“Good pastry is flaky, tender, delicate, and evenly browned. It is not crumbly, but when broken shows layers of flat flakes, piled one about the other with air spaces between. To achieve this result, the cook must be quick and “lighthanded,” since pastry cannot be good if handled roughly or slowly. – The Victory Binding of the American Woman’s Cook Book, Wartime Edition 1942.
In my opinion, this is the description of a perfect pie crust. Store bought pie crust is great, and of course, its easier to roll out some store bought pie crust, or fill a frozen pie shell. But its sooo much better when you make it yourself. Besides, when you make your own pie crust, you can use whatever flour you’d like, and make it taste like whatever you want it to taste like. For example, my piecrust recipe I use for my delicious Apple Dumplings I use a combination of All Purpose Flour and Almond Flour.
I prefer to use my hands when making the pie dough because I can feel the consistency of the dough. When using a food processor, I feel that in an instant your butter can go from cold to slightly melted and there is nothing you can do about it. The machine spins so fast and adds heat to your dough.
When making pie dough from scratch, I like to use shortening and butter. Usually, the rule of thumb for baking is to use room temperature butter. Not in the case of pie dough. The shortening and the butter must be chilled otherwise the butter, and the shortening will melt in your dough. Chilled butter and shortening allow for a flakier crust; however, if your butter melts while mixing your dough, it will result in a less flaky and a tougher crust.
Water is another crucial ingredient when making pie dough. Again the water must be cold. In fact, many recipes would say to use ice water, and this recipe is no different. The ice water binds the butter and the flour together while helping the butter remain solid.
The first thing I do when making the dough it to put the shortening in the freezer until its thoroughly chilled. Next, I measure the flour, sugar, and salt cut the butter and shortening in small cubes and drop them into the flour. I use a pastry blender to coat the butter with flour. The pastry blender cuts the butter into the flour. Once the dough resembles a crumbly mealy consistency, I pour the ice water into the flour mixture and begin mixing by hand. If after adding the water and the dough still feels very dry, add a little more water. Do not knead the dough; you want to gently toss the dough until you feel the texture of the dough change from a dry to a tacky texture. Once the dough comes together, gently press it into a ball, and flatten to a disk shape. If the dough keeps its shape, it is done. If the dough feels too wet, you’ve added too much water.
Once the dough has been shaped into a disk, you’ll use a bench scraper to cut your dough in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap. You’ll need to chill the dough for at least an hour or two after its wrapped. The dough should be chilled because its easier to handle when chilled. After working the dough, your at risk of melting the butter if you go straight to rolling out your dough, so don’t skip the step of chilling the dough. Before rolling out the pie dough, you want it to feel cold like a stick of butter. The dough could be refrigerated for up to three days, any longer and the dough begins to dry out. The pie dough could also be frozen. If you think you want to freeze your dough, you would still need to refrigerate it for at least an hour first, then wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and seal it in a freezer bag. When you’re ready to make a pie, be sure to defrost your dough in the refrigerator before rolling it out.