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Tips For The Perfect Flaky Pie Crust

Ingredients:

This makes one good sized crust. You can double the recipe for two crust pies.

The secret of a flaky pie crust is in chemistry. Flakes are formed when small particles of chilled shortening melts quickly under high heat and blends with the flour that surrounds them producing layers upon layers of flakes with intervening air spaces. You want the shortening to remain in a solid form until in the oven. If the shortening starts melting (becoming a liquid) before baking, you end up with a hard and brittle pie crust. Be sure that the oven is preheated before you put the pie in so the shortening will melt quickly.

To keep the shortening a solid, refrigerate all ingredients and utensils before starting. After you have made the crust, you can cover it and keep in the fridge until needed. Now you can understand why the pie crusts you buy in the refrigerated or frozen section of the freezer are so flaky.

Utensils needed:

cold pastry blender
This has a wooden handle and several thin metal rings that arc from one side of the handle to the other. It is used to cut in shortening with the dry ingredients until the blend is similar in appearance to cornmeal. Then you use it to blend the water with the shortening-flour mixture using a tossing motion. Sprinkle the liquid, a tablespoon at a time. The dough will be ready when it cleans the bowl.
cold glass bowl
Glass will stay colder longer helping to keep the shortening from liquifying.
cold cloth-covered rolling pin and board
These, too, help to ensure a flaky crust. When rolling pie crust dough, if too much flour gets into the dough, it may toughen the dough. But, you need enough flour on the rolling pin and board to keep the dough from sticking to them. Solution: Cover them with a cloth. The cloth will absorb most of the flour and release it as needed to prevent sticking. You can make your own cloth coverings. A clean white-ribbed cotton sock with the foot cut off works perfectly for the rolling pin. A coursely-textured dish towel is a great covering for the board.
pastry wheel (optional)
A pastry wheel gives a professional finish to the edges. This tool cuts out pie crust with a distinctive scalloped edge, giving an attractive look to lattice-topped pies.
pastry brush (optional)
A pastry brush helps distribute egg white or milk evenly over the top crust for a shiny, appetizing appearance.
pie tape (optional)
Pie tape in varying widths is available in many grocery and hardwear stores. Wrapped around the outer edge of the pie, it prevents burning and helps the edge develop a pale golden brown color that is appetizing to behold.
pie pans
Pie pans come in many materials. Most are 8 or 9 inches in diameter. Dull-finished pans give the most enenly browned bottom crusts. Glass or enamelware pans reduce baking time by 1/5 to 1/4 of the specified recipe time.

Mix The Dough

Using your cold pastry blender, in your cold glass bowl, cut the cold shortening or lard into the cold flour and salt mixture until it resembles the appearance of cornmeal. You now have your small particles of chilled shortening covered with the flour mixture.

Next, you want to sprinkle the ice cold water, one tablespoon at a time, onto the shortening-flour mixture. Mix with pastry blender using a tossing motion. You will know the dough is ready for rolling when it cleans the bowl. Handle dough quickly and lightly forming it into a ball (two balls if you doubled the recipe).

Roll The Dough

Sprinkle some flour onto your cloth-covered board and roll your cloth-covered rolling pin over it until there is enough flour on both to prevent the dough from sticking to them. It is best to have too little flour than too much. Should the dough begin to stick, just quickly sprinkle a small amount of flour over dough and roll over it with your rolling pin.

With the dough ball in the center of the board, roll from the center of the ball outward. Avoid pressing down hard or rolling in a to-and-fro motion. Either one will break down the shortening particles and result in a tough crust.

If the dough tears as it is being rolled, patch it immediately. Never reroll the dough. Rerolling increases the possiblity of tough pie crust.

Prepare For Baking

One-Crust Pie

Pie shells for one-crust pies are usually baked at very high temperatures before filling.

To keep the shell from shrinking, do not stretch the crust when you are putting it in the pan.

To prevent the shell from puffing up, prick it ar half-inch intervals with a fork or fill it with uncooked rice, dried beans, macaroni, or pieces of bread.

Two-Crust Pie

Roll the bottom crust about 1/8 inch thick. Ease it into the pie pan, avoiding stretching. Stretching will make the crust pull away from the edge of the pan. There should be at least a 3/4 inch overhang.

Fill the crust.

Roll out the top crust, cut slits as desired, then pick up one edge of the crust dough onto your rolling pin. Roll to wrap the crust loosely around the pin. Roll across the filled pie in the reverse direction to form the top crust.

Using kitchen shears trim the edges leaving the 1/2 inch overhang.

Tuck the edge of the top crust under the bottom crust and press together lightly.

You can create a fluted edge with your fingers or the back of a spoon using the rim of the pie pan as you guide.

My grandmother used a the back of a fork pressing lightly against the rim to make an interesting edge.

Now that you know the chemistry behind that perfect pie crust, next time you plan to make pies, try it. Practice makes perfect, but you'll be surprised now that you know the science behind art of cooking a flaky pie crust how great that crust of your will be.

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