How To Make Pie Crust, The Baking Wizard Way

Mar 4, 2018

Food Guy Greg Patent, a.k.a. The Baking Wizard, is puzzled by FOBPC (Fear of Baking Pie Crusts). “It seems to scare cooks to death – I don’t understand it. I have a basic pie crust formula that works for me pretty much all the time." One key to Greg's success: he mixes pie dough in the food processor, to minimize handling it.

"If you get nervous and over-handle the dough, the fat starts to melt and everything falls apart. Then you might just throw up your hands and decide you’re no good at pie dough-making."

Greg prefers crusts of half-butter and half-lard, or half-butter and half-vegetable shortening. Either way, all the fats you add to the food processor should be cold, not room-temperature. If you're using lard, get the kind sold in jars, not boxes. For vegetable shortening, Greg recommends coconut oil or, even better, expeller-pressed organic palm oil (which is non-hydrogenated).

Don’t worry about lumps in the mixed dough. In the oven, these flattened lumps will create extra steam, adding to the crust’s flakiness.

"Pie doughs are forgiving," says Greg. "You don’t have to be afraid of them." - especially if you mix them in a food processor.

Basic Pie Dough for a Prebaked Single Crust Pie

1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) palm oil vegetable shortening, chilled
4 ounces (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
4 tablespoons ice water

1. To make the pastry, if not weighing, measure the flour by dipping dry measures into the flour, filling to overflowing, and sweeping off the excess with a straight edge. Put the flour, sugar, and salt into the work bowl of a food processor and process 5 seconds to mix. Cut the cold vegetable shortening and butter into tablespoon-size pieces and add to the work bowl. Pulse 4 times for 1 second each.

2. Then begin pulsing very rapidly for a fraction of a second each time while you dribble in the ice water through the feed tube. After 20 to 30 or a few more pulses you’ll see the dough forming several large lumps. Stop pulsing at this point. If the dough seems at all dry, add a teaspoon more of ice water and pulse quickly twice. Dump the dough lumps onto a lightly floured work surface, press the lumps of dough together and shape it into a 5-inch disk about 1-inch thick.

3. And that’s all there is to it. Wrap the pastry securely in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. The dough may be made a day ahead and refrigerated.

4. On a lightly floured surface ( I use a pastry canvas), roll the chilled dough into a 14-inch circle. The dough will be about 1/8-inch-thick, ideal for a pastry shell. If the dough feels too firm to roll, let it stand about 10 minutes to soften a bit. Check frequently as you roll to make sure the dough is not sticking. Flour lightly as necessary. Roll from the center of the dough outward, and rotate the dough frequently to maintain a round shape. Roll the dough onto your rolling pin and unroll the dough onto your pie plate letting the dough drape over the edges of the pan. Lift an edge of dough and nudge the pastry into the pan. Continue going all the way around the pan. It’s important not to stretch the dough or it may bake unevenly.

5. Once the pan is lined with the dough, trim off excess dough with kitchen shears, leaving an overhang of about 1/2 inch of dough. Fold this overhanging dough under itself onto the dough on the rim of the pie pan to form a high standing rim. Press firmly on this double layer of dough going all the way around the pan. To crimp the dough, press an index finger against the inside of the dough rim and pinch the dough on either side of the finger to make a V. Repeat, making a pattern of Vs all around the top of the crust. With a fork, prick the bottom all over at 1-inch intervals. Refrigerate for 45 minutes, then freeze the pie shell for 15 minutes or until frozen solid. Freezing helps prevent shrinking.

6. While the crust is in the freezer, adjust an oven rack to the lower middle position and preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line the chilled pie shell with a square of aluminum foil, pressing the foil evenly onto the sides and leaving the edges of the foil pointing upward. Pour in enough dried beans to fill the shell by about three-fourths; a 2-pound bag should do it. Put the shell in the preheated oven and bake 15 minutes, or until the edge of the pastry is a light golden brown color. Remove the pie shell from the oven, reduce the heat to 400 degrees F, and carefully lift off the foil and beans. Return the shell to the oven to bake for another 10 minutes or so until the edges are a rich golden brown and the bottom is a shade lighter in color. Check often to see if the dough puffs up anywhere at all; if it does, prick it gently with a skewer. Cool the baked pie shell completely. When beans are cool, store them in a zip-top bag. They may be reused over and over.

©Copyright 2017 by Greg Patent

(Broadcast: "The Food Guys," 3/4/18. Listen weekly on the radio at 11:50 a.m. Sundays, or via podcast.)