Pie is one of those treats that is incredibly versatile. The size, shape and design can be tailored to the baker’s liking and fillings can be easily changed to reflect the season.
But, the best part of the pie? The crust.
Follow our basic guide to create the best homemade crust this holiday season.
The 3:2:1 pie dough ratio
The most flaky, tender crust comes down to a simple 3:2:1 ratio of ingredients—flour, fat, water— no actual recipe needed. This is the basics foundation for not only pies, but also tarts, galettes, pot pies, hand pies and more.
The “3” in this ratio is flour. Pastry flour contains less gluten than all-purpose flour and therefore creates a more tender crust, but all-purpose flour will work just fine if that’s what you have on hand.
The “2” is fat. Butter is the most common type of fat used, but other solid fats will work as well. Lard produces a flaky crust; coconut oil can be used to create a vegan crust. Substitute chicken or bacon fat for a portion of the fat in savory applications. Whatever fat you choose, it must be cold and solid - no liquid oils as they don't create the necessary air pockets for a light, flaky crust.
The “1” is ice cold water. Dissolve about 1/4 teaspoon of salt per batch to make the water extra cold.
The amounts in the 3:2:1 ratio refer to the weight (e.g. 3 oz. flour, 2 oz. fat, 1 oz. water). With those exact measurements you could make a pie crust, but it would be quite small. To know exactly how much dough you need you must first know how big your pie pan is. A basic rule of thumb: one inch of pan equals one ounce of dough. Using the standard nine inch pie pan, follow this recipe:
4.5 ounces flour + 3 ounces fat + 1.5 ounces water + 1/4 teaspoon salt = 9 ounces
Don't have a kitchen scale? Never fear. One cup of flour weighs roughly 4.5 ounces. How convenient! And 1 ounce equals 2 tablespoons. With this in mind, here’s the same recipe as above for a single batch:
1 cup flour + 6 tablespoons fat + 3 tablespoons water + 1/4 teaspoon salt = 9 ounces
Making a pie that requires a top crust? Just double the recipe.
How to mix pie dough
The most important step is cutting the cold fat into the flour. If you don’t do this, you’ll lose the flakiness. The easiest way to do this is with a food processor. Add your flour and then your cold fat (cut up into smaller tablespoon-size chunks). Now pulse the machine until the mixture creates pea-size pieces of fat evenly distributed throughout the flour.
With the machine running, stream in your water until the mixture forms a dough. You may need to add slightly more water if your mixture is too crumbly, but don’t add too much more or your crust will turn out tough. A little crumble is what you’re looking for.
If you don’t have a food processor, you can cut your butter using a pastry blender: two butter knives. Put your flour in a bowl, add your cold butter or other fat and start cutting away until you get those pea-size pieces. Make a well in the middle of your mixture, add your water and combine by hand until a dough forms.
Chill pie dough before using
Chilling the dough prior to baking is key. If you’re making a single batch, form the dough into a disk, wrap it up and place it in the fridge to chill for at least an hour. If you’re making a double batch, divide the dough in two and do the same thing.
Authored by Megan Dom. Reprinted by permission from StrongerTogether.coop. Find articles about your food and where it comes from, recipes and a whole lot more at www.strongertogether.coop.