If you are an inexperienced baker and the thought of tackling a homemade pie crust from scratch causes your throat to tighten and your palms to sweat, it's easy to head to the freezer section of your grocery store and pick up a ready-made pie crust. However, making a pie crust from scratch is relatively painless and does not require a lot of time.
A basic pie crust includes three main ingredients֖flour, fat (such as butter or shortening) and water. Many cooks argue over whether butter or shortening is best. Butter will add flavor, while shortening will give your crust more of a flaky texture.
Very cold ingredients also add flakiness to your crust. Prior to mixing, all your ingredients should be ice cold, including the flour. Your butter or shortening will need to be "cut in" to your dry ingredients, which means mixing a solid fat into dry ingredients until they come together as small particles. A food processor, pastry cutter and even your own two hands work well. Just be sure not to over-mix or handle the fat too much as the heat from your hands may cause it to melt.
Add just enough water to the mix to bind your dough together. The dough should end up being soft, pliable and easy to work with. Once you have formed your dough, chill it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before rolling out. You can also store your dough in the refrigerator for up to four days or in the freezer for up to four months.
As you begin rolling out your dough, keep a small bowl of flour nearby and use it generously as this will prevent the dough from sticking. Begin by forming a patty in the middle of the board. Starting in the middle of the patty, roll the pin away from you. Reposition and roll in the other direction. Finally roll the pin back toward you. It may take several passes to get your dough to the optimal thickness.
Basic Pie Crust
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup plus
1 tablespoon unsalted butter or shortening, cut into cubes
2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons cold water
Combine flour and salt. Cut shortening into flour using a food processor or pastry cutter until mixture forms coarse crumbs. Add water and mix just until dough comes together and forms a ball. Chill dough for approximately thirty minutes prior to rolling out.
Roll dough out onto a floured surface until it reaches the desired width and thickness. Carefully drape dough over an ungreased pie plate. Gently press dough into the corners of the plate. Using a knife or kitchen shears, trim excess dough around the edges of the plate. If desired, crimp edges by using a fork or by making a thumbprint around the perimeter of the crust. Makes 1 pie crust.