Thursday, January 28, 2010

William's Pie Crust

William taught me the secrets to making a delicious pie crust, and I thought that it should be shared. I don't know what it is about him teaching me things, but...he's a brilliant instructor. (William - I hope you don't mind that I am sharing this...)

William’s Crust for a 9” Double Crust Pie 
    2 cups flour
    1 cup shortening
    ½ cup very cold water
    1 teaspoon salt
  • Mix the flour and salt in a medium mixing bowl to achieve a uniform dispersion.  Cut shortening into flour to make a heterogeneous mixture of shortening globules coated with flour (shoot for a mean volume of approximately 25 microliters – approximately the volume of a pea). 
  • Distribute the water evenly over the mixture and stir until just incorporated.  Do not overwork the dough or it will be tough.  The objective is to achieve a visually homogeneous pastry dough that actually consists of many pockets of shortening held together by a flour-water structure, while forming as little gluten as possible by not overworking the dough.  This results in a delicate, flaky crust. 
  • If possible, refrigerate the crust until chilled (at least 1 hour, optimally 3 – 4 hours).  This will solidify the fat, yielding a stiffer, easier to work with dough.
  • To roll out the dough, begin by forming an even disk (press into a ball, and then form the disk) with an approximate 3 inch radius.  The more uniform the shape and smooth the boundary the better will be the result.  Roll evenly from the center outward to obtain an even disk with radius 1 – 2 inches larger than the radius of the pie dish.  Place in pan and fill.  Trim the bottom crust even to the edge of the pie pan with a sharp knife. 
  • After rolling out the top crust in a similar fashion, moisten the rim of the bottom crust with a small amount of water so that the two crusts will seal together.  Trim the top crust to have approximately ¾ inch extra crust beyond the bottom crust.  Fold this excess crust under the lip of the bottom crust.  Gently mold the edge to achieve uniformity and flute extravagantly.
William also has several secrets to making crusts.

There are several:

Secret #1: The recipe
Use the recipe attached.  It has more shortening than some recipes and yields a very delicious crust.

Secret #2: Use the right ingredients
Crisco is worth buying.  Store brands do not taste as good.

Secret #3: Do not overwork the dough
This is the most important.  When you cut in the shortening don't mix it--you only want small pieces coated in flour.  When adding the water stir until just barely mixed.  Overworking it makes it tough and not flaky.  I use a rubber spatula to stir in the water.  Don't roll it out more than once.  Rolling it out develops gluten, which also makes it tough.

Secret #4: Refrigerate the dough
This makes it easier to work with when you are rolling it out.  An hour at least, but 3-4 is better.

Secret #5: Roll it out well.
Shape the crust into a sphere by pressing it (don't overwork it).  Flatten into a disk that is an inch thick.  Use your hand to smooth the edges so that the disk has even edges.  Then as you roll gently from the center outward in all directions it will roll out into a nice even circle.  After the circle has not quite doubled in diameter, pick it up and re-flour the surface or it will stick.  If it stops expanding in size when you are rolling, then you need more flour on the counter.  Don't roll it any bigger than you need to, as you want it to be as thick as possible.

Secret #6: Leave it kinda thick
If you are making a double crust 9" pie the attached recipe is the right amount.  If you are making a single crust, I'd 3/4 it rather than 1/2 it.  If you are making anything larger than 9" you might want to make more.  You want it to be nice and thick.

Secret #7: Make the edge thicker
If you are making a double crust, cut the bottom crust trim to the edge of the pan.  Moisten the edges to seal.  Cut the top crust an inch wider than the pan.  Then fold the top crust under the bottom crust.  Then flute.  This makes the seam better and the crust thicker.  If you are making a single crust, cut it an inch wider than the pan and fold it under to make the edge twice as thick.  Then flute.


  1. YES!!!! I love william's pies perhaps more than any other dessert. I can't wait to try his magical recipe. I hope it turns out half as good as his.

  2. Hmmm. I don't remember giving you this, but it is clearly mine. And that doesn't surprise me terribly, since I distribute it pretty freely.

    However, there is one more secret that's not listed here:

    Secret #8: Practice, Practice, Practice
    That's the only way to get perfect crust.


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