Sometimes, when I talk about an ambitious food project that I’m working on at home, I get the sense that people think I’m crazy. Am I that much of a food freak? Maybe I just have too much time on my hands, but I sincerely love good food and I’ve realized over the years that the best food comes from a certain amount of effort done in my own kitchen. I know I’m not the only one who thinks this. Many of my friends are like-minded – spending a lot of time, energy and love on their food. I hope that you’re one of those people, too.
One thing I love to do is make pies, including my own pie crust. A homemade pie crust has a flavor and texture so superior to a store-bought crust and is so easy to make, that I never even think of buying one. If you have cold butter (and/or lard), flour, salt and sugar, you can have a pie crust dough ready to put in the refrigerator in 10 minutes.
If you’re keeping up with my blog, you know that I just rendered my own lard. With all that precious freshly-rendered lard, I was itching to give it a test in a pie crust. I’ve used this recipe to make any number of pies and it’s tried and true. This one worked perfectly for the Lemon Chess Pie, as well as pecan, pumpkin and apple pies.
Basic Pie Dough recipe
(enough for one single crust)
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (I use White Lily, of course)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
3/4 stick of unsalted butter (6 tblsp), chilled in the freezer and cut into pieces
2 tablespoons (1 oz.) lard, chilled in the freezer and cut into pieces
4-6 tablespoons ice water
Put the flour, salt and sugar into a food processor. Pulse a few times to blend. Add your frozen butter and lard pieces to the flour in the food processor. Pulse 5 or 6 times to cut the fat into the flour until it is the size of small peas. You don’t want it to mix completely or to melt.
Pour this out into a mixing bowl, where you can add your ice water, one tablespoon at a time. After 4 spoonfuls, mix it together by hand until it begins to come together in a ball. If it is too dry, incorporate more ice water until it forms a dough ball. You want to work quickly and not knead it too much. Just work it until it comes together.
Pat the dough into a disk shape, then wrap in plastic wrap. The dough has to rest in the fridge for at least two hours. Make-Ahead Note: I make my dough the day before and refrigerate overnight. You can also put them into the freezer and they will keep for a couple of months. I like to keep extra pie crust dough ready in my freezer all the time. When you know that you will need it, pull it out of the freezer the night before and place in the fridge to thaw overnight.
After the dough rests, put on a clean, floured surface to roll out. Roll out the dough until it is about 1/2 -1/4 inch thick. To get an idea of size, you can place your pie pan over your rolled dough. The dough circle should extend about two inches over your pie pan circumference, about 11-12 inches.
Lift and place the dough into the pie pan. Try not to stretch the dough, as this will encourage shrinking as it bakes. Trim and fold the edges under to make a clean-looking pie crust. I like to pinch the edges to give it a scalloped look.
At this point, you’ll want to follow your pie recipe. Sometimes (like with a Lemon Chess Pie), you can fill the uncooked pie shell and bake it all at once. In other recipes, you will want to pre-bake the pie shell. If you need to pre-bake your crust, just line your pie shell with a non-stick foil or parchment, then use pie weights to keep the sides from shrinking or collapsing while you do your pre-bake. You can use a store-bought pie weight or a couple of cups of beans or even a jar full of pennies. As long as they’re not touching the crust you should be fine. Follow your recipe to see how long you should pre-bake, but generally it takes about 15-20 minutes in a 350 degree oven.
Use your pie crusts in my Lemon Chess Pie or Pumpkin Pie.
UPDATE: Whole Wheat version
Since it’s good to add whole grains to baking favorites, I’m adding a whole wheat pie crust version.
Whole Wheat Pie Crust (enough for two crusts)
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose white flour (I use White Lily)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
4 tablespoons (2 oz.) lard (chilled in the freezer)
10 tablespoons (5 oz.) unsalted butter (chilled in the freezer)
1/2 cup ice water, plus 2 more tablespoons
In a food processor, blend the flours, salt and sugar. Cut up your chilled lard and butter into small chunks and drop into the food processor filled with the flour mixture. Pulse the fat into the flour until it is cut into pieces the size of a pea. Transfer the mixture into a bowl and add the ice water.
With a quick hand, incorporate the ice water into the flour. You don’t want it to warm up or be overworked. It just needs the dry ingredients to come together with the liquid to form a dough ball. Cut the dough ball into two equal pieces and form two balls. Flatten them into discs. Wrap the two dough discs in plastic wrap and put into the fridge at least two hours to rest.
As in the plain flour version, you can fill the uncooked pie shell and bake it all at once. Or in some cases, you will want to pre-bake the pie shell. If you need to pre-bake your crust, just line your pie shell with a non-stick foil or parchment, then use pie weights to keep the sides from shrinking or collapsing while you do your pre-bake. You can use a store-bought pie weight or a couple of cups of beans or even a jar full of pennies. As long as they’re not touching the crust you should be fine. Follow your recipe to see how long you should pre-bake, but generally it takes about 15-20 minutes in a 350 degree oven.
Take out of the oven and let cool slightly before pulling off your pie weights and adding the filling.