This morning, I was just about to make short crust for tonight’s dinner (it’ll be quiche, thank you) and remembered that a couple of people had requested what has turned out to be the Perfect Tart and Pie Crust recipe.
I’ll be honest with you, I really used to hate making pie crust. I thought it was a waste of my time and that the store bought pie shells were just as good. But really, once I just knuckled down and followed the instructions Tante Julia had written, crust was easy as… well, pie.
This is a recipe that I’ve adapted from my class a few months ago, and Tante Julia’s pâte brisée fine recipe.
Yield: One double crust pie or two tarts
2 cups all purpose flour (not bread or pastry flour, wrong gluten volume)
1-2 tablespoons sugar (optional — adds color when baking — depends on what you’re gonna fill it with)
Pinch of fine sea salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, chilled (I usually slice or dice the butter and shortening into small pieces and put them back in the fridge to re-chill)
1/4 cup shortening, chilled
1/3 cup cold water (put ice cubes in it)
The most important thing in making short crust is that all of your ingredients should be as cold as possible. Don’t use softened, melty butter, the crust will make you cry as you try to roll it out, and it won’t have good flavor or texture when it’s baked. You want a light, flaky crust? Make sure your ingredients are cold when you’re working with ’em.
This is your cold cold butter and shortening, straight from the icebox.
Mix dry ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Cut butter and shortening into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender, yes, that thing your gran has in the drawer that you never knew what its purpose was. Use quick, twisting downward strokes and rotate the bowl with your free hand, blend butter and shortening until mixture achieves a rough crumbly texture.
Don’t over-blend it, and work quickly, remember, you want to keep things cool. Add the 1/3 cup of water to the dough. Usually, I put three or four ice cubes in my measuring cup and fill with cold water up to the 2/3 cup line — of course I don’t add the entire 2/3 cup of water, it just makes it easier to add without increasing the volume of water too much. Besides, if you’re doing this fast enough, the ice shouldn’t be melting, right?
Turn out on to your worktable and form into a ball.
Again, work quickly. As you can see even with my extremely low blood pressure popsicle hands, just a little bit of handling really warms up the dough.
Using a scale — no I’m not kidding, don’t just eyeball it, weigh it — divide the dough into two equal halves. Put down some plastic wrap and form one half into a flat disc, trying to keep the edges smooth and round, and the thickness to about an inch or so.
Wrap in the plastic wrap and repeat with the second half. Remember what I said about the crying? Do NOT leave them in a lumpen ball shape or it’ll end in tears. Pop them both in the refrigerator for at least two hours; to get the very best results though, leave them overnight or 24 hours. The extra time really does make a difference in the flavor and flakiness of your final product. In baking, time and temperature are everything.
At this point, unless you’re making something right away, you’re done. You can keep the dough in the icebox for a few days, or put it in a freezer bag and freeze it for about a month.
Oh? You’re making something? I am. Quiche for dinner tonight. Tune in for my next installment: Real Men Eat Quiche (or they do when I make it).