We Tried 6 Ways of Making Flaky Pie Crust and Found an Absolute Winner

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An overhead position of 6 unsighted baked pastry crusts utilizing different methods.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Stylist: Ben Weiner

If there’s ever a clip to make your ain pastry crust, it’s nan holidays. The other effort put into homemade treats is an look of emotion for your family. After all, you typically person a small much clip to walk connected cooking projects this clip of year. You tin show disconnected your beautiful ceramic pastry plates connected nan buffet and put to usage each those crimping techniques you studied successful how-to videos for your pumpkin, pecan, and pome pies.

So, What Is nan Best Way to Make Flaky Pie Crust?

For pastry mixed that’s easy to activity pinch and that bakes up incredibly flaky, sturdy yet tender, and rich | successful flavor, it’s champion to spell pinch a half-and-half blend of food and shortening. Read connected to study much astir really each of nan methods fared.

Pie crust tin beryllium a small intimidating, though — moreover for knowledgeable bakers. The purpose is tender, flaky layers, pinch small shards of crust pinch each bite. Achieving that perfect texture takes attraction successful nan mentation and successful nan prime of ingredients. If you take poorly, you could extremity up pinch a reliable crust, 1 that’s much chewy than flaky, and/or 1 that’s bland. In an effort to find nan champion approach, I tested six ingredient-based methods for pastry crust to spot which 1 would reign supreme. 

How I Found nan Best Way to Make Flaky Pie Crust

The ingredients: Pie crust doesn’t require galore ingredients, truthful I made judge to take ones that I cognize execute good —namely King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour. For nan butter, I went pinch nan unsalted assortment (which is standard) from nan marque Land O’Lakes, and erstwhile it came to shortening, I utilized Crisco sticks.

The guidelines recipe: For each test, I utilized Erin McDowell’s All Buttah Pie Dough, a highly rated look for a single-crust pastry — and I simply tweaked nan look for nan method I was testing (e.g., replacing nan food pinch shortening). 

The tests: Making pastry crust is simply a spot of a process. I watched nan accompanying how-to video for nan pastry crust look linked above, which offers tons of awesome tips for mixing and rolling nan dough. I utilized nan aforesaid steps for each pastry crust I tested.

  • After mixing together nan dough, I formed it into a disc and chilled it for 1 hr earlier rolling it out.
  • I utilized heavy-duty disposable pastry plates for each my tests. 
  • After fitting nan pastry mixed into nan pastry plate, I chilled it for 10 minutes to let for immoderate shrinking. At that point, I trimmed nan excess dough, folded nan edges under, and fluted them.
  • I docked (or pierced) nan mixed each over, including nan sides; lined nan mixed pinch parchment paper; and filled it completely, up to nan edges, pinch dried beans. 
  • Because I was baking pumpkin pies (with a bedewed filling), I parbaked each crust astatine 425°F for 15 minutes, past removed nan parchment and dried beans, and baked for 3 minutes to barren retired nan bottommost of nan crust.
  • I besides baked immoderate of nan scraps arsenic “chips” truthful that I could area successful intimately connected nan texture.
  • After cooling nan crust, I baked a pumpkin pastry utilizing the look connected nan Libby’s pumpkin can. 
  • I baked each of nan pies connected nan aforesaid day. After allowing them to cool completely, I tasted them each broadside by side. I besides refrigerated nan pies and tried them again nan adjacent day.

Ratings: I judged each method connected a standard of 1 to 10, pinch 10 reserved for absolute perfection. The main criterion was texture, pinch nan extremity of a super-flaky and tender crust. A secondary information was flavor.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Stylist: Ben Weiner

Flaky Pie Crust Method: All Shortening

About this method: As antecedently noted, I utilized the guidelines recipe and simply changed retired nan 1 adaptable I was testing — that is, I replaced nan food pinch shortening. I stashed nan shortening successful nan freezer overnight to guarantee it was acold erstwhile I worked pinch it. 

Results: It’s worthy mentioning that moreover frozen, shortening is importantly softer than butter. Unlike food (which contains astir 20% water), shortening is each fat pinch nary water. Because nan fat is truthful soft, nan mixed (even aft chilling for an hour) was soft and very easy to rotation out. The crust was very tender, verging connected being much crumbly-mealy than flaky. The scraps I baked had less chopped layers successful them, but nan crust successful nan baked pastry was reasonably flaky. The spirit was rather bland, though, and nan crust’s texture was conscionable a small excessively vulnerable for nan filling.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Stylist: Ben Weiner

Flaky Pie Crust Method: Bourbon successful nan Dough

About this method: I had heard of utilizing vodka successful pastry crust earlier but not bourbon, yet respective sources urge a scatter of whiskey successful nan dough. Following nan proposal of Cook’s Illustrated, I utilized 80-proof bourbon and made a 50/50 operation of it and crystal h2o for nan liquid that brings nan mixed together. The subject says that nan intoxicant helps forestall gluten from forming successful nan dough. (Gluten gives breadstuff its building and strong, chewy texture, but you don’t want that successful your pastry crust.)

Results: First of all, nan mixed smelled fantastic! The baked crust had a bully buttery flavor, and a bully spot of medium-sized flakes were near connected nan antagonistic aft cutting slices of pie. The scraps I baked besides had loads of flaky layers. The crust was very sturdy, but it verged connected being tough; my fork had a difficult clip cutting done bites. 

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Stylist: Ben Weiner

Flaky Pie Crust Method: All Butter

About this method: For this test, I utilized nan base recipe arsenic is, pinch nary adjustments aliases tweaks. I trim nan food into nan flour-salt substance pinch my hands, pursuing nan proposal successful nan how-to video that accompanies nan recipe. I past added crystal h2o until nan mixed came together, chilled it, and proceeded pinch making nan pie.

Results: If you’re amazed that nan all-butter method wasn’t my apical choice, judge me, I’m arsenic shocked arsenic you are. I ever effort to spell into these kinds of tests pinch an unfastened mind, but I did halfway expect this type to return apical honors. I did get chopped layers successful nan crust scraps I baked, but less layers than pinch different methods. When I trim into nan pie, nan crust shattered and flaked into ample pieces. The spirit was superb, rich | and creamy-buttery, but nan crust ended up much crunchy than tender, and it was a small spot tough. 

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Stylist: Ben Weiner

Flaky Pie Crust Method: Vinegar successful nan Dough

About this method: Following nan proposal of Tasting Table, I replaced 1 1/2 teaspoons of nan crystal h2o utilized successful nan base recipe pinch achromatic vinegar. The vinegar is touted to assistance successful browning of nan crust and successful preventing gluten from forming for an easier-to-work-with mixed and a much tender crust.

Results: I did not announcement a important quality successful nan measurement nan mixed felt erstwhile rolling it out, nor successful nan browning of nan crust. The spirit was rich | and buttery; possibly nan vinegar enhanced nan taste. When I trim into nan pie, I had tons of medium-sized flakes near connected nan plate. I noticed plentifulness of chopped layers successful nan scraps that I baked arsenic well. The crust was much tender than nan all-butter crust, but it was still sturdy and nan slightest spot chewy. 

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Stylist: Ben Weiner

Flaky Pie Crust Method: Vodka successful nan Dough

About this method: As pinch nan bourbon method, for nan vodka method I followed nan proposal of Cook’s Illustrated by utilizing 80-proof vodka and making a 50/50 operation of it and crystal h2o for nan liquid that brings nan mixed together. Again, nan intoxicant is location to thief forestall gluten formation, making for a mixed that’s easier to activity pinch and a crust that’s tender and flaky.

Results: The mixed did not look noticeably easier to activity with; it felt connected par pinch nan different butter-based doughs. I noticed tons of chopped flaky layers successful nan scraps that I baked. And erstwhile I trim into nan pie, I had tons of large flakes, almost arsenic if I were cutting done puff pastry. The crust was rather sturdy but easy to trim through. The spirit was rich | and buttery, but I detected nan teensiest spot of toughness.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Stylist: Ben Weiner

Flaky Pie Crust Method: Butter and Shortening

About this method: While nan all-shortening crust did not fare good successful my testing (see above), I wanted to spot what would hap if I utilized half shortening and half butter. I adjusted nan base recipe by utilizing 50% acold food and 50% acold shortening. (I froze nan shortening overnight.) 

Results: With nan blend of fats (firmer butter, softer shortening), nan mixed was a small easier to rotation retired but not excessively soft. The combo proved to connection nan champion of some fats, while each compensated for nan shortcomings of nan other. The scraps I baked showed loads of flaky layers, and nan crust for nan pastry was sturdy but tender. The crust was very, very flaky (yes, it’s worthy repeating), pinch tons of small- and medium-sized flakes. The blend of fats was ideal, yielding a tender crust that wasn’t excessively delicate and providing buttery richness for a delectable flavor.