sprinkle the remainder of the flour (about 1/2 c) onto your counter and place the dough on top of it. Form into a rectangle and cut into 6 pieces (to make 6 pie shells) or into 20 pieces to make smaller pies.
7. Shape them into rounds like this. If you are using them now, take a rolling pin and roll it out. Place the dough into the tin of your choice.
8. When I make butter tarts (or small pies) I use these small removable-bottom forms so the 20 pieces works perfectly in these. If you want to make tarts in a muffin tin, use a small chunk of dough. Place the dough into your pan and push the dough firmly into the pan making sure your get right into the corners. Leave the excess hanging out of the tin.
9. Take a knife and cut off the excess like this. If you have room in your freezer, place the whole lot into the freezer while you prepare your filling because the cold butter in the pastry creates pockets of moisture in the oven that steam open the pastry and create the flakiness that you want!
10. Fill with your choice of filling and bake as directed (depending on your pie).
11. If you want to freeze the dough for further use (because I don’t know many people who make 6 pie at the same time – unless it’s Thanksgiving!), pat them into circles like this and…
…separate them with plastic wrap like this. Wrap the whole lot with more plastic wrap and put them in a large Ziploc bag. Throw it in the freezer (actually, don’t throw it…place it gently) and use it later.
The beauty of this is that pastry should really be cold when it goes into the oven so taking these out and using them as they are cold will make the best crust!
Someone once gave me an old newspaper cutout that said “you ain’t old til you make great pies”…
Maybe this isn’t as good as I thought…. 🙂