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Pie Crust Techniques

Ingredients

Always use the best-quality ingredients when making a pie crust. Nothing is a substitute for real butter's taste in a crust, but shortening and lard make the flakiest crust. A combination of half butter and half shortening is the best option for both flavor and crust consistency. Use pastry flour when making the crust, as cake flour will make the crust too soft and bread flour contains too much gluten to result in a flaky crust. A teaspoon of lemon juice will add a little acidity to the crust, which makes it more tender and gives it a "melt in your mouth" quality. All liquids put into the dough should be ice-cold.

Mixing

Always keep the dough chilled while working with it and before baking. This is integral for creating a flaky crust, because as soon as the crust is inserted into the hot oven, the butter -- which was solid when cold -- will melt and create steam, puffing up the pastry. When mixing, it is important to not overwork the dough to retain these small pockets of butter. It should only be picked up out of the bowl and dropped back in enough to meld together. After mixing, it should be chilled for at least three hours and then rested for about 15 minutes before rolling. When rolling out the dough, use only a small amount of flour to dust the surface you're working on, only use dust the surface once; otherwise, the dough will toughen.

Baking

The crust should be no less than 1/4-inch thick when baked; 1/2- to 3/4-inch is optimal. Place a metal sheet in the oven and the pie pan on top of it while baking to ensure the bottom does not become soggy during the baking process.

Edges

Always leave a generous overhang when making a pie, for it will shrink in the oven. Different edges are created by simply pressing shapes into the dough or using a knife to cut them out. An egg wash applied on the top and edges creates the much-desired golden brown color during baking.

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