Basic Pie Crust
This is where it all begins. It’s the bottom and sometimes the top of the pie. You can have a fancy schmancy filling, but if you have a poor crust, forget about it. What is the goal that we are trying to reach? What distinguishes a great crust from a B flat effort? I propose that there are three simple criteria that should be used to judge a crust. In fact I am so committed to this criteria that I have started a World Wide Pie Crust Consortium (WWPC) where I anticipate that these standards will become globalized
1. Flaky (Texture)
Flaky means that when looking at a cross section of baked crust you see tiny, thin layers of dough. If the crust is solid or the consistency is one of crumbs, your have not arrived at crust nirvana. A flaky texture will be light on the palette while providing a sense of substance and crunch. Flakiness and crunchiness will vary depending if you are using vegetable shortening or butter or a combination of both. Additionally, cold seems to come into play. The theory is that cold shortening/butter when introduced to a the high heat of the oven will provide a flakier crust.
Crunch also relates to texture, but in a non-visual way. As you bite into the crust, there must be an immediate discovery that there are levels of complexity all wrapped into one taste package. In a bite of the perfect apple pie you should have, a feathery, slightly resistant upper crust, followed by the saucier inside filling, finished off with a firm, slightly crisp bottom crust. Degrees of crunch are what create that complexity and thus offer a unique textural experience. Crunch and its many subtle levels, is the feel that combines with the taste to create a total taste experience.
When tasted alone and without filling, crust should actually taste like something other than a dough version of tofu. If when tasting your crust while wearing a blindfold, you can not distinguish between your crust and a cardboard box, don’t pass go, don’t collect two hundred dollars.
If you have read any books on making pie crust, you know that most focus on ingredients being cold and the use of butter for shortening. Some recipes would have you running to the refrigerator or freezer after every step in the recipe process, turning a rather simple exercise into a daunting task. Many recipes also would have you believe that by not using butter for shortening or ice cold water for the liquid you will be set up for an immanent disaster.
I am here to tell you that shortening as in vegetable shortening (Crisco as an example) produces a flaky, tender crust. Using cold milk as the liquid, keeps the crust mixture at just the right temperature to roll out. And best of all, it is probably the easiest crust to initially work with while not sacrificing the overall quality of the results.
Using butter produces different results that cannot be compared apples to apples to a shortening crust. Cold does come into play with this crust, but you don’t have to be obsessive about it. A crust with butter will assuredly be flaky and also will have a bit more crunch than all shortening crust.
The recipe listed below is a bare bones description of putting together a crust. If this is your first experience making pie crust, I highly recommend browsing through the Pie Crust Tips page. It will lead you step by step through a fool proof process of building that perfect crust.
1 1/2 cups of flour
1/2 to 3/4 cup shortening
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
5 tablespoons milk
2 3/4 cups flour
1 cup to 1 1/4 cup shortening
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
10 tablespoons milk
In a bowl, mix flour, salt, and sugar. Cut in shortening. Form a well in the flour mixture and add milk. Using a fork, gather dough together until mixture is moistened. Press dough into a ball. For a flakier crust, flatten into a 6 in. disk (two disks for a double crust), wrap with plastic, and store in refrigerator for at least an hour before rolling out. When ready to put pastry into pie plate, roll out dough disks on a a lightly floured surface to fit a 9 inch pie plate. Flute edges.
For double crust, after mixing dough, divide into 2/3 and 1/3. Use 2/3 recipe for shell and 1/3 for top crust.
Basic Pie Crust Ingredients
These are the ingredients that you will need to make this recipe.