Ah, the pie crust. A light, flaky, buttery bite of goodness that supports and adds flavor to whatever filling it nestles inside. Be it savory or sweet, fruit or custard, the filling is only as good as its crust. The difficulty lies in how to make a perfect pie crust, as it requires more than just mixing a few ingredients. With patience and practice, even the most novice of bakers can master the art of the crust.
A pie crust is the shell holding in the filling. The essential ingredients for the crust are flour, salt, water, and fat. These ingredients are blended either by hand, in a food processor, or with a mixer. Other ingredients can include eggs, milk, sugar, lard, or anything else that enhances the crust's texture and flavor.
The easiest and most foolproof tool to prepare pie crust with is the food processor.
There's something satisfying about mixing the dough by hand, which is why many experienced bakers still choose this method.
For the baker who doesn't want to rely on the hand method or doesn't own a food processor, there is always the old standby: the stand mixer.
Once the dough holds its shape, the baker can either chill first or roll out. Bakers and other food experts can't seem to agree which method is best.
Directions using the chill version:
Most fruit pies need a bottom and top crust. You can simply double the ingredients for the crust above or try a different version. Below is an alternative recipe:
Use your preferred mixing method. Follow the directions for single pie crust rolling out two pie crusts.
Not all pies are sweet. In fact, some of the tastiest ones are savory--meat pies, hand pies, and a crowd favorite, chicken pot pie. For these pies, the process is the same, but ingredients vary.
Ingredients for a one pie shell savory crust:
Use your preferred mixing method and either chill or roll right away. For savory crusts, it's the ingredients that change, not the preparation.
Some recipes call for blind baking--a method involving baking the pie crust before the filling. This process ensures that the crust is cooked through and not soggy. If blind baking, be sure to place pastry weights or raw beans into the uncooked crust to keep it from rising during pre-bake.
It's not only the chill or roll methods that stir baking discourse. Some bakers use butter, shortening, a mix of both, and most recently lard. Lard is made of animal fat, and it was the pie crust staple until the 1950s when it was replaced by shortening, which was later on replaced by butter. Now, lard is being used again. Even in baking, history truly does repeat itself.