Flaky Tender Pie Crust

The pie crust recipe -- and techniques -- that restored my pie crusts to the flaky, tender wonders that pie crusts should be. The recipe uses half butter (for flavor) and half shortening (for flakiness) and just enough water (for tenderness).

Flaky Tender Pie Crust, worth the practice

If you've always wondered about how to make good pie crust, or (like me) haven't been happy with your pie crusts' flakiness and especially their tenderness, this recipe is explained in detail, along with many hints and tips and photo illustrations, in How to Make Flaky Tender Pie Crust.

When my pastry prowess went missing for far too long, I consulted the 'Pastry Whisperer', Anne Cori of Kitchen Conservatory, the St. Louis cooking school and kitchen store. In an hour, she shared a treasure of pie crust tips and tricks.

After I applied a new calm and assertive pastry energy, an achingly tender double-crust American Apple Pie emerged from the oven. I delivered warm slices to the neighbors. My back-door neighbor doesn’t eat pie but polished off two slices with her fingers on the spot. My west-door neighbor called it ‘heavenly’. Five doors down, a fellow pie-maker called it the ‘best pie I’ve ever eaten’.

Good pastry takes practice but it’s worth it when people take their first bites of pie, then close their eyes to give thanks to the pastry gods.

My pastry still ranks only an A minus but that’s up from a C. The improvement alone is worth the practice, just ask my neighbors.

FOR ST LOUISANS Every year on the day before Thanksgiving, Anne teaches a hands-on pie class from noon til four for $125. Arrive with three pie plates, take home three homemade pies, apple, pumpkin and cranberry walnut. To register, call 314-862-COOK or visit KitchenConservatory.com.

PIE CRUST TOOLS Many of the pie-making tools used in this recipe are featured on a special page on Kitchen Conservatory's website. Look for an extra-large silicone mat called a Rollpat, a bench knife, a flour duster, a gravy separator and a stainless steel pastry blender. There's also a video where Anne demonstrates how to make this recipe for flaky, tender pie crust.

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences.
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FLAKY TENDER PIE CRUST

Savor every single bite
Hands-on time: 15 minutes to mix, 50 minutes into oven
Makes two crusts fitting 9-10” pie pans
  • 2 – 4 tablespoons ice water
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces
  • 1/2 cup Crisco shortening
  • Egg wash of 1 yolk whisked with 1 tablespoon water

In a large bowl, stir together one cup of flour, sugar and salt. With a hand-held pastry blender, cut butter into flour until butter is dime-sized. Add shortening, cut into mixture til dime-sized. Lightly stir in remaining flour. Sprinkle with half the water. With a full palm, squeeze flour together against side of bowl. Rub hands together to drop damp flour into mixture. Drops at a time, add just enough water to hold together; the less water the better, dry crumbs on the bottom are good.

Refrigerate while making your desired filling. Preheat oven to 375F.

Place silicone mat on counter; sprinkle with flour. Cut dough in half, return second piece to frig. Sprinkle dough with flour. Working in just one direction, roll dough into an oval the diameter of the pie plate plus its sides. Slip a bench knife beneath dough to loosen, turn 90 degrees. Roll again to form a circle. Brush off excess flour. Place pie plate to left. Palm up, place right hand below silicone mat and gently flip dough onto pie plate. If needed, gently reposition and patch pastry. Brush off excess flour. Refrigerate.

Roll out top crust. Fill bottom crust with your filling. Gently flip top crust over filling, brush off excess flour. Trim excess pastry, then turn under and press to form and seal the edge. Crimp decoratively. Slice top to vent. Brush top (but not edges) with egg wash.

Bake 45 minutes or until top crust is golden brown and juices inside are bubbling.

NUTRITION ESTIMATE For a double crust, 8 slices, pastry only: 353 Cal; 3g Protein; 26g Tot Fat; 11g Sat Fat; 27g Carb; 1g Fiber; 297mg Sodium; 30mg Cholesterol; Weight Watchers points 9 points (and worth it!)

For 2 single crusts, 8 slices each, pastry only, per slice: 176 Cal; 2g Protein; 13g Tot Fat; 5g Sat Fat; 14g Carb; 0g Fiber; 148mg Sodium; 15mg Cholesterol; Weight Watchers 4 points

In My Family, Pie = Love

(hover for a description, click a photo for a recipe)
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~ more pie recipes ~

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WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE PIE? Win a copy of a great 30-minute teaching video (VHS format) called 'Perfect Pies' by the Pie Whisperer Anne Cori. Just leave a comment mentioning your favorite kind of pie on any of these three articles by midnight CST, Tuesday, November 13th. When you do, your name will be entered into a drawing, the winner will be announced here the next morning. (In your comment, please leave some bit of information that will help me identify and notify you later, "Alex from Houston" is plenty.)
 
I don't know if I could narrow it down to a favorite. My grandmother's apple and rhubarb pies were heaven. I make a really great peach pie, and I've been known to make a pretty good boysenberry, too. But, I guess, the pie I most often buy is some kind of berry, so maybe that's my favorite. ;+)
 
Alanna,
The latest issue of Cooks Illustrated had a pastry recipe that included vodka, the idea is that vodka doesn't encourage gluten development and so allows you to use more liquid than would oridinarily be a good idea. This results in a dough that's easier to manipulate.

I tried it and it works!
 
Hi Kevin ~ Ah yes, I tried that recipe too and had great hopes for it, given the premise of a wetter dough easier to roll out. No doubt, the dough was supple and gorgeous to work with -- as I say, I was hopeful -- but unfortunately, after baking, the crust was also unacceptably tough. I did learn the trick from them of cutting the fat into only half the flour, then incorporating the rest, THAT works for me.
 
I know my favorite is a family recipe for peanut butter pie. It is unlike most out there and I have even been threatened with death (in good fun of course! at least I think so?!) by friends if I don't make it!~Lauren from Akron, Oh
 
Chess pie but I'm still trying to create (or find) the perfect recipe. No to lemon, the vinegar was a bit strong in the last one, that one has a wierd crust on top that rises up off the pie then collapses making it look ugly. . .

That said, I eat most any p ie, grin. Even savory sorts.

Ally in semi-rural TN
 
My favorite pie used to be a bananna cream pie until a friend of mine gave me a batch of concord grapes. I had to do something with all those grapes. It was then that I discovered the penultimate pie: Concord grape pie with streusal topping. True, it is a lot of work but well worth it! It's all the more special because I have to wait until concord grapes are in season. I don't know what I'll do when my friend moves from her home and garden since they aren't available in stores where I live. I'm salivating just thinking about one... Rosy in Northern California.
 
My favorite pie is Pumpkin. I can eat it anytime of the year. I just wish I could make crust from scratch. I always end up using the store bought crust.
Cheers from TN
 
WHAT's YOUR FAVORITE PIE? "Diane from Michigan" is the winner of the video about how to make perfect pie crusts! Congratulations!
 
I know I missed the entry deadline, but my favorite pie is peach crisp. Oh wait, that's not a pie. Hmmm, okay, my favorite pie is the Toll House pie I had a slice of in the Adirondacks in 1996. Chocolate chip pie, what's not to love?
 
I absolutely loved this recipe. I made it the other day, and it was the best pie crust I had ever made, hands down! Thank you for helping me out of my pie crust rut!!
 
I have been on the look out and tried every pie crust there is...I realized the ingredients are all close to the same in one way or the other...What I found on this website was the way it all comes together. The way the ingredients come in each one having a different purpose for the perfect pie. Even though I messed up the first try, it was still the most wonderful pie I have ever made. And I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
 

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna