Nothing beats the feeling you get when you make a pie completely from scratch. However, unless you are a professional baker, pastry can be intimidating. I shied away for years, but now absolutely love baking pies.
The Science of Flaky Pastry
Inside the hot oven, the fat layered in the dough melts. This creates a hole which is further expanded by the steam from the water in the pie dough. These reactions cause a lift in the pastry, resulting in a flaky crust.
An easy way to get into the habit of baking pie and thus improving skill, is to break the process in two:
- Make ahead and freeze the crust.
- Assemble and fill the pie later.
I like to prepare 2 or 3 double crusts and have them in the freezer. Defrost in the fridge the night before you want to bake. And if something comes up on the day and you can’t bake, the crust is good in the fridge for up to 5 days.
A favourite is a mix of shortening and butter; and not purely because of cost—though that’s always an incentive. The combination of the two fats makes for a flaky more flavourful crust.
Here I share my three favourite crust recipes. One is attached to the Timeless Classic – Apple Pie post. I have also since tried and loved these two: one is all shortening (kimbo/kasuku) while the other is all butter. For the all butter recipe, I have altered Helen Rennie’s recipe to work with the flour we get here in Kenya. But more importantly her technique. is key. Watch this video to learn.
Why not make them and label them clearly in a ziplock bag and decide which one is your favourite?
Homemade Flaky Pie Crust II
- 4 cups (500 grams) flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 3 Tablespoon sugar
- 1 1/3 cup (260 grams) chilled shortening
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup ice cold water
DirectionsMix the 4 cups flour, 2 teaspoons salt and 3 Tablespoons sugar together.
Into the bowl, using a fork, pastry cutter, cut in the 1 1/3 cup chilled shortening. Alternatively you could do this entirely in the food processor.
Lightly beat the egg and mix with 1/2 cup ice-cold water.
Pour in the liquid ingredients into the flour mixture. Using a fork, bring the dough together.
Wrap tightly in cling film, or a plastic/food bag and chill for at least an hour in the fridge, or throw in the freezer.
Homemade Butter Flaky Pie Crust III
- 380 grams (3 cups) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 200 grams cold butter cubed
- 1/4 cup vodka
- 1/4 cup ice cold water (if you have no vodka, then 1/2 cup of ice cold water will do)
DirectionsIn a bowl, whisk together the 380 grams flour, 1 Tablespoon of salt and 2 Tablespoons sugar.
Take the chopped cold 200 grams butter and using a fork or pastry cutter, mix it into the flour. You still want to be left with visible solid bits of butter (pea size), that will melt into flaky goodness. Alternatively, use a food processor.
Still using your fork, mix in the quarter cup of ice cold water and quarter cup vodka or, half cup of ice water. The water is just enough to moisturise the flour and the dough begins to form large clumps. Gluten does not develop in alcohol, and the alcohol evaporates in the oven.
Tip the mixture on to a floured surface and press it together while twisting it until it comes together and holds.
Wrap tightly in cling film, or a plastic/food bag and chill for at least an hour in the fridge, or throw in the freezer until the day you are ready to bake.
It is a large amount of crust, so divide in two or use both for a double crust pie.