When it comes to the pie crust I am a fan of using butter instead of shortening....just don't like shortening, I will use lard in savory crusts (like for Pot Pies) but butter is my go to for dessert crusts.
COLD, COLD, COLD butter is VERY important!!! If your butter isn't cold enough you will not get the right consistency of crumbs when you are making your crust. I suggest cutting your butter into cubes before you even start anything else, then after you cube the butter put it right back into the fridge until the very last moment. Do not over work the dough. Your dough should not be in a big ball before you start rolling it out, crumbles are better. After you get your crumble consistency you just want to gently pat it together and stick it back into the freezer. Now you can either freeze your crust in advance or you can leave it in there for about 30 minutes before you proceed to kneading and rolling it out. Remember the colder the butter can stay the likelier you will have a soft flakey crust.
Here is my recipe for Pie Crust:
2 1/2 cups of all purpose floor, you will also need more for dusting your work surface
1 cup or 2 sticks of butter, unsalted and cubed
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
6-8 TBS ice cold water
**you may need more or less depending on the humidity level when making.....I put ice cubes into my water before using it, just fill a glass with water and ice and scoop out what you need while you are making your crust**
If you are doing your pie crust by hand: Combine your flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl before taking your butter out of the refrigerator. When you are ready to add your butter take it out of the refrigerator and begin to cut it into the flour (I use a pastry blender to this because I typically always have warm hands). If you do not have a pastry blender you can use you two butter knives to cut it into the butter. DO NOT ADD ANY WATER until your mixture looks like in the picture below.
When your mixture looks like in the picture slowly start adding your water little by little, this is where you can use your hands to incorporate the water into the flour. Once you feel like the dough is has starting to bind then you have added enough water. Do not add more water then needed otherwise your crust will become tough.
At this point you will need to pull out enough plastic wrap to cover a 13x9 surface. Scope your mixture onto the plastic wrap. DO NOT knead the dough, gently press it together just enough to make it stick together in a big clump. Then wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and stick it into the freezer. If you plan on using it on the same day leave it in the freezer at least 30 minutes before continuing to work with it. Otherwise you can leave this in the freezer for up to a week. Take it out of the freezer and put it in the refrigerator the night before you plan on using it otherwise it will be too hard to even attempt to knead and roll.
|My dough before putting it in the freezer|
I keep a pastry brush in my drawer of tools to brush off the excess flour after I have rolled my pie crust out.
Roll your pie crust out to the needed size of your pie pan and then gently lift it into your pan.
Then add your filling and bake!
You can also pre-bake your pie crust and then freeze it for later. After you put your crust into the pie pan take a fork a poke a few holes into the bottom to prevent it from bubbling up while baking or fill it with uncooked white rice, this will also prevent it from bubbling. You could use dried beans or peas too but I prefer rice because it fills the surface better. Then put it in the oven at 375F for 10-15 minutes. Cool completely before freezing.
You can also egg wash the crust before baking to add a shiny, golden brown finish to your crust.
Heavy cream, half and half or milk; any of these can be used for sweet pies. You can also lightly sprinkle the crust with sugar after brushing on your wash for an extra touch.
Egg Yolk can be used for a savory crust.