The Secrets to Perfect Pie!

The first secret is lard. Oh my goodness – am I allowed to say that word in public?

Lard – there said it again. Oh it is tasty – this is why bacon is so good. 🙂

There is absolutely nothing better to make a pie crust. For those that just got all crinkly-faced at the word lard – go for your politically correct “vegetable” shortening as a substitute. Basically what we need is a “fat” to hold the flour together so we can shape it. The difference between the fats is in the melting temperatures and how the fats behave under heat – lard just works best.

The second secret is cold. Pie crust ingredients must be cold when mixed. If the fat is “warm” the flour will absorb the fat, and then the flour will become hard when baked. This is why pastry must be cut with a pastry cutter – to keep the warmth of your hands from melting the fat. Here is a tip – chill all the ingredients including the flour and the bowl!

The third secret is speed. Do the mixing quickly so the fat doesn’t warm up and begin melting. Yet thoroughly so that the fat is mixed evenly through the flour. Overworking the dough will activate the gluten and make the pie crust hard.

Once you have the dough mixed – ball it all up, wrap it in wax paper and chill it for at least 1-hour in the fridge. Then roll out the dough (again do this quickly and don’t overwork the dough!) and place in your pie plate. Chill the pie-plate and the pie crust for 20-minutes before filling to avoid the soggies!

My final secret is use a glass pie dish. Other kinds do work – I just find that glass transfers heat more evenly during baking.

My Pie Crust (Basically from the side of the lard box!)

1/3 cup of lard
1 cup of pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 teaspoons ice water (OR 4-teaspoons ice water and 2-teaspoons white vinegar)

chilled bowl and pastry cutter.

In a chilled bowl cut lard into flour and salt with the pastry cutter until particles are the size of small peas.
Add the ice water one teaspoon at a time and mix with a fork until just combined and holds together. Do not use all the liquid if it seems to hold together. Do not overwork!

Form into a ball, wrap in wax paper and place in fridge until ready to use. (Best if used in 24 hours – but I have kept dough in fridge for a couple of days)

A dough blender; also called a pastry blender.

A dough blender; also called a pastry blender or cutter. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

9 thoughts on “The Secrets to Perfect Pie!

  1. Pingback: Recipe: Simple Rhubarb Custard Pie | merlinspielen

  2. Hello, merlinspielen! Vodka was actually mentioned in my traditional pie-making class, but it’s up to individual preference. Butter works too if you want a creamy texture. I like to use a combination of cold butter and cold lard (1/2 cup each) with 2.5 cups of flour. That way, it’s both creamy and flakey! My favourite tart in class was a blind-baked pie shell spread with jam; poured wet lemony zuchinni custard in. (I will be baking lots of pies and tarts this summer as the garden will be full of fresh yummies — so, you can follow my blog if you’re interested. 🙂 ) Love your blog!


  3. I enjoyed a very good giggle with your use of that dirty four lettered word… Lard! I too enjoy making pies and learned way back as a wee lass from my Granny that nothing makes a better crust then, dare I say it again, lard! Another great trick of the trade if you have a problem with you dough and gluten/glue texture, simply use vodka instead of water, a small nip on the side may help the holiday pie baking much more pleasant 😉


    • Oh my – now I have others using that four letter word! I must be a bad influence. Or at least I am hoping I am!
      Vodka. Now that is an excellent way, I think, to help the pie get made and the pie-maker to relax. A tablespoon for the crust – and a double-shot for the cook! Heck a little for the filling too!


    • Come on over! I have strawberry-rhubarb custard pie. I like my pie a little on the tart side so I only use half the sugar. Now that I look back at that last sentence there are perhaps more ways to read those words than intended!


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