Easy Peasy Flaky Crust

Well I intended to make a mango cream cheese pie tonight, but as it turns out, I have work to do.  Eek.  Time seems to have gotten away with me.

I didn’t expect to have too much time tonight though, so I made my crust ahead of time.  I find there to be something quite satisfying about making crust.  This is my very basic, utterly straightforward, simple flaky pie crust.  It’s pretty standard and I forget where I found it originally, but you can find very similar recipes everywhere.

The recipe (numbers are for double crust, but they’re easy enough to half for a single crust):

2 1/2 cups flour (I know I should probably use something more specific, but I’m a big fan of all-purpose)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt (sometimes I forget to get unsalted butter, and in that case I leave out the salt up here)
4 tbsp (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces
4 tbsp (1/4 cup) vegetable shortening, chilled and cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces (I actually leave a block of Crisco in the freezer for whenever I need it)
5 tbsp ice water (4 tbsp & 1-2 ice cubes works great)
1 tsp vanilla

Blend together flour, sugar, and salt.  Using a nice big fork or a pastry blender, cut in the butter then shortening.  The final texture here depends on how flaky you want it.  Bigger chunks of shortening will result in bigger flakes, although it does make the dough a little less fun to work with when using your hands.

Mix the vanilla with the ice water and pour into flour/fats mixture a little at a time.  I haven’t quite figured out the phenomenon, but some days I can use 3 tbsp of water and have a great texture and some days I’m still a bit dry at 6 tbsp.  You want the dough to be damp enough that there are no chunks of dry flour left, but not sticky.

Roll dough into two roughly even sized balls, then pat into discs.  Give each one its own Ziplock bag, seal, and refrigerate for about an hour.  Any longer and you’ll have to let it warm back up a little.

This dough freezes great if you want to make some a few days in advance.  Just make sure to set it out and let it thaw before you use it (transferring to the fridge a few hours before you want to roll it out works pretty good too).

For a pre-baked crust, roll out a disc, plop into your pie plate, pile in some beans or weights and bake at 375*F for about 35 minutes.  A note about beans and weights: if you keep an eye on your crust, you can actually just reach into the oven and pierce and/or pat down any bubbles with a fork.

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