Handmade Pie Crust
My mother and grandmother were excellent pie bakers from eastern Kansas. Every fall once the leaves started floating off the trees, they would spend long afternoons making multiples of pie crusts. The crusts were placed in the freezer so they would be ever ready for pie baking when unexpected visitors came to call. Our weekly routine on Sundays was to always have pie after a big fried chicken dinner (really lunch, we called it dinner). And of course, on holidays, we would be treated to a buffet of scrumptious pies.
They were not afraid of pie dough, or using lard in the pie crust. Every flavor you could imagine came from their kitchens. Pumpkin pie, apple pie, pecan pie, cherry pie, coconut cream pie, lemon pie, chocolate pie, rhubarb pie, raisin pie, and my all-time favorite, pineapple pie.
I missed the chance to personally quiz my family members about the secrets to making the best pie crust in the county. But in my quest to learn the formula of creating fabulous pie crusts I found two other Pie Making Masters (Bob Waldo and Susie Hale) who helped me perfect my skills in pie baking. Here’s the best pie making tips they shared:
1. You must use lard, also known as “shortening”. Real lard from a pig farmer is best. If you don’t have access to a farmer or butcher shop, use Crisco All-Vegetable Shortening. Some bakers prefer to combine lard with a little butter. Experiment and see what you like the best.
2. Use a good brand of All-Purpose Flour. King Arthur brand is my favorite.
3. Make certain ALL ingredients are cold when mixing. Yes, put the flour, as well as the lard, in the refrigerator first to chill it down.
4. Use ice cold water when mixing into the flour and lard. For super flaky crust, mix until the dough is the size of small peas. And, don’t over mix or the pie crust will not be flaky.
5. Handle the dough as little as possible. Using a fork instead of your fingers keeps the dough cooler.
6. A clean, label-free wine bottle works in a pinch if you don’t have a rolling-pin.
7. Consider using a pie crust bag when rolling out the dough. This is a reusable round plastic pouch with a zipper. It offers a tidy way to roll out a ball of dough into a perfectly round pie crust. I found mine at this quaint country village of cooking stores Cockrell Mercantile Company near Lee’s Summit, Missouri, for less than $5.00.
8. After the dough is mixed well, chill for at least four hours or even overnight. This ensures that the gluten strands have time to settle down and relax. This actually makes your pastry dough easier to roll out and cuts down on any shrinkage during the baking process. Chilling also allows the available moisture to find its way back into all parts of the dough. It’s worth the wait to have soft easy to roll out dough, so plan ahead.
9. Use a great pie dish. I prefer Biltmore Inspiration’s Pisgah Baking Dishes. Pies turn out beautifully in these dishes and the ruffled edge not only gives you more crust, it helps to prevent the crust from burning. Oven, microwave and dishwasher safe. The Single Baking Dish 11.25″Dia x 2.7″H $35.98, and Set of Two: 8.5″Dia x 2″H and 20″Dia x. 2.25″ $45.98.
10. Top the crust with a dab of cream. Add a sprinkling of sugar before placing in the oven. Bake and enjoy!
King Arthur Flour offers several great recipes for pie crust on its website.