I've never even tried to make a pie, but if I ever did, I would use Karen Barker's recipe for basic pie crust. Here it is, and what's interesting is how little it differs from Melissa Clark's in the New York Times.
Basic Pie Crust
Makes enough pastry for 2 single-crusted pies or 1 double-crusted pie.
I like to use a combination of butter and vegetable shortening in my crust. The butter contributes wonderful flavor, and the vegetable shortening gives the crust just the right amount of flakiness. I also thoroughly endorse the substitution of lard for the vegetable shortening. This recipe gives you a generous amount of pastry to allow for easy rolling.
- 2 2/3 cups flour
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 tablespoon sugar
- 4 ounces (8 tablespoons) chilled butter, cut into pieces
- 4 ounces (1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons) chilled vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
- Approximately 1/3 to 1/2 cup water, as needed
1. Place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor with a steel blade. Pulse to combine.
2. Add the chilled butter and shortening; pulse until the fat is evenly cut in and the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Remove to a mixing bowl.
3. Working quickly, add enough cold water, while tossing and stirring with a fork, until the dough just begins to come together. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions, flatten into rounds, wrap in plastic, and chill for several hours or overnight.
Baker's Note: I always use regular Crisco shortening and Land O Lakes unsalted butter for my pie crusts. You can also substitute chilled lard for the vegetable shortening--this produces a distinctive, flavorful, and ultra flaky crust.
A Note on Blind Baking: When making single-crusted pies and tarts, I always partially bake my crusts prior to filling them. This process promotes a crispier bottom crust and is commonly known as "baking blind." It is an extra step that many recipes may not stipulate, but I find that it is worth the effort.
Roll out the crust and fit it into the pan. Chill, or preferably freeze, the dough until it is firm. Place a generous sheet of parchment paper or aluminum foil over the crust (there should be overhang on all sides to facilitate easy removal), fit it into the shell, and fill it with rice, beans, or reusable pie weights. Place the weighted crust into a 375 degree oven and bake it for approximately 20 minutes, until the edges just start to pick up some color and the bottom no longer looks raw.
Carefully remove the liner and weights, and return the shell for an additional 8 minutes or so. The pastry may puff up once the weights are removed. If this occurs, gently prick any air bubbles with a fork. Check the shell several times, re-pricking it as needed.
Remove the partially baked shell from the oven when the bottom is set and dry to the touch. Do not over bake or cracks may develop.
I seal my pastry shells as soon as they come out of the oven by brushing them with a bit of egg white. This helps keep the bottom crisp and usually fills in any small holes that might have been made when you pricked the pastry. Any large cracks can be repaired with reserved dough scraps; this is particularly important when using a very liquid filling. If you've forgotten to save your scraps, an emergency patching kit can be made by mixing a bit of flour with some water to form a paste that can be lightly spread on the shell as needed. It is best to try and time the blind baking process so that the partially baked shell is filled immediately upon being removed from the oven and placed back in the oven to complete the baking process.