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aprilsimnel's avatar

How to make a flaky pie crust?

Asked by aprilsimnel (30620 points ) October 12th, 2009

I made an apple pie today from scratch from some of my weekend apple-picking bounty. The filling is fantastic, if I do say so myself (Northern Spys are great baking apples!), but the crust disappointed me. It came out more shortbread-y than flaky. I have more apples that I’ll want to use up soon, so when I bake another pie, what are some tips for a really flaky crust?

My recipe for a 9-inch pie with top and bottom was: 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon of salt, ½ cup of Crisco, ¼ cup of butter, 5 tablespoons of ice-cold water.

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30 Answers

PandoraBoxx's avatar

@aprilsimnel, I was just reading about flaky pie crusts in Ratio. The trick with pie crusts is that the purpose of the water is to hold the dough together, not the fats. To make a flaky pie crust, you don’t want to overmix the butter/Crisco into the flour; the fats should have a pebbly texture when mixed into the flour. The purpose of using ice water is to keep the fats solid when getting the dough to hold together.

Try mixing the fats in using two knives, crisscrossing. This is what they mean by “cutting in.” Use the ice water to gather the dough into a ball, then avoid overhandling the dough so the fats will bake in as layers, like croissants.

dpworkin's avatar

Flakiness is directly related to the way the fat is incorporated into the flour. You need some solid fat surrounded by flour- if you use a food-processor, for instance, to incorporate the butter or shortening you will get a non-flaky crust. I use two kitchen knives and a marble slab, cutting the butter in until the mixture is just smaller than pea-size, then I quickly roll it up, refrigerate for a half an hour, and then roll it out.

dpworkin's avatar

Ooops, @PandoraBoxx was quicker on the draw than I. Sorry.

eponymoushipster's avatar

Make sure the shortening you use (butter, etc) is ICE COLD, as is the LIQUID you use to bind the ingredients. Chill the dough before you roll it out, and chill it again after you put the filling in before you throw it in the oven.

janbb's avatar

Actually, I get a pretty flaky crust from the food processor, but the principle is the same; not to break down the fat completely. I use short, quick pulses to mix the fat and the flour (14 tablespoons of butter to 1 T. Crisco) and then between 4–6 T. ice water. Mix it just until it starts to come together into a ball, then divide into two balls and flatten into disks. Wrap and chill in the fridge as monkeyman says and then roll it and put in the pie pans and chill again before filling and baking. I roll it out between saran wrap to prevent having to add more flour and keep it from sticking. Handle as little as possible.

dpworkin's avatar

say good night, Gracie.

janbb's avatar

good night, gracie.

DrBill's avatar

it’s as easy as 1–2-3

1 cup COLD water
2 cups COLD shortening
3 cups flour

wundayatta's avatar

I like to put about a third of a cup of ground almonds in my pie dough. Most people really love it.

evegrimm's avatar

My grandma’s recipe that has always worked for me:

2⅓ C All-Purpose Flour
⅓ C milk
⅔ C oil

You can add more flour and more oil (if you need it bigger), but don’t add more milk! It makes the dough tough.

Darwin's avatar

I always “cut” the dough until it is a collection of petite pea-sized balls of dough, and then quickly gather it in a ball and roll it out. That way you end up with little flakes of butter divided from each other by the flour that coated the outside of the balls of dough, resulting in a flaky crust.

I make good pie dough because I am always in a hurry – the ingredients stay cold and I don’t over-handle the dough. Too much handling develops the gluten which makes the dough tough.

Jeruba's avatar

My mother, whose apple pies will never be surpassed in this world or the next, said the secret was in the ice water she used to measure the shortening.

Yetanotheruser's avatar

If the dough gets to “loose” when you’re mixing it, just refrigerate it for a few hours and try again.

tedibear's avatar

@evegrimm – Oil? Like liquid vegetable oil?

evegrimm's avatar

@tedibear39, yes, oil. Canola, vegetable, olive if you’re feeling extravagant.

And my pie crusts (and my mom’s, and my grandma’s) have always been flaky.

tedibear's avatar

Wow! I’ll have to try that.

aprilsimnel's avatar

@evegrimm – What’s your method?

christine215's avatar

My Nan used to put a few drops of vinegar in the ice water, the vinegar inhibits the formation of the gluten into long strands which makes the crust tough
(also refrigerate the dough once you’ve formed it into a ball, let it rest at least a half hour before rolling it out)

kruger_d's avatar

Yes, vinegar helps. My mother’s recipe uses lard and is fabulous and very flaky. I think starting with cold fat helps, too. Most people store shortening at room temp.

evegrimm's avatar

@aprilsimnel, are you referring to how I mix the dough together?

aprilsimnel's avatar

@evegrimm – Yes, please. And in what order.

evegrimm's avatar

Um…okay. It’s kind of fool proof. (At least, I’m a bit of an idiot, and it works for me…)

Okay, first measure out the flour. My mom and grandma both spoon it into the measuring cup so that it’s not packed together. (2⅓ C all-purpose). Dump onto some wax paper.

Measure out the milk. ⅓ C. Add to the flour. (We usually do this on the wax paper, so when it’s all mixed together you can just add the second sheet and roll it out without having to worry about moving anything.)

Slowly mix in the ⅔ C oil, forming a dough. IIRC, my mom usually kneads it a bit so that it’s nicely incorporated.

I think it wouldn’t matter if you did oil first or milk first; if you have any experience, go with that. I’m just not sure…

Then add the second sheet of wax paper and start rolling it out!

(The recipe makes enough for two pie crusts—top and bottom. For a small pie, or, I’m assuming just a bottom crust, 1⅓ C flour, a little less than ⅓ C oil, and 3 TB milk.)

(I hope this works out for you…it’s been about 2 months since I last did this, so some of it’s by memory (technique, not ingredients). However, I’ve never had issue with the crust, and neither has my mom or grandma.)

Also, this recipe is somewhat similar to mine. If you have trouble following my directions or they seem odd, maybe refer to this?

I’m sorry I’m not more help!

aprilsimnel's avatar

No, I understand it perfectly, @evegrimm! Thank you.

So many great answers. Now the only question is: Do I have enough apples?

janbb's avatar

@aprilsimnel Make a bunch of different recipes and have a Jelly by the judge. It’s a dirty job but I’m available!

Darwin's avatar

@aprilsimnel – If you don’t have enough apples, add in other fruit. Or use the flaky crust to make quiche.

aprilsimnel's avatar

AH! I got a deal on chopped-up ham chunks from the deli on Sunday… Ham, asparagus and goat cheese quiche it is!

Darwin's avatar

Let me know when it’s ready. I’ll be there. :-)

proXXi's avatar

Use lots of Anne Heche powder.

llewis's avatar

I use coconut oil and butter – and chop both up and refrigerate them after chopping (coconut oil is solid when it’s cooler than about 80 degrees – and it’s usually under 80 where I live, so it’s usually solid). Then I can use the food processor to blend (quickly, before they melt). I stir cold water in by hand, and chill the dough before rolling. What’s nice is that even though the dough seems like it will have the texture of cardboard while I’m rolling it out (and it does break a lot, but goes back together easily), it is always flaky. And if you use a high-grade coconut oil, it will not taste like coconut.

chelle104's avatar

My mother’s pie crust is the most flakiest ever. She uses 2 cups flower to ¾ cup of shortening. Ice water for sure and salt too….don’t over handle it…....It’s the best ever! Makes 2 crusts, or bottom and top for one…...with scraps left over. she rolls out the scraps nice and thin, pokes holes in the flat pieces, sprinkles more salt on top and makes homemade crackers. Bake at 350 for a few minutes…Yum!

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