Pie crusts can be daunting. But don’t be discouraged, says Becky Grasley, the baker behind Los Angeles’ The Pie Hole pie shops and author of a new cookbook, “Pie is Messy” (Ten Speed Press, $28).
“There is a learning curve,” she says. “You’re going to start out and make a crust that’s too dry, for instance, and you can’t roll it out. It cracks and you try to paste the cracks together. But if you start with the flour and the shortening, and then the ice water (which is key to making a flaky crust) and the salt — that’s all there is to the crust. You can use butter instead of the shortening or lard. Practice makes perfect, but every crust is delicious.
“It’s never too late to learn,” she adds. “I almost prefer, if you’re going to make a mistake, to make the crust on the soft side and add too much water because when you go to roll it, the flour on the counter will soak up some of it.”
How do you know when your pastry dough is ready? Grasley’s got an answer for that too: “I always say pinch it a little. If it’s soft and gooshy like a little baby’s behind, that’s the feel that you want. I can’t explain it any better than that.”
Moe’s Pie Crust
One 9-inch double-crust or two 9-inch single-crust pies
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cold vegetable shortening
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup ice-cold water, plus more as needed
In a large bowl, mix the flour, shortening and salt with a pastry blender until crumbly, and the bits of flour and fat are the size of peas.
Sprinkle the ice water over the mixture, starting with 1/2 cup and, using your hands, quickly mix the dough until it comes together in clumps, and you can shape it into a ball. If the mixture is still too crumbly, add more cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Watch the texture as you mix. When the dough becomes smooth and velvety, like a baby’s behind, it’s time to stop working it. If you do happen to overmix the dough, and it resembles an elastic blob, don’t stress. You’ll still enjoy the pie in the end, even if the crust isn’t perfect. And next time, you’ll get this step just right.
Alternatively, use your stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. On low speed, combine the flour and salt. Mix in the shortening, increasing the speed up to medium as the fat begins to combine into the flour. Stop when the mixture turns grainy, 2 to 3 minutes. Switch to the paddle attachment and add 1/2 cup of ice water. Mix on medium, and add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough turns smooth and soft.
Divide the dough into two balls, wrap in plastic wrap, and store in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or until you are ready to roll out the crust.
— Rebecca Grasley with Willy Blackmore, “Pie is Messy” (Ten Speed Press, $28)