Homemade pie pastry has many uses, both sweet and savory. It can be used in pot pies, quiches, fruit pies, and more. The key to good pie pastry is to keep the fat (in this case the butter and shortening) cold during the pastry-making process. Cold fat won’t fully incorporate into the flour mixture (you’ll have some visible pieces of fat in your dough), which will melt when the pastry is cooked, leaving small pockets in the dough — this is what makes pie pastry light and flaky. Anne Willan’s LaVarenne Pratique, an essential culinary reference book for both novice and expert cooks, shares this recipe for pie pastry.
To make a 10-inch shell
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar (for sweet pies)
⅓ cup cold, unsalted butter
⅓ cup shortening or lard
1 egg yolk (optional)
¼ cup cold water (more if needed)
Sift the flour with the salt (and sugar if using) into a bowl. Add the butter and shortening to the flour and cut the fat into small pieces with a pastry cutter or two knives (using one in each hand).
Then, rub the pieces of butter and shortening with your fingertips until the mixture forms fine crumbs, lifting and crumbling to help aerate it. Be careful not to handle the butter and shortening too much though — you don’t want to warm or melt it.
Make a well in the center of the mixture; add the egg yolk (if using) and the water.
Mix quickly with a knife to form crumbs. If the crumbs are dry, mix in 1 to 2 tablespoons more water. Press the dough together with your fingers. It should be soft but not sticky.
Work the dough lightly with your hand for a few seconds to form a rough disc. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or until it is firm.
Kristie Collado is The Daily Meal's Cook Editor. Follow her on Twitter @KColladoCook.