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Making pie crust pastry from scratch has a bit of a bad rap…it is a little work and can turn out tough. So I always used to avoid the problem altogether by buying pre-made pie crusts and not even attempt to make my own.
Then I ran into a situation where my local grocery store was out of the pre-made mini-tart shells and so I was forced into making my own. And I was actually surprised that they weren’t nearly as hard to make as I thought they would be. And they tasted better than the store-bought ones.
So here is what I have learned on how to make no-fail pie crust pastry (or tart shells).
But first a story about flour…As you may or may not know I grew up in Canada and moved to the United States a few years after I graduated from university. When I first moved to the U.S. I used to wonder why none of my favorite Canadian baking recipes seemed to turn out. Since I was living in South Florida at the time, I blamed it on the higher humidity and assumed I just had to give up on those recipes. Then I moved to South Carolina and met my friend Mary who was also originally from Canada but had been living in the USA a lot longer than I had. Whenever one of us would go back to Canada to visit, we would bring back a list of Canadian things that are hard to find down here (eg. Nestle’s chocolate bars, butter tarts, Tim Horton’s coffee, HP Sauce)…then one time she asked me to bring back all-purpose flour. So I had to ask…why can’t you just buy flour at your local grocery store? And she told me that Canadian all-purpose flour and American all-purpose flour are made from different types of wheat (apparently the Canadian version has a higher gluten content). So the only way she could get her Canadian recipes to turn out properly was to use Canadian flour. Of course I had to try that out for myself…and it was true! I could finally go back to making my old favorite recipes. So now I keep Canadian flour to make Canadian recipes and American flour to make American recipes…which is why there are 2 lists of ingredients for this recipe. The process of making the crust is the same, but the proportion of flour to fat is different, and the amount of water required to make it stick will usually be different.
Besides the Canadian vs American flour differences, I have actually included 2 different types of recipes here. The first one is the easiest…a basic pastry made with shortening that is easy to work with and tastes great. The second one is made with butter and shortening and is a little more finicky to roll out…but makes a really light, flaky and delicious pie crust. So the choice is yours…really easy, or really good. (I usually go for the second one.)