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Classic Piecrust

Updated February 23, 2016
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Besides being flaky and tasting delicious, this dough handles beautifully for both the novice and experienced pie maker. Another name for it is pâte brisée. This is the crust for Flag-Raising Apple Pie.

Butter is incorporated before the shortening because it’s the firmer of the two fats and does not blend into the flour easily. If both fats were cut in simultaneously, the softer fat would be overworked into the flour, resulting in a mealier, shorter dough.

After incorporation, the fat pieces should be a variety of sizes. If all the particles are small, less water will be required to form the dough and a crumbly, short crust will result. If the particles are large, more water will be needed and a crisper, flakier crust will result.

If, while rolling out the dough, you notice that the particles of fat are too large, ranging from that of large peas to lima beans, the crust will not be as flaky and tender as it should be. Correct this by folding the dough in half and resting it for 15 to 30 minutes in the refrigerator, then rolling it to the dimensions the recipe directs.

For rolling the dough, a cool, smooth-surfaced work area standing at about hip level provides the best leverage for rolling the dough. To roll a circular shape, begin with a flat disk, not a square or rectangular piece of dough.

CostInexpensive

Moderate

Total Timeunder 4 hours

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Taste and Texturebuttery

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (140 grams) unsifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1½ ounces (2½ tablespoons) unsalted butter, chilled
  • 1/3 cup (2 ounces) solid vegetable shortening, chilled
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons ice water
  • One 9-inch pyrex pie pan

Instructions

Making the Dough: Pour the flour and salt into a 3-quart stainless steel mixing bowl and stir with a pastry blender to disperse the salt. Divide the cold butter into 6 to 8 pieces for a single crust and scatter them over the flour. With the blender, cut in the butter until the largest pieces remaining are the size of peas.

Divide the shortening into 6 to 8 pieces and scatter them over the butter-flour mixture; cut in with a pastry blender until the pieces range in size from bread crumbs to small lima beans. Clean off the blender as you work, keeping pieces of fat from adhering to the blades. Lift the flour from the bottom of the bowl with the pastry blender from time to time.

If the fats seem soft or oily at this time, refrigerate them for 15 minutes to resolidify before adding liquid.

Pour the ice water into a liquid cup measure. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon evenly over the flour mixture, using a fork to distribute the moisture but not mixing the ingredients together. (Move the fork in circles, scraping the bottom of the bowl and then moving it upward, lightly tossing the flour.)

Repeat the procedure, removing excess dough from the fork as it accumulates, adding 3 tablespoons liquid for a single crust or 6 tablespoons for a double crust. With your fingertips, test to determine if the mixture is moist enough to stick together. If it appears dry and crumbly, and reluctant to stick together, or if loose flour particles remain in the bottom of the bowl, add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough can be shaped into a single unit. If the mixture feels sticky, dust it with a little flour.

With your hands, gather the moistened particles together, using the side of the bowl to help shape it. Transfer it onto a sheet of plastic wrap, and form the dough into a package, using the 4 corner flaps: Alternating between opposing sets of flaps of the plastic, gently manipulate the dough into a round, flat circle. (The plastic keeps the warmth of your hands away from the dough and provides a loose mold to help shape it.)

Once the dough is wrapped, gently massage its surface into a cohesive round, flat disk (or a flat square, according to the shape you will be rolling later). The disk should measure about 4½ inches across. If you plan to divide the double recipe for two separate crusts or portions, do it now; form two disks, each 4½ inches across, using the plastic-wrap method as above.

Storing the Dough: Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. The dough may be refrigerated for up to 3 days at this stage, or it may be wrapped in aluminum foil and frozen for up to 1 month. Label the contents and date.

Rolling the Piecrust: Dust the work surface with all-purpose flour in the following manner: Holding the flour lightly in your hand, sling it onto the rolling surface, crossing in front of your body from right to left (for a right-handed person) as if sowing grain or feeding chickens. This efficiently coats the surface with the least amount of flour.

Using a paper towel or your fingers, apply a very light film of solid vegetable shortening to the bottom of the pan, but not on the sides or rim (greasing the sides encourages your dough to slip while baking).

Roll a circle of dough with even thickness. Sprinkle the chilled disk of dough with just enough flour to keep it from feeling sticky. Redust the work surface lightly and coat the rolling pin with flour. (Since Classic Piecrust is higher in fat than most pie doughs, you can use extra flour in rolling to make it more manageable if necessary. With experience, you will need less, but either way, the crust will be flaky.)

Beginning in the center of the disk, push the rolling pin away from you in one stroke, using enough pressure to extend the dough gradually. Do not extend more than 2 inches at a time in any one direction and avoid rolling over the edges; this method helps eliminate cracking or creating too thin an edge. If some cracking occurs when you begin rolling, simply pinch the edges together. Coax the dough to become larger, always keeping its shape in mind.

Lift and rotate the dough a one-eighth turn clockwise (one-eighth turns keep the dough circular, one-fourth turns make it square), and repeat rolling procedures, pushing away from the center in one stroke. Continue to lift, rotate, and roll, dusting with additional flour as needed to prevent sticking to the rolling surface. Never turn your dough over and roll on the other side. If the dough sticks to the work surface, carefully slide a metal spatula under the stuck portion, then lift and dust it with a little flour. Rub off any pieces of dough adhering to the rolling pin; they could puncture the dough.

Roll until the circle of dough measures around 12 to 13 inches and 1/8 inch thick for a 9-inch pan. A good rule of thumb is that the edge is approximately 2½ inches larger than the base of the pie pan.

Lining the Pie Pan: To maintain the shape of the dough and avoid stretching it, lay your rolling pin on the top third section of the dough. Lift the edge of that section and fold it toward you, draping it over the pin. Roll the pin toward you, wrapping the remaining dough loosely around it. (The ends of the rolling pin remain exposed.) Lift the rolling pin, and suspend it about 1 inch above the farthest edge of the prepared pan. Allowing for a 1-inch overhang, unroll the dough away from you, easing it into the pan’s contour. When completely unrolled, it should be perfectly centered; if not, carefully adjust its position.

Fit the dough into the pan by pressing it lightly with your fingertips, molding it into the creases. If it doesn’t seem to fit snugly in some places, lift it gently without stretching it and lower it into pan. Careful fitting against the pan prevents air bubbles from forming under the dough. Should a tear occur while you are draping or fitting, patch it by overlapping the edges slightly and pressing them together.

Fluting the Edges: Fluting forms a decorative ledge, making it difficult for juicy fillings to boil over and out. If necessary, trim the dough with kitchen scissors until you have a uniform overhang that measures ¾ to 1 inch. (You can use any scraps from trimming to patch a skimpy overhang.)

With the pie pan in front of you, work along a section of dough that is farthest away from you; tuck half the overhang under to form two layers of pastry as if you were preparing to hem an article of clothing. Rotate the pan slightly and tuck another section. Continue working in the same position, rotating the pan, until the circle has been completed.

Dip your fingertips in flour if the pastry begins to feel sticky. Crimp the edges around the pan to seal them together. To flute, spread the index and middle fingers of your left hand about 2 inches apart and place them against the outer edge of the crust. Insert the index finger of your right hand into the 2-inch gap, and rest on the crust. Using the tips of your fingers at a 90-degree angle, push the fingers of your right hand against the folded overhang until you reach the edge of the pan. At the same time, pull gently outward with the index finger of your left hand. This will create the fluted effect.

Refrigerate the pastry-lined pan until it’s time for filling and baking. If you are partially or completely baking the pastry, place it in the freezer for 30 minutes just to firm it before you line it with foil. (For this length of time, you need not wrap the dough.)

Baking the Piecrust: For fillings that do not require baking with the piecrust, bake your piecrust completely and separately. This requires baking the crust “blind” at the beginning to hold the dough in place until it is set enough to maintain its shape on its own. (The term “baking blind” applies because the crust is not visible while it is weighted.)

To blind-bake, position rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 450°F at least 15 minutes before baking. Remove the partially chilled unbaked crust from the freezer, and line it with a 13-inch sheet of aluminum foil, fitted into the shape of the dough. (Firming the dough prevents the foil from making impressions in it.) Fill to the top with dried small beans (about 3 cups), spreading and pressing them in the foil to rest snugly into the creases of the sides of the dough. Fold the top of the foil over the beans, away from your fluted edge, to expose it to the heat better. (The beans prevent the dough from shrinking while baking.)

Bake at 450°F for 10 minutes; then reduce oven temperature to 375°F for 5 minutes longer, or until the edge of the crust no longer appears shiny or raw and its shape appears to be setting. Lift the bean-filled foil from the pastry carefully and slowly in case a portion of the dough is sticking to it. Prick the bottom of the crust with a skewer in three or four places to allow steam to escape. Return it to the oven for 15 minutes longer, pricking it again if necessary, reduce the temperature to 325°F and bake for 10 more minutes, or until light golden brown. Remove to a cooling rack.

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