Basic Pie Dough – the Flakiest!

Chef Debra at work in her kitchen with fresh apple pies

This made-from-scratch pie crust is incredibly flaky! The butter and shortening need to be frozen and the dough has to rest and chill for at least 2 hours before it can be rolled. It can be refrigerated for up to a day in advance or frozen for up to 6 months.

Yield: 1 nine-inch pie crust

Recipe Tip: If you are making a double-crust pie, you need to make 2 recipes. To make the flakiest crust, it is best if you make each crust separately and do not double the recipe. It will change the handling instructions and take longer to make, making the cold ingredients come to room temperature too soon.

Recipe Note: The recipe, as written, is for a sweet crust. If you want to make a savory crust (such as for a chicken pot pie) substitute one half teaspoon garlic powder and one half teaspoon onion powder or other herb of your choice in place of the sugar).

From her interview with KGW TV, Chef Debra with the perfect flaky crust apple pie.
From her interview with KGW TV, Chef Debra with the perfect flaky crust apple pie.

Ingredients

  • Six ounces (three-quarters cup) of unbleached all-purpose flour. This will be more accurate if it is weighed.
  • One tablespoon of granulated sugar
  • One half teaspoon salt
  • Three ounces cold unsalted butter, cut into pea-size pieces
  • One and one-half ounces of frozen vegetable shortening, cut into pea-size pieces
  • 6 teaspoons ice-cold water
  • 3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Instructions

TBK Tip 1:
Set up your work area. First, run a few inches of warm soapy water
before you start the recipe so you have a handy place to plunge your fingers when needed.

TBK Tip 2:
Have a towel available at your side that travels with you to quickly dry your fingers.

TBK TOOLS: Apron and Towel Clips

TBK Tip 3:
Use a work tray to contain any ingredients that you are working with.
The Dough and Pastry Work Tray is recommended because of its raised sides and large working surface that will help keep sprinkled flour where it belongs, especially when sprinkling flour on your work surface as you roll out the dough.

TBK TOOL: Dough and Pastry Work Tray

Recipe Tip: The butter and shortening need to be cut into small pieces and frozen before they become part of the dough. Keeping them as cold as possible is crucial for a flaky result because as a gluten network (sort of like a net throughout the dough) is formed, the frozen fats will help hold a “hole” in the network in place. After the fats melt, the hole will still remain if the fats were still frozen when the
dough was rolled. These “air holes” are what make a pie crust flaky.

Recipe Tip: There are several ways to cut the butter and shortening into small pieces:
Option 1: Freeze the correct portion of butter and shortening in stick form, and then use a box grater to grate it into small pieces. Immediately put the grated fats back into the freezer while you prepare the rest of the dough.
Option 2: Cut the correct amount of the cold sticks of butter and shortening into small pieces (about pea size) and then put them in the freezer.

TBK tools: Cut Glove and Butter Slicer

Recipe Tip: Many bakers and pastry makers weigh their ingredients using a scale. This does result in consistently accurate measurement, but you can still get good results using standard measuring tools.

TBK tools: Talking Scale or Dry Measure Cups and Dry Measure Spoons

Step 1: Put 6 ounces (6 tablespoons of unsalted butter into the freezer. You can cut it into pea-size pieces now, or wait until the stick is frozen and grate it.

Step 2: Do the same with one-and-one-half-ounce pieces of shortening in the freezer. Do not mix these with the butter pieces.

Step 3: Squeeze 3 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice and set aside in the refrigerator to keep as cold as possible.

TBK Tip: Most lemons produce more than 3 teaspoons of juice. Put the leftover fresh lemon juice in 2-teaspoon portions into small (snack size is ideal) resealable bags. Lay them on their sides in the freezer and allow them to freeze into thin “sheets” of lemon juice. Take the bags out as needed. Because they are so thin, they will thaw quickly and will taste just as fresh as the day you squeezed them.

Step 4: Add 6 teaspoons of water to the three teaspoons of lemon juice and put them in the refrigerator to keep the mixture as cold as possible, but not frozen.

Step 5: This is a tricky step but necessary. First of all, choose a flat surface that is not near where you will be mixing your ingredients. Place 2 (about 24 inches or so each) of overlapping cling wrap. They should form a plus sign overlapping in the middle. The easiest way to do this is to take one long piece and place it on a work tray or baking sheet, trapping the ends under each of the sides so the tray traps the ends, and now your hands are free and the cling wrap is secure and smooth. Now, take the second length of cling wrap and lay it the opposite way you laid the first one, making sure they overlap in the middle. I find it helpful to then place a heavy object such as a mixing bowl in the very center of the overlap to free up my hands again and then smooth out the 2nd sheet of cling wrap. You will be placing the ball of finished dough in the center of this plus sign soon.

Step 6: Use a small food processor to mix the dry ingredients. Put 6 ounces (3-quarters cup) of unbleached all-purpose flour into the food processor.

Step 7: Add one tablespoon of granulated sugar to the food processor.

Step 8: Add one-half teaspoon salt to the food processor.

Recipe Tip: the more the dough is manipulated, the less tender and flaky it will become. The gluten network that is needed to create a flaky crust gets firmer and firmer the more it is handled. Think of the difference between a flaky croissant and a firm pizza dough. The pizza dough has a lot of firm gluten work to it and it forms a fabulous food delivery system. If you want a light and flaky pie crust, follow the next steps carefully and work as fast as you can so the butter and shortening don’t get to room temperature and melt.

Step 9: Pulse the dry ingredients 7 to 8 times to mix well. (A pulse is about a one-second push of the button and then release.) Gluten does not form until liquid is added to wheat flour, and that is going to happen in the next step.

Step 10: Add the frozen butter pieces and the shortening pieces to the food processor and pulse for 10 to 12 pulses until the pieces are slightly larger than pea-size.

Step 11: Drizzle the cold lemon juice and water blend over the contents of the food processor so it is evenly drizzled over the flour mixture. Pulse 8 or 9 times until the dough forms moist crumbs that just begin to clump together. It will not look or feel like pie dough yet. It will be more like a pile of wet crumbs.

Step 12: Dump the moist crumbs into the center of the overlapping pieces of cling wrap and gather them into a pile in the center with your hands.

Step 13: Carefully gather and then twist the 4 ends of the cling wrap above the pile of wet crumbs. Twist the 4 ends together so the crumb mixture is now in the bottom of what now looks like a sack. Twist the ends together so the crumbs are trapped in the bottom of the sack. Do not make this airtight. Just be sure the sack can be lifted and no crumbs can fall out.

Step 14: Hold the twisted ends of the sack in one hand. Use the heel of your other hand to gently push and smear one part of the pile of dough away from you. Just one gentle push will do. Then rotate the sack one-quarter turn so you can use the same gentle push to smear a different section each time until the crumbs come together: 4 or 5 pushes and smears should do it. The pushing motion causes the crumbs to form a more dough-like product.

Step 15: You need to work quickly with this step as the heat of your hands will melt the butter and shortening if you handle it for too long. Open up the cling wrap sack and use your hands to form the dough into a 5-inch disk – sort of like an oversized hockey puck. Wrap it tightly in the cling wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours (or freeze for up to 6 months).

Step 16: Roll into desired shape when ready for use.

TBK Tip: If making a round pie, before you put the bottom (or only) crust into the round pie pan, place the heat-proof Bake-Under-the-Crust Pie Server in the pie pan. The Bake-Under-the-Crust Pie Server is shaped like a pie wedge, but the handle conforms to the rounded edge of the pan and the triangle point is placed facing the center of the unbaked pie under the crust. You then add the crust on top and fill as desired. Our Bake-Under-the-Crust Pie Server will not affect the look or cooking process of the pie. You cook the pie with this tool in place, and when you are ready to serve the pie, the first piece is easy to remove. Just cut around the triangle-shaped pie server that is in the pan (you can feel the shape of it with the blade of your knife) and it will lift right out!

TBK Tools to form the dough: Adjustable Rolling Pin, Pie Dough Bag, Crust Crimper, Top Crust Stencil, Pie Marker and Divider, Bake-Under-the-Crust Pie Server, Egg Separator

Next steps

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