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Basic Flaky Pie Pastry Recipe

Makes: 1 single or double crust for a 9-inch standard pie or 9 1/2-inch deep-dish pie

This pie pastry is used frequently throughout this collection because it yields excellent results. I sometimes call it a half-and-half pastry, referring to the equal amounts of vegetable shortening and butter—the former for flakiness, the latter for flavor. It can be made in a food processor if you have a large-capacity machine. But I’ll repeat my usual advice, which is to make it by hand or with an electric mixer if you don’t. Both methods are quite easy. If you could have only one pastry to work with, this would probably be it.

Game plan: I use this pastry so often that I tend to make it in large batches. More than half of the time required to make pastry is spent getting out the ingredients, putting them away, and washing the utensils. That said, I may make a double batch of crust, 3 or 4 times over, then freeze it for up to a month. I wrap each dish in plastic, then in aluminum foil. I take the dough out of the freezer the day before I plan to use it and let it thaw in the fridge. It works like a charm.

INGREDIENTS

For a single crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
  • 1/4 cup cold water

For a double crust:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup cold water
INSTRUCTIONS
To make in a food processor:

  1. Put the flour, sugar, and salt in the food processor. Pulse several times to mix. Scatter the butter over the dry ingredients and pulse the machine 5 or 6 times to cut it in. Fluff the mixture with a fork, lifting it up from the bottom of the bowl. Scatter the shortening over the flour and pulse 5 or 6 times. Fluff the mixture again.
  2. Drizzle half of the water over the flour mixture and pulse 5 or 6 times. Fluff the mixture and sprinkle on the remaining water. Pulse 5 or 6 times more, until the dough starts to form clumps. Overall, it will look like coarse crumbs.
  3. Dump the contents of the processor bowl into a large bowl. Test the pastry by squeezing some of it between your fingers. If it seems a little dry and not quite packable, drizzle a teaspoon or so of cold water over the pastry and work it in with your fingertips.
  4. Using your hands, pack the pastry into a ball (or 2 balls if you are making a double crust) as you would pack a snowball. If you’re making a double crust, make one ball slightly larger than the other; this will be your bottom crust. Knead each ball once or twice, then flatten the balls into 3/4-inch-thick disks on a floured work surface. Wrap the disks in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight before rolling.

To make by hand:

  1. Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Toss well, by hand, to mix. Scatter the butter over the dry ingredients and toss to mix. Using a pastry blender, 2 knives, or your fingertips, cut or rub the butter into the flour until it is broken into pieces the size of small peas. Add the shortening and continue to cut until all of the fat is cut into small pieces.
  2. Sprinkle half of the water over the mixture. Toss well with a fork to dampen the mixture. Add the remaining water, 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons at a time, and continue to toss and mix, pulling the mixture up from the bottom of the bowl on the upstroke and gently pressing down on the downstroke. Dough made by hand often needs a bit more water. If necessary, add water 1 or 2 teaspoons at a time until the pastry can be packed.
  3. Using your hands, pack the pastry into a ball (or 2 balls if you are making a double crust) as you would pack a snowball. If you’re making a double crust, make one ball slightly larger than the other; this will be your bottom crust. Knead each ball once or twice, then flatten the balls into 3/4-inch-thick disks on a floured work surface. Wrap the disks in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight before rolling.

To make with an electric mixer:

  1. Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter, tossing it with the flour. With the mixer on low speed, blend the butter into the flour until you have what looks like coarse, damp meal, with both large and small clumps. Add the shortening and repeat.
  2. Turning the mixer on and off, add half of the water. Mix briefly on low speed. Add the remaining water, mixing slowly until the dough starts to form large clumps. If you’re using a stand mixer, stop periodically to stir the mixture up from the bottom of the bowl. Do not overmix.
  3. Using your hands, pack the pastry into a ball (or 2 balls if you are making a double crust) as you would pack a snowball. If you’re making a double crust, make one ball slightly larger than the other; this will be your bottom crust. Knead each ball once or twice, then flatten the balls into 3/4-inch-thick disks on a floured work surface. Wrap the disks in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight before rolling.

Whole Wheat Pie Pastry

Follow the basic recipe above, substituting 1 cup whole wheat flour for 1 cup of the all-purpose flour for a double crust, 1/2 cup whole wheat flour for a single crust. Proceed as directed.

Cheddar Cheese Pie Pastry

Reduce the flour to 2 3/4 cups in the double-crust recipe. (Do not reduce the flour for a single crust.) When using a food processor, after you’ve added the shortening, pulse 3 or 4 times. Add 1 cup (1/2 cup for single crust) finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese and pulse 3 or 4 times more. Add the water and proceed as directed above. When making the dough by hand or with an electric mixer, add the cheese after you have cut or mixed in all of the fat. Toss with your hands to mix, then add the water as instructed for each method.

Excerpted from Pie, by Ken Haedrich. © 2004, used by permission from The Harvard Common Press.

This recipe, while from a trusted source, may not have been tested by the CHOW food team.