Making a good pastry is one of life’s simple tasks. The trick is it not to overthink it, or overwork it. It is made from the most basic of ingredients: flour, fat, water & salt. These can be enhanced with a bit of sugar & vinegar, but essentially that’s all that goes in a great pastry. The sugar is to sweeten it, while the vinegar helps to keep the gluten in check. The acid in the vinegar helps to keep the gluten from overdeveloping, which helps to create a tender, flaky crust. However the most important keys to achieving a flaky crust are to use cold fats, and to not overwork the dough.
Measure your fats by weight, and you’ll get a better product. Allow for 7 oz. of combined fats per two-crust pie. You can vary the fats as long as you stick to the correct weight ratio. I prefer a mix of shortening & butter. Remember if using lard that your pie will not be vegetarian if that’s a concern.
When baking pies, make your pastry first, let it set covered in the fridge for at least an hour (or up to a day) while you prepare your fruit.
Makes 2 crusts – 1 pie with top & bottom crusts or 2 pies with just a bottom crust
3 cups flour
2T sugar, optional (don’t use if making savory pies)
2 oz butter – cut into 1” cubes (56 grams)
5 oz shortening – cut into 1” cubes (140 grams)
½ c ice water (fridge temperature)
2t vinegar, optional (white or apple cider)
In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.
Add in the fats.
Using a pastry blender cut the fats into the dry ingredients. You can also use two knives, or your fingers (but only if you have cold hands!) The largest pieces of fat should be no larger than a pea.
Trickle in the water (with vinegar mixed in, if using) over the top of the flour & fat mixture.
Using a fork, toss and lightly stir the mixture together. It will start to leave the sides of the bowl as it mixes. Don’t beat it or overwork it. It just needs to hold together well enough to form a ball. If there’s a bit of flour left in the bowl, you might want to add a drip or two more water and stir a bit more or, if it seems a bit wet, add a small spoonful or two of flour, and stir to combine.
Use the pastry to proceed with your recipe.