Shortening gives this easy homemade pie crust its flaky texture and butter lends it delicious flavor.
Sunset AUGUST 2007
1. Mix flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Drop in butter and shortening. Using your hands, a fork, a pastry cutter, or two knives, work butter and shortening into the flour mixture until it resembles cornmeal with some small pea-size pieces.
2. Using a fork, quickly stir in 1/2 cup ice water (mixture will not hold together). Turn dough and crumbs onto a clean surface. Knead just until dough starts to hold together but some bits still fall away, 5 to 10 times. Divide dough in half and pat each half into a 6-in. disk. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 20 minutes and up to overnight.
Pie Crust Without Fear: Even experienced cooks can find it intimidating to make pie pastry. The following tips will help you turn out a terrific crust with ease.
Keep the dough cold and the butter chunky. For a flaky crust, keep the butter from melting into the dough before baking. Why? Those bits of butter, which should be roughly pea-size, are meant to melt in the oven, giving off steam that creates flaky pockets. If the dough seems to be softening too much as you're working with it, throw it in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. As you roll out the dough, you should see veins of butter running through it.
Roll out from the center. It's much easier to roll dough into a circle if you work from the center out to the edge in all directions.
Don't overdo it. Overworking the dough and using too much flour can make pie crust tough and dry. Try to keep a light hand with both, rolling just enough to reach your desired size and using only enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the counter.
Use a pie crust bag. This handy tool takes the strain out of rolling by providing a nonstick round frame for the dough as you roll it out, allowing you to use less flour and avoid shaggy edges. Simply put your chilled dough in the bag, zip it up, roll it out, and transfer it to your pan. The bags come in different sizes for regular and deep-dish pies and are available from many online sources (such as www.sugarcraft.com; $3 to $6 per bag).
Use store-bought dough. If you're short on time (or patience), you can always use ready-made dough. In our tests, we preferred Pillsbury Just Unroll refrigerated pie crusts ($2.99), which have a nicely crisp texture (if slightly bland flavor) and Trader Joe's Gourmet Pie Crusts ($3.49), which have a more buttery finish.
Crimp the edges. Crimping or fluting the edges of a double-crust pie seals the dough and keeps the filling from leaking out during baking. Even on a single-crust pie, crimping can create a helpful dam effect. There are many good techniques, but our favorite is to pinch the dough around the index finger of one hand using the thumb and forefinger of the other.
Note: Nutritional analysis is per serving.
If you would like to use lard--which also contributes flavor and flakiness to pie crust--substitute 2 tbsp. lard for 2 tbsp. of the shortening. Try to get good-quality lard from a butcher shop if you can; it's generally much better than ordinary grocery-store lard.
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