A good pie crust is more than just a vehicle to get the filling to your mouth. A good pie crust has flavor and flaky layers, and is tender but still snaps. My mother makes a fine pie crust. My grandmothers made very fine crusts. Me? Not so much. Until recently, I bought my crusts. Every few years, I gave ’em another try. All were sad disappointments. Tough. No layers. No flavor. I have tried shortening, butter, a combo, even oil (Mom uses oil with great success). I used a pastry cutter, two butter knives, my fingers. I overworked it. I rolled it too thick. I gave up.
So with the start of this blog, shame finally drove me to the pie crust again. I read ALOT. I watched Ina Gartner and America’s Test Kitchen and asked around. I took a cooking class where the dessert was a tart crust. I kept coming back to “DON’T TOUCH IT TOO MUCH” and “KEEP IT COLD” … over and over and over. The key equipment seemed to be a food processor. I didn’t have a full-size one, I don’t have the space to store one, but if I was ever going to conquer pie crusts, I felt I had to give it one more try. So I bought myself a basic Cuisinart food processor.
My first attempt was with an all-butter crust (from Cutie Pies by Dani Cone). I found I needed far less water than the printed recipe called for, but by carefully following the **technique**, I produced one FINE pie crust. Me! A pie crust! And I did it again and again!
Buoyed by my initial successes, I tweaked the recipe a bit, replacing some of the butter with lard. Yes, lard. Fruit of the pig. Properly rendered lard is as neutral in flavor as vegetable shortening, but none of that trans-crap. Lard truly elevates this crust from delicious to sublime. The lightness and flakiness and layers upon layers … I tell you, the lard really makes it. So I share with you, today, my pie crust.
Makes 1 double-crust 9″ pie or 2 single-crust 9″ pies
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup lard
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
1/2 cup ice water
Put the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of the food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse 2 or 3 times to combine. Put the lard and butter cubes on top of the flour.
Pulse just a few times until the fats are distributed into flour-coated pea-sized globs. This might be as little as 10 pulses.
Pour the iced water through the narrow feed tube and pulse just until it’s through the tube and the mixture looks like wet sand. This might be just 10 pulses.
Reach in and grab a small amount. Squeeze. Does it stick together like play-doh? If so — you are done!! If dry, add water just a teaspoon at a time, with a minimum of pulses, to get to this wet-sand-squeezable state.
Dump the contents onto your floured countertop. Divide in half. Shape each half into a disc. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap (or a zippered bag) and refrigerate for AT LEAST an hour and up to 3 days. Freeze if it’s going to be around longer than that.
When ready to roll, let it set out just a few minutes (no more than 10). Lard is softer at refrigerator temp than butter, so it can’t sit around long. On a lightly floured countertop, roll out your patty to about a 12″ circle about 1/4″ thick. I like to put my rolling pin in the center, roll away from me. Pick up the pin and place back in the center, roll towards me. Rotate the patty about a quarter-turn, and repeat. The larded crust is a little more fragile than an all-butter, so you may get a little tearing towards the edges. Patch it. Who cares. This pie crust ROCKS.