When it comes to making classic recipes—like pie crust—one of the magic ingredients is fat. Butter, lard or shortening certainly contributes to a tender, flaky pie crust. But there’s a science to it, too, so if you want to cut back on fat in the name of health, there are some tricks you can use to still end up with a good result. (Find out how you can cut the butter in mashed potatoes but still end up with smooth, fluffy results.)
That’s good news for those of us who would like to have our pie and eat it too. Our recipe for all-purpose pie crust (see below) cuts out much of the fat found in traditional pie crust and relies on good old-fashioned technique.
Related link: Healthy Apple Pie and More Fall Pie Recipes
Here are a few tips for a perfect, better-for-you pie crust:
Tip 1: Use the right flour. We use a mix of whole-wheat pastry flour and all-purpose flour in our crust. Why? The pastry flour is lower in protein than all-purpose flour, so when it’s mixed it has less gluten-forming potential. Gluten makes pie crust tough. Also you get a boost of fiber from the whole-wheat. Some people like the nutty flavor of whole-wheat flour. Others don’t. So we use a mix of all-purpose and whole-wheat pastry flour to tone down the wholesomeness of the whole-wheat.
Tip 2: Don’t make the butter bits too small. It would be easier to just mix the pie crust in a food processor and be done with it, but that would be catastrophic to the flakiness of the crust. With our recipe you break up the fat (in this case, butter) with your hands into pieces that are still visible. When the dough is rolled out, the individual pieces of butter form layers within the crust so when they bake and melt away, they contribute not only flavor, but flakiness.
Related Link: Tips for Tender Flaky Pie Crust
Tip 3: Don’t overwork the dough in the bowl. Some people see the small bits of butter in the dough and try to knead it until they have disappeared. This hurts the flakiness factor (see the tip above), but overkneading the dough also forms gluten, making the dough tough. Work it too much and you might as well put your pie filling inside a piece of cardboard. Kneading it with your hands just a few times until it begins to stick together is all you need to do. And it’s less work on your part.
Related Link: How to Make Deep-Dish Apple Pie
Tip 4: Let it chill. Dough likes to be cold from the beginning. We have you add ice water and let it chill in the fridge so the fat doesn’t completely melt into the flour. Again, that helps keep the dough flaky and tender.
Get the Recipe: EatingWell All-Purpose Pie Crust