Cooking Hint of the Day - The Secrets to Flakey Pie Crust : LUSENET : Cooking & Crafts : One Thread


On another forum someone had asked how to make flakey pie crust. I thought it would be a good idea to also post my response here. There really are some secrets to perfect flakey AND tender pie crust. Once you know them you will have perfect crust everytime - guaranteed!

First, you have to understand how pie crust works to become flaky. The shortening blends with the flour and the moisture holds it all together. The shortening is trapped in the four mixture and melts creating the "layers" which is the flakey part of the crust. The "secret" is actually several things:

The texture of the shortening/flour has to be just right. You need to cut the shortening in (use a pastry cutter or big meat fork). The texture you are looking for is a little less than the size of tiny peas. Any bigger and you won't have the many layers.

You will get the biggest percentage of layers if you use lard. Lard breaks down differantly in baking than shortening and lard creates a much "shorter" (meaning more tender) crust with lots of layers.

When you add the water it MUST be ice cold. You don't want to break down that shortening or soften it too much. Use ice water.

The most important part is not in over mixing. You can use all the right ingrediants but if you overmix or overwork your dough it will be horrible. When you add the water, add it a tablespoon at a time and just toss it into the flour. NEVER mix your dough! Just work in the water with a fork ONLY and toss and turn it. Don't mix. You want it JUST barely hold together without breaking all apart when you roll it out. Your crust will be good if you error on the side of not enough water as opposed to too much water. You end up with tough crust if you use too much water because you will be making glue which, again, breaks down those layers.

Remember, the least amount you work with it (whether mixing, or rolling) the better the crust will be because every time you fuss with it those little layers are smashing together and not staying nice and apart. When you take it out of the bowl, do so gently and just pull it into a ball. Important: Do NOT knead it! Just kind of gather it into a ball to begin rolling.

When you roll out the crust another thing to remember is you have most all the flour you need. Try not to work too much more into the crust. Do be sure and flour your work surface and rolling pin well. It is also important that you roll from the center out. You don't want to stretch the dough. Stretching also breaks up those little fat globs.

As you can see, there more to crust making than just tossing it all togehter, but it doesn't take any more time to do it correctly. Just keep these things in mind and I promise you the perfect crust every single time. Even times when it might not roll out great (remember humidity plays a role here also) it will still taste just as good as the picture perfect crust.

By the way. Here is my favorite basic pie crust (makes a double crust):

2 cups of flour
1 tsp. salt
2/3 cups of lard or Crisco
6-8 tablespoons water (sometimes more, sometimes less depending on the weather)

By the way, those recipes with the vinegar and egg (although can be good) artificially create the layers by creating a "rising" of the dough. Not meaning any disrespect to those recipes, it just does not taste like real lard crust and not near as tender and flakey.

Also, don't be tempted by the quick and easy food processor method. To get really flakey pie crust, you have to do it by hand. One reason is that when blending by food processor you will be "heating" up the ingrediants. If you quickly pulse the processor to blend in the shortening you can get by okay if done quickly - but DO NOT use the processor for blending in the water. It is very important to work the water in by tossing - not mixing! Mind you, I am not saying other pie crusts are not good or that this is the only method you should use or meaning any disrespect to the way someone has always done it, I am just telling you the correct way to the PERFECT crust - guaranteed! Remember, your making a pastry not a cookie. For sucess you have to have proper ingrediants at the right temperature and a light touch.

-- Karen (, April 26, 2002


What, no butter, no sugar? Eat the filling and leave the crust, lol!

-- GT (, April 26, 2002.

I use my food processor to make pie crust, BUT I'm very careful to limit the pulsing. And, as I add the water, one tablespoon at a time, I watch the texture of the mixture. Sometimes, I even remove the cover and test it by pinching a bit between my fingers. With pie crust, too little is better than too much.

-- Ardie/WI (, April 26, 2002.

My grandmother made the BEST pie crust ever! She never actually taught me how but I remember her telling me only flour, lard and ICE water. The recipie above sounds just like hers. I will have to try it! She is no longer around to ask. And I agree with you, the ones that have egg and butter, are not even close to being as good as the simple flour, water, lard crust!

-- Frank (, September 29, 2002.

As an easy addition to this recipe, on a cooking show on Food Tv, they mentioned freezing your shortening, and then just grating it into the floor in the premeasured amount. I did that with this recipe, and it made a to die for crust. That way the shortening is already in tiny little pieces and easy to fold into the flour with a fork, with no cutting. It was a handy tip.

-- Barbie (, August 22, 2003.

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