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easy as pie
how to make a better pie crust
by Yee-Fan Sun |
1 2 3 4

It doesn't seem like it should be tricky. Look at the ingredients list for a pie crust, and even the most novice of bakers will feel comforted by the simplicity of what's required. But if you've ever wrestled with a homemade pie crust, you already know: there's an art to making pie, and all too many recipes don't take the time to explain it properly. 

At its most basic, a pie crust consists of little more than fat, flour, salt and water. You can add in a bit of sugar if you're using it for a dessert, and ditch the salt if your butter's the salted variety. Pastry flour works best, but all-purpose is just dandy as well. And as for the fat: the debate rages on over whether butter or shortening makes the best crust. Butter has an infinitely better flavor than shortening, but the latter yields a dough that's a little easier to work with. And while both butter and shortening can produce a flaky crust, the flakiness comes a little more naturally to the shortening than the butter. In an attempt to get the best of both fats, a lot of folks will use half butter, half shortening; me, I'm a sucker for 100% all-butter goodness.

Any addition beyond those four or five basic ingredients -- sour cream, cream cheese, whatever -- is just being schmancy. And while many of these more involved recipes will produce very nice crusts, they're really no better than the plain old fat-flour-water version. If you're looking for that miracle ingredient that will transform your pasty piecrust into a crisp-tender-flaky-golden marvel, forget it: the magic isn't so much in the ingredients, which are just about as simple as you can get. Nope, it's in the mixing. Which is why the only way to achieve a perfect piecrust is by working on your technique. Check out our pie tutorial, and get practicing...

The recipe (single crust)
If you happen to have a kitchen scale around, you can avoid ever having to look up your pie crust recipe again by remembering the magic ratio of 3 parts flour to 2 parts butter to 1 part water (by weight). I like to add a lil' sugar and salt, though this isn't essential. If you're working with the normal cups and measuring spoons, this recipe works dandy as well…

1˝ cups flour
˝ cup cold butter
˝ tsp. salt (skip if your butter's salted)
2 Tbsp. sugar (optional)
3-4 Tbsp. ice water

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