The key to tenderness and flakiness is
keeping everything cold, particularly the butter, shortening, or other
fats. Cold fat makes steam in the oven, which puffs the layers apart and
makes a flaky pastry. If the fat warms up during handling, it will melt
and be absorbed by the flour, creating a tough, chewy pie crust.
your equipment in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before using;
mixing bowl or food processor bowl and blade, pastry cutter, rolling
pin, and pastry board. Avoid working in a hot room or near a hot
butter and minimize handling. Use a metal bench scraper or sharp
knife to quickly cut a stick or butter into 1/4" cubes. After
chopping the butter, chill it for 20 minutes before cutting it into
have warm hands, chill them under cold running water or in a bowl of
ice water. Dry thoroughly before making the pastry.
taking too long to cut the butter into the flour (especially by
hand), refrigerate the mixture for 20 minutes.
dough quickly in a food processor instead of by hand. You're less
likely to overwork the dough, warm it, or add water, all of which
can make a tough and chewy crust.
don't have a food processor, use a pastry cutter. This inexpensive
kitchen tool works much more efficiently than the last-resort option
of using the tines of a fork or 2 table knives. If you prefer to use
your fingertips, you'll need to keep them cold and work quickly.
cutting the butter into the flour, constantly keep the butter
covered with flour to help avoid mashing the butter. The goal is a
coarse mixture in which the flour-coated butter pieces are about the
size of small peas. Avoid cutting in the butter too finely.
add water or other liquid to gather the dough into a ball, work
quickly and with a gentle hand. Handle the dough as little as
possible - just enough for it to come together. Little gobs of
butter in the formed dough are a good sign.
Over-handling dough develops excess gluten, a network of protein
strands that makes tough pie dough. To help prevent gluten
development, add a bit of lemon juice as you gather the dough into a
ball of pastry into a flattened disk and chill for 20 minutes. Then,
let it soften until it can be gently squeezed (10 minutes or so at
room temperature) before rolling it out. This keeps the fat cold and
makes the pastry easier to roll.
the pastry on a marble slab, if possible. Marble is always at least
10 degrees cooler than its surroundings.
overworking dough. Flour the work surface just enough to avoid
dough from the center outward rather than back and forth. Turn the
dough (or pastry board) clockwise a little each time you roll. Ease
up slightly on the rolling pin as you near the edge of the dough to
prevent flattening the edges.
dough feels difficult to roll out, let it rest in the refrigerator
for 20 minutes.
placing the pastry in the pie pan, chill it for 20 minutes before
filling and baking.