What MAKES a pie, a true PIE? The crust. Buttery, flakey, pastry goodness. To some, it is more important than the filling itself. Simple and basic ingredients, a pie crust is something every true chef/pastry chef/baker/cook wannabe should perfect.
To get some basic pie facts straight:
A pie: Contains a bottom crust, filling, and top crust or streusel topping
A cobbler: filling and pastry topping
A crisp: filling and streusel topping
3 Easy-Breezy tips to a successful pie crust:
1) Use cold ingredients and equipment! Here is a fact: all types of fat (butter, shortening, oil, etc) are called "shortening" in the pastry world because fat "shortens" gluten strands. (Gluten is the "structure" beind the sweet item.) Also, fat is easier to work with when it is cold/chilled. Make sure the bowl you are using with is chill (you can put it in the freezer for 5 minutes) and not warm.
2)Use good ingredients! I love and swear by an all-butter crust. Others like shortening, lard, or oil. Yes, shortening is the best fat for flakiness, but butter has the BEST flavor and it is all-natural. I have tried 50% butter and 50% shortening, but it does not have the same texture or flavor as an all-butter crust. Master an all-butter crust then experiment with other types of crust. Remember, practice makes perfect....or me sooo tired!
3) Chill it out! When mixing the pie crust, do not overmix because it will cause excess gluten development and become tough and chewy. There are times when we want a lot of gluten, think any type of dough we mix for a long period of time: pizza dough, bagels, french bread, etc. Then, think of items we mix for a short period of time (low gluten development): cookies, cake, pie crust, most pastry items, etc. Just mix until combine, do not be afraid to use your hands! I do not like using a food processor because it does not let me control how evenly the fat is rubbed in. After mixing, wrapped the pie crust and chill for at least 2 hours, or over night.
The order of a pie crust:
-Measure ingredients correctly. Shift dry ingredients.
-Cut the chill butter into 1-inch cubes.
-"Rub" the chilled butter into the dry ingredients. Think about "rubbing" the fat inbetween the flour to make "pea-size" fat shapes. This action makes the crust nice and flakey. Too much "rubbing" will cause more of a "shortbread" crust versus a flaky crust. "Rubbing" not enough will cause a crust that is not flaky. Make sure the fat ends up pea-sized!
-Add the cold liquid. Mix to combine. I like to use my hands and a dough scraper (a rectangle-shaped plastic kitchen gadget; pretty cheap at any kitchen store).
-Wrapped in plastic wrap and chill overnight.
Remember, a bad pie crust will be underbaked, soggy, and bland. A good pie crust will be flaky, buttery, and compliment the pie filling. Practice is key when making a pie crust! Ask around and see what other people's tricks are. Happy Baking!