No-Fail Pie Crust Pastry

No-Fail Pie Crust Pastry
No-Fail Pie Crust Pastry

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.)

Really Easy Pie Crust Pastry

Really Easy Pie Crust Pastry | No-Fail Pie Crust Pastry
Really Easy Pie Crust Pastry

This recipe will make enough pastry for 2 pie shells, 1 double-crust pie, 12 regular size tarts or 24 mini-tarts.

If you only want to make a single pie crust, just use half the ingredients.

What You Need

Using American Flour

2 cups all-purpose flour (do not use self-rising flour)
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp vegetable shortening, cubed
4 to 6 Tablespoons of cold water

Using Canadian Flour

2½ cups all-purpose flour (do not use self-rising flour)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable shortening, cubed
4 to 6 Tablespoons of cold water

Pots and Utensils

Mixing bowl
Pastry blender* or 2 knives
Fork
Plastic wrap or bag

2 pieces of parchment paper or wax paper
Rolling Pin
(optional) 4½” round cookie cutter* (for regular sized tarts) or 2½” round cookie cutter* (for mini-tarts)
Pie pan or muffin tins

How To Put The Pie Crust Pastry Together

1. In the bowl, mix together the flour and salt.

2. Add the shortening.

A pastry cutter makes cutting in the shortening easier | No-Fail Pie Crust Pastry
A pastry cutter makes cutting in the butter or shortening easier

3. Use the pastry blender, or 2 knives to cut the shortening into the flour.  When you are done, you should have small pieces of shortening covered with flour that look something like granola.

4. Using the fork, mix in the water one tablespoon at a time.  You want to make sure that the dough is just wet enough to stick together as a ball.  After you have added 4 Tablespoons of water, try to make a ball out of the pastry.  If it sticks together you are done.  If it doesn’t, add the next tablespoon of water and try to form a ball out of the pastry again.  Keep adding water in small portions until you have created a ball out of the dough that sticks together.

5. Cut the dough in half.

Form the dough into a disc | No-Fail Pie Crust Pastry
Form the dough into a disc

6. Form the dough into 2 discs.

7. Cover with the plastic wrap.

8. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

9. Lay one sheet of parchment paper on the counter.

10. Remove one of the pastry discs from its plastic wrapping and put it on the parchment paper.  I usually leave the second pastry disc in the refrigerator until I am ready to use it.  Keeping it cold makes it easier to work with.

11. Lay the second sheet of parchment paper over the top of the pastry disc.

12. Use the rolling pin to flatten the pastry disc out into a circle that is about 1/8″ thick.  The parchment paper will keep the dough from sticking to the counter…which prevents you from having to add more flour…which keeps the pastry from getting tough.  A secret weapon for having your pastry turn out!

13. If you are using it for a pie shell, make sure that the pie dough circle is large enough to cover the pie pan.  To make it easy to put into the pie pan, roll the dough around the rolling pin and then unroll it over the pie pan.  Cut off any edges that fall over the edge of the pie pan.

Line the muffin tins with round circles cut from the dough | No-Fail Pie Crust Pastry
Line the muffin tins with round circles cut from the dough

14. If you are using the pastry for tart shells, use the biscuit cutter to cut circles from the rolled-out dough, and push them into the muffin tins.  There will be folds in the pastry around the edges…push them back towards the edge of the muffin tin to open up the center of the tart.

15. Use a fork to prick small holes in the bottom of the pie or tart crusts (this prevents it from puffing up during cooking).

At this point, your crust is ready to use.  You can even freeze it for up to a month and use at a later date.

Really Good Pie Crust Pastry

Really Good Pie Crust Pastry | No-Fail Pie Crust Pastry
Really Good Pie Crust Pastry

The trick to making butter pastry easier to manage is to use really cold butter and really cold water.

This recipe will make enough pastry for 2 pie shells, 1 double-crust pie, 12 regular size tarts or 24 mini-tarts.

If you only want to make a single pie crust, you can cut the ingredients in half and use just the egg yolk instead of a whole egg.

What You Need

Using American Flour

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable shortening, cubed
½ cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 egg
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
4 – 6 Tablespoons cold water

Using Canadian Flour

3 cups all-purpose flour (do not use self-rising flour)
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup shortening, cubed
½ cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 egg
2 teaspoons vinegar
4 – 6 Tablespoons ice water

Pots and Utensils

Mixing bowl
Pastry blender* or 2 knives
Small mixing bowl
Fork
Plastic wrap or bag

2 pieces of parchment paper or wax paper
Rolling Pin
(optional) 4½” round cookie cutter* (for regular sized tarts) or 2½” round cookie cutter* (for mini-tarts)
Pie pan or muffin tins

How To Put The Pie Crust Pastry Together

Regardless of which ingredients you are using, the process for putting the pastry together is pretty much the same.

1. In the bowl, mix together the flour and salt.

2. Add the shortening and butter.

A pastry cutter makes cutting in the butter and shortening easier | No-Fail Pie Crust Pastry
A pastry cutter makes cutting in the butter or shortening easier

3. Use the pastry blender, or 2 knives to cut the shortening into the flour.  When you are done, you should have small pieces of shortening covered with flour that look something like granola.

4. Beat the egg in the small mixing bowl.

5. Mix in the vinegar and 4 tablespoons of the water.

4. Using the fork, add the egg mixture to the flour mixture one tablespoon at a time.  You want to make sure that the dough is just wet enough to stick together as a ball.  After you have added about 4 tablespoons of the egg mixture, try to make a ball out of the pastry.  If it sticks together you are done.  If it doesn’t, add the next tablespoon of the egg mixture and try to form a ball out of the pastry again.  Keep adding the egg mixture in small portions until the dough sticks together in a ball.  If you have added all of the egg mixture and the dough is still not sticking together, continue with the same process using cold water.

5. Cut the dough in half.

Form the dough into a disc | No-Fail Pie Crust Pastry
Form the dough into a disc

6. Form the dough into 2 discs.

7. Cover with the plastic wrap.

8. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

9. Lay one sheet of parchment paper on the counter.

10. Remove one of the pastry discs from its plastic wrapping and put it on the parchment paper.  I usually leave the second pastry disc in the refrigerator until I am ready to use it.  Keeping it cold makes it easier to work with.

11. Lay the second sheet of parchment paper over the top of the pastry disc.

12. Use the rolling pin to flatten the pastry disc out into a circle that is about 1/8″ thick.  The parchment paper will keep the dough from sticking to the counter…which prevents you from having to add more flour…which keeps the pastry from getting tough.  A secret weapon for having your pastry turn out!  Note:  If you find that the pastry starts to tear really easily, put it back in the refrigerator for a few minutes.  Once it is cold again, it will be easier to work with.

13. If you are using it for a pie shell, make sure that the pie dough circle is large enough to cover the pie pan.  To make it easy to put into the pie pan, roll the dough around the rolling pin and then unroll it over the pie pan.  Cut off any edges that fall over the edge of the pie pan.

Line the muffin tins with round circles cut from the dough | No-Fail Pie Crust Pastry
Line the muffin tins with round circles cut from the dough

14. If you are using the pastry for tart shells, use the biscuit cutter to cut circles from the rolled-out dough, and push them into the muffin tins.  There will be folds in the pastry around the edges…push them back towards the edge of the muffin tin to open up the center of the tart.

15. Use a fork to prick small holes in the bottom of the pie or tart crusts (this prevents it from puffing up during cooking).

At this point, your crust is ready to use.  You can even freeze it for up to a month and use at a later date.

Have comments or questions on No-Fail Pie Crust Pastry?  Tell us in the comments below.

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