With the holidays upon us, my thoughts naturally turn toward pie. That’s not really true. I think about pie all the time, but on holidays and special occasions, my mother’s pies are a traditional part of the celebration. Her pies are worthy of celebration in and of themselves.
Mom’s pie crusts are so rich and flaky the filling is almost an extravagance. She says the trick is to keep the liquid and fat as cool as possible. She uses a ratio of one part shortening to two parts flour and always uses a beaten egg. Add only as much liquid to the flour as you need to form a workable dough. Handle that dough only as much as you must to cut in the fat and the liquid. Don’t overwork it when you form the dough ball and roll it out.
Recipe for a 9” Pie Crust
- 3 cups flour
- 1 ½ cups shortening – if it is warm in your kitchen cool shortening before use
- ¼ cup of cold water, tainted with a splash of vinegar
- 1 egg, beaten and chilled
Cut the shortening into the flour using a pastry cutter until somewhat coarser than cornmeal. Be gentle – you don’t want to overdo this; if the shortening warms as you work the mixture your crust won’t be as flaky.
Combine the water and egg, mix well. Add ½ of this liquid to the flour and shortening, using a fork to mix it in as you add it. Again, be gentle.
Dribble the rest of the liquid in around the edges of the bowl where it is still floury. The trick is to handle it as little as possible, so the fat doesn’t melt but your dough gets well mixed.
Form dough into a ball, without overworking. Place 2/3 of the dough ball on a floured pastry cloth. Encase your rolling pin in a floured pastry sock and roll your dough into a rough circle. Place this crust in your pie pan. The remaining dough is for the top crust, which you will pinch together with the bottom crust around the rim of the pie. If you protect this edge with strips of foil while baking your pie, you can brown your top crust nicely without scorching the raised edges.