Growing up, I was one of those people that ate all of the filling out of a piece of pie and left the crust for my dad. On every pie I ever ate, crust was either bland or salty, dry or soggy, tough or crumbly. No matter if the pie was from a bakery or restaurant, even made by a friend of family member, they were all generally displeasing to my palate.
About three and a half years ago, I set out on a quest to make my own pie. It was mid-August so the summer fruit was at peak ripeness, leading me to choose to conquer Bobby Flay’s Throwdown winning peach-blackberry pie. I was a huge Food Network fan, still am, and Bobby Flay may just be my favorite personality. I love peaches and blackberries, and for the first time ever, I wanted to fall in love with a pie in its entirety, crust and all. If Bobby Flay couldn’t make a pie crust that I liked, well, then I was a lost cause.
My mom as my wingman, as she so often is, in baking and in life, we dumped the flour, sugar, salt, butter, and shortening into a bowl. Mom mixed with her hands while I gradually added the water, and it came together as best as it was going to. Wrapped in plastic, it was chilled, rolled, and chilled again once in the pan, newly purchased along with the rolling pin from Williams Sonoma specifically for this task. The filling was made and the pie assembled. While in the oven, the pie smelled amazing, and when it came out it looked homemade, but that’s what made it beautiful. The fruit juices, a harmonious blend of orange and purple, bubbled up through the slits and the crust, golden brown, glistened with sugar and was crisp to the touch.
After fully cooled, something Mom failed to believe was necessary, and still does to this day, we crossed our fingers and cut into the golden brown goodness before us. The crust was crisp, yet flaky. The juices thick and glossy. The fruit tender, but not falling apart. The smell intoxicating. After all the hard work, I hoped this would be the pie that made me finally fall in love with crust.
And it was. Don’t get me wrong, the filling was the most delicious I’d ever tasted, but that crust was magical. The fantastic flavor didn’t overpower the filling. Cracking the top was like shattering the caramelized sugar on top of crème brulee; underneath was a tender and flaky pastry. In just a few bites, crust became my favorite part of the pie.
This is the crust recipe I use every time I make a pie. I’ve tried one other, an all-butter crust, and was not at all pleased; most of the pie actually went in the trash. No matter what pie I’m making: single or double crust, fruit, nut, or custard, my own recipe or that of someone else, this is my crust. The recipe will be included with each recipe for pie, but I’ll also include it here in case you’re making a pie one day and need a recipe for an amazing crust.
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 ¼ sticks cold unsalted butter, cubed
- ½ cup cold shortening
- 4-7 tablespoons ice cold water
- Pulse the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor to combine. Add the cubed butter and clumps of shortening. Pulse until the butter and shortening have been broken into small pieces and are mostly incorporated into the flour mixture. Add the water a few tablespoons at a time, and pulse until mixture comes together when pressed. Dump onto plastic wrap and press into disc. Refrigerate at least one hour or up to overnight before rolling and using as stated in the particular pie recipe you are using.