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HOW TO BAKE: THE PERFECT PIE CRUST

 

There are tricks to making perfect pie crusts.  The first is maintaining the correct balance of ingredients and the second is temperature. 

Pie crusts are a mixture of flour, fat, and water.  The best recipes seem to have a common ratio of these ingredients: 1/4 cup water to 1/2 cup fat to 2 1/2 cups flour.  (The flour should be measured by spooning the flour into the measure, not scooping it.  Scooping packs the flour and overloads the formula.)  Add a teaspoon of salt and you have a recipe for a double crust. 

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For the fat, you can use either butter or shortening or a combination. (Butter is 15% water so cut back slightly on the water when using butter—though the ratio is forgiving enough that you probably won't notice the difference.)   If you are making more than one pie, just change the amounts but keep the same proportions.

Temperature may be even more important than balance—especially if you are using butter.  The trick is to keep the butter and the dough cold enough that the butter pieces remain intact.  If it gets too warm, it melts and saturates the flour.  (The same thing happens with shortening but the melting temperature of shortening is higher.)  It's the little pieces of butter that makes the crust flaky.  As the butter heats in baking, little pockets of steam are formed from the butter nodules. 

To keep your dough cold, use only the coldest butter and water.  Then refrigerate the dough for an hour before forming the pie.  If making multiple pies, take only enough dough from the refrigerator for one pie keeping the rest cold until you are ready to for it.
 

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