Pie is a year round affair at the Wright household for as long as I can remember. Every Thanksgiving we have a Pie Party. My dad is the pie baker of the family and makes 15-20ish different pies and we have a big party! My job is the decorating. There was a time in my life for whatever reason I missed five pie parties in a row. It was a dark time in my life. Over the years pies have been added including (but not limited to) key lime, chocolate haupia, lilikoi, and candy land.
The secret to a great pie? The crust. There are a lot of pie dough recipes out there. But the secret to great pie crust is to not overwork the dough. Pie crust should be tender and flaky. If you overwork it, the crust will become tough and hard. Personally, I avoid making pie whenever I can. I find the crust frustrating and especially upsetting when it doesn’t turn out how I was expecting. But thankfully, between Nathan and my dad, I’m never stuck making the crust.
The following recipe is the one my dad most often uses.
- 1 cup shortening (I use butter-flavored Crisco)
- 2¾ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ - ⅔ cup ice water
- Mix flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut shortening into the flour mixture until the particles are about the size of peas. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing gently with a fork until all the flour is moistened and pastry almost cleans the side of the bowl. You may need a little more water.
- Gather half the dough into a ball and shape into a flattened round on a lightly floured surface. Roll pastry out into a round circle with a rolling pin until approximately 2 inches larger than the pie pan. Lift occasionally to prevent sticking.
- Carefully fold the pastry into quarters and place into pie pan. Unfold and press firmly into bottom and sides. For a baked pie shell, prick bottom and sides with a fork. Bake at 475o for about 10 minutes, until crust is golden brown.
This recipe is Nathan’s go to pie crust recipe.
- 2½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
- ¼ to ½ cup ice water
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour and salt; pulse to combine. Add the butter, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some larger pieces remaining, about 10 seconds. (To mix by hand, combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, then cut in butter with a pastry blender.)
- With the machine running, add the ice water through the feed tube in a slow, steady stream, just until the dough holds together without being wet or sticky. Do not process more than 30 seconds. Test by squeezing a small amount of the dough together; if it is still too crumbly, add a bit more water, 1 tablespoon at a time.
- Turn out the dough onto a clean work surface. Divide in half, and place each half on a piece of plastic wrap. Shape into flattened disks. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight. The dough can be frozen for up to 1 month; thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.
Whatever recipe you use, remember to work the dough as little as possible.
Nathan here. Let me be first to say how impressed I’ve always been with the visual perfection of Uncle Mark’s pie crusts. They are always a consistent thickness and the decorative edge is always just perfect. He makes it look easy as, well, as easy as pie. My crust recipe (and just a foreshadowing, I plan on thoroughly reading and experimenting with Julia Childs pie crust suggestions here in the future) produces a rougher more rustic looking pie crust (let’s be honest, it’s probably more me than the recipe) and many explicit interjections as I try to make the crust cooperate. When using a butter based crust I much prefer a good, thick pie crust because I love it.