Many people think the key to a successful pie dough are complicated tools and ingredients. Well, those people couldn’t be more wrong. The keys to delicious, flaky pie dough are two simple things. First thing is the cold. All your ingredients, excluding the vinegar and salt should be cold. The butter and lard/shortening especially should be really cold. If they’re not the right temperature, they won’t properly blend into the flour. This may sound crazy, but I even put the flour in the fridge for a couple of hours in an airtight container. If you have a really cold kitchen, that’s probably not necessary. The second key is to use your hands. You don’t need a food processor or any other gadgets or tools. All you need are the best tools you were blessed with, your hands. This recipe utilizes the fraisage method. Sounds fancy and complicated, but it’s really not. It basically means mixing the dough with the heel of your hand to properly blend everything, without overmixing it. This method always produces a nice flaky dough and besides that, you won’t have any machines to clean up. And that’s always a bonus.
This is a recipe that utilizes a scale. It’s the best way to get an accurate measurement of the ingredients. With pie dough, the ratios are important to get right. You want your ingredients to be very cold. I’m talking Alaska cold. You can use either lard or shortening. Either one helps produce a flaky crust.
Begin by dicing the butter into 1/4″ pieces.
The original recipe requires pastry flour. If you’re like me and you can’t find pastry flour in your area, you can use cake flour in the ratios specified below. Pastry flour and cake flour have similar protein percentages, but the cake flour percentage is slightly lower. To make up for that, we’re going to add more cake flour. Dump in the flour into a bowl and dump in the butter pieces.
Toss the flour and butter together and sift it in your hands to ensure the butter is well coated. Begin to flatten the butter pieces between the thumb and index finger until most or all the butter pieces are flattened.
Next, add in the lard or shortening in small pieces and toss to coat the shortening and flatten the shortening pieces until all are flattened. It will appear lumpy after.
Combine the water, vinegar and salt. Make a well in the flour mixture and add the ice cold water in. Begin to mix with the heel of your hand in a kneading motion until combined. It will appear dry and crumbly.
Dump the bowl of dough onto a marble surface or something similar. Avoid wood surfaces, because it will stick even more. Using the fraisage method, use the heel of your hand to push the dough forward and use the plastic scraper to bring it back into a dough ball. Keep doing this process until the dough is slightly sticky and some gluten development happens.
On a lightly-floured table, roll up the dough in Saran wrap. Allow the dough to rest up to 6 hours.