Pie crust. We love it, but it doesn’t always love us back. To dry, too doughy—perfecting the pie crust is no easy feat. So we called in a professional: Jenny Bandy Peterson, owner of Paradox Pastry. At her shop in the Glass Building in Downtown Charlottesville, Jenny and her team crank out a marvelous assortment of baked goods every day, not to mention mouthwatering specialty cakes for weddings and birthdays. We figured she was just the person to ask, and we were right. Here is her step-by-step approach to making pie crust. You’ll find one of her pie crust recipes linked to this article as well.
And if you’re not up for the challenge of baking your own, consider ordering your holiday desserts directly from Paradox! The shop offers a variety of cookies, pastries, pies, and cakes to satisfy every sweet tooth.
Steps for making the perfect pie crust:
1. Measure (by kitchen scale if possible!) dry ingredients.
2. Mix dry ingredients in mixer bowl. You can do this by hand or using the paddle attachment of your mixer. Then remove mixer bowl from mixer.
3. Chop cold butter into small cubes: ½-inch is best. This will help avoid big chunks in the dough later. The butter must be cold. (“Temperature is everything with pie dough,” Jenny says.)
4. Add chilled lard or shortening—whatever other fat your recipe may call for.
5. Toss the butter, shortening and/or lard into the mixed dry ingredients by hand, distributing the chunks as evenly as possible and covering the cubes with flour.
6. Mix with your mixer until the consistency of breadcrumbs. Do not overmix.
7. Add ice cold water. Bakers at Paradox often use half vodka and half water because vodka evaporates faster than water, helping create a flakier and crisper crust.
8. Mix until the dough incorporates and begins to pull away from the side of the mixing bowl. To avoid a tough final product, do not overmix.
9. Gather dough into a disc and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
10. Once the dough is ready for rolling, add a scant amount of flour (“As little as possible,” according to Jenny) on your flat rolling surface. Roll out the dough, rotating it consistently, to about ⅛-inch thickness.
11. Place the pie pan in the middle of the crust and then approximate two to three fingers width of dough on all sides. Jenny recommends three fingers for a deep dish and two for a standard pie plate. Excess dough beyond this should be cut off.
12. Gently set the pie crust inside. Fold the edge under and then pinch to flute.
13. Place the crust in the freezer (preferably) or the refrigerator for 30 minutes minimum. You want the crust to be very cold.
14. Line the dough with parchment paper and then use dried beans to weigh the dough down to avoid bubbling.
15. Parbake the crust at 400º for about 15 minutes. (“It just keeps it crisper, especially with liquids like quiches or pumpkin—always parbake,” she advises.)
16. Remove crust from oven, then lift off beans and parchment paper. Return to oven for about 6 minutes if parbaking the crust with the intent to bake the pie once filled. For pies that do not require baking of the filling, continue to bake crust by itself until golden brown.