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The best pies are those where the pie crust is just as good as the filling. This flaky homemade pie crust recipe is the perfect pie crust for fruit pies, custard pies, chicken pot pies and quiches.
What’s the secret to flaky pie crust
There’s so much science behind pastry making. Some chefs swear by using all butter. Others prefer vegetable shortening. My sister-in-law even adds a tablespoon of vodka to her pie crust recipe.
But my secret to creating an incredibly flaky pie crust is to use beef tallow.
For centuries, people have used animal fat for baking to create amazingly delicious recipes.
PRO TIP: Rendered beef fat is called tallow, rendered pork fat is called lard and rendered chicken fat is called schmaltz.
Beef tallow has a similar consistency to Crisco. And don’t worry, it won’t make your pie taste like a hamburger. Instead, it adds a richness that you can’t get from butter or shortening alone.
In addition to choosing the right fat, it really helps if you keep the pie crust cold before baking it. If it’s warm, the fat melts too soon. Instead, you want it to melt and evaporate as it cooks to create crispy, flaky layers.
Because tallow and shortening are easier to work with when they’re at room temperature, I chill the crust after it’s made before baking the pie.
What I learned at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris
When I lived in Belgium, I had the opportunity to take a couple of courses in Paris at Le Cordon Bleu. Primarily, I learned to make authentic French baguettes and croissants.
One of the primary things that I came away with is that you should use the best ingredients you can afford, and you should weigh your measurements.
If you measure a cup of flour over and over, it will weigh different almost every time. For instance, if you place your measuring cup straight in the flour and scoop it out, it will weigh more. If you use a scoop to fill your measuring cup, it will weigh less.
That’s why professional bakers always weigh their dry ingredients. That way, they know that they’re getting consistent measurements every time.
- Crisco Shortening: I like buying the sticks of Crisco, but you can also scoop some from the tub. Crisco is a vegetable fat made from soybeans and fruit from the oil palm tree.
- Beef Tallow: You can make your own by slowly cooking down brisket trimmings or you can purchase beef tallow on Amazon or in your local grocery store in the oil section.
- All Purpose Flour: You can experiment with other types of flours, but you may need to adjust the amount listed in the recipe.
- Granulated Sugar: This adds a little sweetness and helps the crust brown.
- Salt: Table salt is best for baking, but you can use kosher salt, if that’s all you have on hand.
- Cold Water: How much water you need will vary from 5-7 tablespoons.
Substitutions: If you can’t find beef tallow, you can also use lard.
How to make flaky pie crust
- STEP ONE: In a large bowl, combine the shortening, tallow, flour, sugar and salt with a pastry cutter or two forks. A pastry cutter is like a whisk with a handle that allows you to break down the fat and combine it with the flour.
- STEP TWO: Add cold water one tablespoon at a time, until the dough is smooth and doesn’t crack when you press it.
- STEP THREE: Shape the dough into a disc. Wrap it in plastic wrap and chill it for at least an hour.
PRO TIP: It’s important to chill the dough after working it, so that the fat hardens. For the flakiest crust, you want it to melt as it’s baking.
How to use the pie crust
Remove the pie crust from the refrigerator. It will be slightly sticky and that’s okay.
Use a rolling pin to roll it between two sheets of parchment paper or waxed paper to the size that you need to fit your pie pan.
Using the parchment paper is important. If you roll it on the counter, it will stick, and you do not want to add excess flour; otherwise your crust will become too dense.
This recipe yields enough pie crust for 9-inch double crust pie or one deep dish single crust pie.
Follow the recipe for your sweet or savory pie and bake accordingly.
You can keep your pie crust disc stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. You can also freeze the unbaked pie crust. If you freeze it in the shape of a disc, you can keep it for about 6 months. Before using it, let it thaw in the refrigerator.
If you shape the pie crust into a pie tin and then freeze it, use it within one month or it will start to form ice crystals, which will create too much moisture and make your pie less flaky.
GCG Pro Pitmaster Tips
- For a super flaky crust, use beef tallow in place of some of the vegetable shortening
- Chill the pie crust after its mixed so the fat hardens before baking
- Roll the pie crust between two sheets of parchment paper to prevent it from sticking to the counter
Frequently Asked Questions
Like biscuits and puff pastry, pie crust ends up with flaky layers when you have a proper fat to flour ratio and when the fat has hardened before going into the oven. This gives the fat the opportunity to melt as it bakes, creating puffs of steam that form pockets within the dough.
Pies don’t just have to be sweet. You can use this pie crust to make quiches, chicken pot pie, hand pies, tarts and so much more.
A little. Shortening and tallow are a little softer than butter, so they will melt more quickly, causing your dough to feel sticky. That’s why it’s important to add the cold water one tablespoon at a time. You only want to add enough water for the dough to come together. If you add too much, it will feel sticky.
No. Adding too much flour will make your pie crust more dense. Instead, place the dough on a sheet of parchment paper or wax paper. Then, add another sheet on top and roll the dough between the two sheets. It should release easily.
If you roll the pie crust between two sheets of paper, you can remove the top sheet. Then, flip the pie crust over right on top of the pie dish and peel off the paper. Finally, just press dough inside to the shape of the pan, use a sharp knife to trim off the excess dough and form the decorative edge.
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The Best Flaky Pie Crust for Sweet and Savory Pies
- 3/4 cup Crisco shortening
- 1/4 cup beef tallow
- 2 1/3 cup all purpose flour, (300 grams)
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp table salt
- 5-7 tbsp cold water
- Mix: In a large bowl use a pastry cutter to combine the shortening, tallow, flour, sugar and salt. Add water one tablespoon at a time, until the dough is smooth and doesn't crack when pressed.
- Chill: Shape the dough into a disc. Wrap in plastic wrap. Chill until ready to use.
- Form: When it's time to make a pie, roll the pie crust out between two sheets of parchment paper and place it in the pie tin. Bake according to the pie recipe instructions.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.