I’m going to preface this recipe with a little story about pie crust, to start. I’ve long had pie crust anxiety.
It was only made worse when last year when I went home to San Antonio for a visit.
Before I’d even begun packing, I’d asked my Nan if she would teach me , really teach me , how to make pie crust.
“It’s been a while”, she said. But she agreed that we would make an apple pie together.
Knowing my own history with my flaky dough nemesis, I didn’t even pull the apples out of the pantry before the crust was made.
It turned out to be a good choice. Nan and I set out to make our crust, and she had me pull out all the ingredients.
She said for 72 of her 75 years, she’s made pie crust , always with shortening and water.
Five minutes in, I could tell it wasn’t going well. The litany of curses erupting from my sweet grandmother’s mouth was the first indication.
More shortening, more water. The damn thing would never come together. Nan’s final words on the subject were, “This has never happened to me in my life!”
From that moment on, I’ve been certain I had a pie crust curse. But last week when I visited King Arthur Flour, I knew if anyone could cure me, it was these guys.
I have to apologize for not taking any photos of the process.
As Susan Miller began to speak on Tuesday morning, I realized if I was really going to cure this affliction, I had to put down the camera and listen to every nuance, and watch every tiny step of her hands.
I’m glad I did, because I made my very first successful pie crust, with my bare hands and a pastry cutter (sorry, Robyn!).
Important Factors to Pie Crust
Susan explained to us that there are two things you want from a pie crust: flakiness and tenderness. However, those two things can be at war with one another, because one depends on lots of moisture, and the other depends on not having moisture!
So you have to strike a balance between the two. I’ll get to how King Arthur achieves that balance in a second.
Use Quality Flour To Get The Best Results
First, I want to talk about the quality of their flour, and why you should use it in your baking.
For a start, King Arthur Flour never bleaches their flour. This chemical process is meant to turn the flour white quickly and easily.
It’s not necessary , it happens over time on its own without the use of chemical bleach or bromides. You don’t really want to bake with bleach, do you?
King Arthur is also very selective about where their flour comes from, and are exacting in their requirements on gluten protein.
Their flour comes from U.S. growers only, and none is allowed to deviate more than one-tenth of a percent in either direction on protein content.
What does this mean for you and me, the home bakers of the world? It means that we get consistent results every single time when we bake with King Arthur Flour.
Other brands allow their protein contents to vary as much as 10% in either direction.
That means that baking with Brand XYZ flour will give you wildly varying results from bag to bag that you buy.
Don’t you wonder why sometimes you get a super flat cookie when last time they were kind of chubby and solid, and nothing changed about the recipe?
This is easily caused by the gluten protein content of your bag of flour!
Very simply, King Arthur is the best flour in the business because it requires itself to be.
Secrets to the Flakiest Pie Crust
Now back to that pie crust. Susan Miller taught us that the secret to a flakey and tender pie crust is to cut the butter into the flour twice.
With the recipe below, I want you to take half the butter, and cut it into smallish chunks , maybe 1/4″ cubes.
Using a pastry blender, you’ll cut the butter in until the dough resembles coarse cracker meal, and the flour starts to change color from extremely white to slightly butter yellow.
Take the second half of your butter, and cut it into slightly larger chunks, maybe 1/2″ cubes.
Cut that into the dough until it’s just combined. You’ll still have large chunks of butter running through.
Follow the rest of the recipe as described, and with your own bare hands, you’re going to make pie crust!
A little tip from KAF Instructor Robyn about keeping a round pie crust as you roll – roll in one direction, but pat the edges into a round and turn it often.
You’ll end up with an even, and most importantly, round, pie crust in no time.