Q. How do you achieve a flaky pie crust? Mine always end up too dense. — Richard, Appleton
A. Flakiness in a pie crust is achieved when the solid fat (sometimes referred to as lard if animal-based or shortening if vegetable-based) is distributed into the dough in very thin layers. This is achieved by keeping the solid fat as cold as possible during the preparation process and by not over-mixing the dough. Keeping the fat thoroughly chilled is the reason why most pie crust recipes call for using ice-cold water. As the dough is mixed, a pastry cutter helps distribute the cold, solid fat throughout the dough. If the dough is over-mixed and/or allowed to get too warm, the solid fat will melt and blend in with the flour, making the dough smooth and mealy. When prepared correctly, the dough with the layers of solid fat is rolled out and placed into pie pans or other baking dishes. During the baking process, the layers of solid fat melt and the result is the flakiness created by the pockets where the fat used to reside. Achieving a flaky pie crust is definitely an art, but the secrets are within reach and with a little practice I’m sure you can achieve the results you want, Richard!