• To make tender pie crusts, use unbleached flour. shopping list
  • Another trick is to use a teaspoon of vinegar or lemon in the liquid ingredients. shopping list
  • lard produces the flakiest crust; butter has the best flavor; and vegetable shortening makes a tender crust with no cholesterol. Try them all or a combination to produce just the mix you want. shopping list
  • A secret to flaky pastry is to cut half the shortening in at a time and to make sure it's chilled. When you roll out this dough, you produce layers of flour and shortening which bake into tender flakes. Chilling the finished dough makes it much easier to roll out and much less likely to stick. It also resolidifies the shortening to ensure flakiness. shopping list
  • When rolling out your dough, roll from the center ti the outside edge. Loosen it occasionally with your bowl scraper and turn it over. Use just enough flour on the rolling surface and rolling pin to keep the dough form sticking. shopping list
  • To bake a "blind", or unfilled crust, first chill it for 20 minutes and then fit a piece of aluminum foil on the inside surface. Prick both the crust and the foil, to allow steam to escape and (hopefully) keep the crust from developing a bubble. Fill the foil with something which will mimic to filling to help the crust keep its shape while it bakes. You can use anything from dried beans to small stones which you've washed free of grit, or special aluminum pellets that are made just for this purpose, available at most kitchen supply stores. Keep this filling in a jar to use over and over. shopping list
  • To store up some labor in the freezer, make several pie shells at a time and freeze them in airtight plastic bags. They'll keep for a few weeks to several months depending on your freezer. shopping list

How to make it

  • Whole Wheat Flour: Substitute whole wheat for an equal amount of unbleached white. Start with about 1/2 cup until you find the ratio you like. Whole wheat flour produces crust with a "bite" and a hearty flavor that's great with savory fillings and is a wholesome alternative for sweet fillings too.
  • Grains and Nuts: You can substitute extra bran or wheat germ. Rolled oats or oats that you've turned into "oat flour" in a blender or food processor can be substituted for an equal amount of wheat flour, again starting with about 1/2 cup until you find the ratio you like. Try rye and buckwheat flours or cornmeal the same way. Ground or chopped nuts can be substituted as well.
  • When substituting any non-wheat alternatives for wheat flour, don't use pastry flour because they don't contain gluten, they will reduce the percentage of gluten in your dough, just as cornstarch does.
  • Salt: a little salt brings out the flavor in a pie dough. If you are on a low or no-salt diet, leave it out, try a salt substitute or, for a savory crust, substitute one of the herbal salt substitute mixtures.
  • Sugar: When you are making a dough for a sweet filling you can include a tablespoon of sugar with your dry ingredients but it's not necessary. The contract of a slightly salty pie crust with a sweet filling is very appealing.
  • Herbs and Spices: A tablespoon of fresh or a teaspoon of dried herbs or spices can be added to the dry ingredients. Don't forget about Paprika, turmeric, curry powder, chilli powder, dry mustard , poppy or seasame seeds, etc. You can also add 2 or 3 tsp of freshly grated lemon or orange peel or even candied ginger to complement the flavors of fruit pies.
  • Cheese: Add 1/2 to 1 cup grated cheese to the flour before cutting in the lesser amount of shortening. This is great with savory pies, but it's fun with apple pies too.
  • Lard: produces flakiest pie crust of all because it physically breaks into larger flakes than vegetable shortening or butter.
  • Vegetable Shortening: contains a certain amount of air so it's light by nature. When you cut it into your dry ingredients, it will produce a pie crust that is light as well as flaky.
  • Butter: Butter has the best flavor, but because it contains some milk solids and water, a pie crust made soley with butter tends to be harder. You might decide to combine it with lard or vegetable shortening.
  • Vegetable Oil: can substitute it for a solid fat.
  • Milk Products: Using milk , or other milk products, you'll make a richer, mellower crust which browns very nicely.
  • Eggs: Eggs both leaven and create structure. By using an egg as part of the liquid in making pasty, you will create a dough that will puff up a bit and will hold together better. This is useful when making meat pies. It also makes the crust brown more quickly.
  • Lemon Juice or Vinegar: Old cooks books included lemon juice or vinegar in the ingredients list. The acid it either one tempers the gluten in the dough, helping achieve that tenderness which is the sometimes elusive (but attainable) goal of the pie crust makes.

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