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A mixture of half butter and half shortening, along with a splash of vinegar, make this pie crust perfectly tender, flaky, and delicious.

Flaky Tender Pie Crust

Yesterday we examined the difference between butter and shortening in pie crust. Can anyone tell me what we learned?

Anyone? Anyone? 

(Name that movie.)

Ok, let’s recap: Because shortening is 100% fat, it makes pie crust tender. Because butter is about 20% water, it releases steam as it bakes, making pie crust flaky. Use all shortening and you will have a much harder time achieving a flaky crust. Use all butter and your dough will be much trickier to work with.

Now, what was our solution?

Anyone? Anyone?

That’s right: Use half butter and half shortening to make our crusts tender, flaky, and delicious! You get a gold star on your chart. A+.

This recipe also uses a tablespoon of white vinegar. I promise this will not affect the flavor of your crust, but it will help to keep your crust more tender/flaky because the vinegar helps prevent long strands of gluten from forming – and gluten is what makes your pie crust tough! Consider it insurance against slight over-mixing (you still want to be careful not to over-handle your dough, though).

I am not going to get deep into the depths of pie crust technique. I already covered that in my pie crust tutorial last spring, which will walk you through more of the detailed parts of making your crust than I am including below.

One important thing to note, however, is that, even though this recipe does use butter, I don’t necessarily call for chilling the dough first.

This is one of the things I always liked about an all-shortening crust (no need to chill the dough before rolling – when I want pie, I want it ASAP, people!), and I have found that keeping a half-butter/half-shortening mixture continues to eliminate the need for chilling the dough.

My one small exception to this, however, is when I am making a double-crusted pie: While I work with one half, I will put the other half in the fridge, just until I am ready for it. This does keep the dough from getting too warm while you are working with the other half.

It’s just one of my pie crust idiosyncrasies – I suppose when you make as many pies as I do, you are bound to have a few “rituals”.

Yes, pie-making is serious business.

Pie crust perfection

Flaky Tender Pie Crust

Flaky Tender Pie Crust

Yield: 1 double-crust or 2 single-crust 9-or 10-inch pies

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup butter, chilled, cut into pieces
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • About 7 tablespoons very cold water

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Add the shortening and butter; use a pastry blender to cut the butter and shortening into the flour until the mixture resembles a coarse meal with a few pea-sized pieces of butter/shortening.
  2. Sprinkle the vinegar and water over the mixture. Mix with a fork, just until the mixture holds together when squeezed in your palm - it will still look crumbly in the bowl. If your home is particularly dry, you may need to add a bit more water, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, until you reach the correct consistency.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a floured board. Pat into a circle; cut in half. Place one half in the refrigerator while you roll out the second to fit your pie plate. Remove second half from fridge and roll out to top the pie, baking according to your recipe.
  4. If totally blind baking, bake at 450 degrees for 8-10 minutes or just until golden.

Notes

For one single-crust pie, either halve the recipe or use half and freeze the other half for later.

 

18 Comments

  1. Ok, I’m going to try this! I’m actually thinking of making a pie for Valentine’s Day, and using this recipe. You know I’m getting bold by changing things up when it comes to my pie crust, but I’m excited to try it. I’m always looking to improve my pies. If I freeze one, should I just wrap it up and freeze it, or should I put it in the pie pan first?

    1. When I make pie crusts I make a large batch. I roll them out into discs for the size pie plate I need. Then I wrap each rolled out crust disc in saran wrap and lay it on a cookie sheet (the kind without sides) and stack them up each individually wrapped and stick them in the freezer on the pan for support. Then when I want a pie I take out one disc and let it thaw (takes no time at all). This works really well. I tried freezing them in pie plates stacked and after a time the would break from being hit by something else in the freezer.

    1. My pot pie recipe uses a little bit of vinegar and that crust NEVER fails, so I finally looked into the science of it. I tell ya, whoever figured this stuff out was a straight up genius. It works so well!

  2. Ooh, this is a fantastic post Stephie! So much technicality but… well, you’re not boring AT ALL. I wish you taught all my subjects at school (preferably with free pie). I’ve actually never made pie crusts with shortening before. I think i need to give this technique a go. Thanks… oh, and that sweet heart in the pastry? Gorgeous! xx

  3. 1. I’m over shortening. There, I said it. For most of my life, I didn’t believe in shortening in crusts. It had no flavor, it is rather icky and mysterious if you give it too much thought, and who cares about flakiness in a one-crust pie anyway? But then I weakened my resolve. All the Cook’s Illustrateds and Ina Gartens claimed that the only! best! way to make the flakiest! pie dough was to use shortening in part, and I do value their opinions so. I did this for about two years, and now I’m back to all butter, baby. Do you know why? Well, for all of the original reasons–flavor rules and ickiness is not worth it–but because I have also realized that when you really know how to make pie dough, it won’t matter which fat you use. So butter it is baby! I’ll never doubt it again.

    1. If all butter works for you, power to you! Go for it, girl! Everyone has their preferred method. This one just happens to be mine and I think works well for beginners, who might find all butter to be tricky to work with.

  4. I had my hand up but you probably couldn’t see me all the way over here in Georgia. I had a recipe something like this but lost it. Thanks for posting this!

  5. Since 1986, I’ve been using a method I found in our Sunday paper. It calls for the vinegar, all shortening (keep in freezer till mixing), and one egg! It has been a “no-fail” for me, but not as flaky as I’d like. I am going to try your method. It makes sense to me. We are a pie-loving family! I’m so glad I saw this and so anxious to make a pie right now!! Thanks. I’ll let you know if it is successful for me!!

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