Published September 1, 1994.
To meet the home cook's most difficult challenge, we tested 35 variations of all-purpose pie pastry and came up with a no-fail master recipe.
Making good pie crust can be a simple procedure, but almost everyone who has tried can tell horror stories of crusts that turned out hard, soggy, flavorless, oversalted, underbaked, too crumbly, or unworkable.
Simple as it can be, pie crust--essentially a combination of flour, water, and fat--raises numerous questions. What are the ideal proportions of the main ingredients? Should anything else should be added to give the dough more character? What methods should be used to combine these ingredients? Our goal was to answer these questions.
We've found that all-butter crusts have good taste, but they are not as flaky and fine-textured as those made with some shortening. All-shortening crusts have great texture but lack flavor. Oil-based crusts have neither good flavor--they are flat tasting nor good texture--they tend to be hard and cracker-like. We experimented with a variety of combinations and ultimately settled on a proportion of 3 parts butter to 2 parts shortening as optimal for both flavor and texture. We also settled on a ratio of 2 parts flour to 1 part fat. This crust is relatively high in fat, but we found that the 2:1 proportion produces dough that is easy to work and a baked crust that is more tender and flavorful than any other. You can make a pie dough by hand, but the food processor is faster and easier and does the best job of cutting the fat into the flour.list of recipes