You Want A Flaky Crust?

You Want A Flaky Crust?

Flaky crust is all the rage. Interestingly, I never ever heard my mother, who was an excellent pie baker, talk about flakiness. It seems to be the current obsession with pie bakers. Never mind what filling tops the crust. The recipe conversation is focused on getting those flaky layers of pie crust dough.

I have to admit that it has also become an obsession with me. The heartbeat rises every time I cut into a newly baked pie, hoping that the crust yields flaky goodness. With great trepidation, I check the first slice of pie, looking  to see if those thin layers of dough are visible.

Several things have to happen to reach flaky crust nirvana. The right ratio of fat, flour and liquid is essential for perfection. This is where feel comes into play. You can use exact measurements all day long and not have success. Knowing how to correctly cut in the fat to the right consistency and how wet to make the dough, is really determined by feel as much as measurements.

Chilling pie crust dough is also essential to the process. It is common knowledge that chilling always creates a flakier crust. Almost all recipes have you put together the pie crust dough and then recommend chilling it before rolling it out. What they don’t always tell you is that you have to let the dough warm up a bit (up to 30 minutes) after taking it out of the refrigerator before you can roll it out. Pie crust dough directly out of the refrigerator will be too stiff to work with. Even after 30 minutes it can sometimes be a bit difficult to get the dough to easily roll out. So consider rolling out the the dough and plating it in the pie plate immediately after you put the dough together. After plating the dough, wrap the pie plate in plastic wrap and then proceed with the chilling process, Guaranteed, it is an easier way to work with the dough and does not affect the flakiness of the crust.

Something else to consider. In old time cookbooks, there is seldom if any mention of a chilling period. And you got to believe that those folks knew what they were doing.

The fat that you use will also make a difference in the flakiness level of the crust. Shortening will render a less flaky crust than a half butter and half shortening crust or an all butter crust. But if you want a really flaky crust, lard is the way to go. Before you say “No Way” consider this.

Lard was used as a cooking fat for centuries, but fell out of favor when hydrogenated vegetable shortening (Crisco) was invented in the early 20th century. If you look in old cookbooks, shortening meant using lard.

To be sure, lard is made of 100% pork fat, but did you know that  lard has a neutral flavor (no pork taste), contains no trans fats, has less saturated fat and cholesterol than butter, and contains healthy monounsaturated fats, just like olive oil. And the additional benefit is that it produces a flakier crust than a butter crust.

I highly recommend giving lard a try in in your next pie crust. You can find a good pie crust recipe using lard here.

Perhaps the obsession with flakiness is just that, nothing more than an obsession. But I can’t get past the fact that you can have the best pie filling in the world, but without a good crust you will have at best baked a mediocre pie.

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Bake on.

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