Pastry isn’t nearly as scary as it may seem. Sure, I resisted making my own until well into my twenties (the legacy of my mom’s perfect flaky paralyzed me!) but once I figured out that a) you can make it in the food processor and/or b) it’s just pastry, dammit! then I was off to the races.
In culinary school, we always teach making pastry by hand, without a blender or processor, so that our students learn the sensation of what it feels like at every stage of the process. It’s also terribly satisfying. And quiet, should you be trying to make Secret Birthday Pie. So by all means, make it in the food processor if you want and can, but fret not if you’ve only got a mixing bowl and your two hands.
The choice of fat for pastry is fraught with politics, history and discord. I like all-butter pastry, all-lard pastry, or this easy blend of the two. Lard makes pastry exceptionally flaky and easy to roll; butter makes pastry spectacularly delicious. Up to you (but please note: Lard ain’t vegetarian. Or kosher. Or halal.).
To watch a full video of me making this, catch this episode of the 20-Minute Cooking School.
Once you’ve got this pastry made, your choices are limitless. It works for sweet and savoury pies, and you can also double it to make a 2-cruster. For a ridiculously easy but show-stopping dessert, blind bake the crust (that is: bake it empty, instructions in the recipe below), cool it and fill it with chocolate pudding. Or, similarly, make my Butterscotch Pie.
- 1¼ cups all-purpose flour (190g)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup lard (55g)
- ¼ cup cold butter (60g)
- 3 to 5 tablespoons ice-cold water
- Combine flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Cut in lard and butter. Use your fingertips to squash the bit of lard and butter into the flour. Some pieces will be as big as kidney beans, others will be tiny scraps, and many will be about the size of a small pea. Good. Add 3 tablespoons of water and stir the mix together. If it doesn't all come together, add another tablespoon of water. If it's the middle of winter, you might need yet another tablespoon of ice water (flour needs more water when the air is dry). You'll know because there will still be a quantity of dry flour at the bottom of the bowl.
- Turn the whole affair out onto the counter and knead-shape it into a large flat disc. Ideally you're not handling it too much. Roll it our right away between 2 sheets of parchment paper or wrap it in plastic wrap and plop it into a 9-inch pie plate. Crimp the edge and dock the bottom with a fork. Chill about 30 min. You can also forego the rolling and just wrap it and freeze it for up to 2 months.
- To "blind bake" the chilled crust, preheat the oven to 425F. Place a piece of parchment paper in the crust and fill it with pie beans (any dried beans you're never going to cook with again). This weights the pastry down. Bake 15 min, then remove the parchment and beans and bake the now-empty crust for another 10 to 20 min or until golden. Cool on a rack.