Basic Redwall Recipe: Pie Crust

  Pie crust pastry is used in so many Redwall foods - not just pie. In everything from flans to pasties, pie crust is an important and delicious component. Here's my basic recipe and method. It tastes great, but like any baker I'm continuously learning how to make my crust better. If you have your own recipe, feel free to use it and ignore this post. If you don't, or if you're not a practiced pie crust maker, don't be afraid - it's probably easier than you think. It simply takes is patience and practice.
    I use a food processor, but pie crust can be made by hand. If you want pictures and tips on how to do that, just Google it. There are lots of great resources. 
  Pie crust doesn't have to be perfect. You'll see the truth of that after reading this post. 90% of the time, imperfect pie crust is still delicious and it certainly tastes better than store-bought. If you're still not convinced, store-bought pie crust can of course be substituted in Redwall recipes. 
1. Making the Pastry
This is where I'd generally have an 'assembled ingredients' picture, but I think it's a bad idea to assemble pie crust ingredients. The fats (butter and shortening) should be as cold as possible, so leave them in the refrigerator until the last minute. It's important to work quickly throughout the entire process.

Measure 1/2 cup water into a small bowl and stick it in the freezer.

Measure 2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour into food processor bowl. Add 1 tsp. sugar....

....and 1 tsp. salt.

Process until thoroughly combined, approx. 10 seconds.

Cut two sticks of chilled, unsalted butter into small chunks. You can use salted butter, but I think unsalted has a better flavor.


Pack vegetable shortening into a 1/4 cup, then level the top off with a knife. I keep my shortening in the refrigerator, but it isn't necessary.

Add the butter to the flour mixture.

Pulse until the mixture looks like crumbs, approx. 5-10 seconds.

Add the shortening and pulse again for the same amount of time.

Grab the water from the freezer. Pour most of the water over the butter/flour mixture. I used all of the water this time, and I think it was a bit too much - so pour in most of the water and reserve a tablespoon or two in the bowl. 

     Pulse until the water is combined and the mixture begins to form large chunks. If it's just too dry (i.e. it's not coming together and  you don't think there's any possible way you could form it into a ball) add the extra water. However, you may not need it. My pie crust still tasted great, so if you don't get this perfect, it's okay. 

Dump the pastry into a large bowl.

Gather it into a ball, handling it as little as possible.

Slice the ball in half with a sharp knife.

Place one of the halves on a large piece of plastic wrap.

Flatten and shape it into a disc.

Wrap the plastic around it and repeat with the second half.

At this point, you have a few options:
1) If you want to use the pastry as soon as possible, stick it in the freezer for 2 hours.
2) If you want to use it in the next 24 hours, put it in the refrigerator.
3) If you do not need to use it in the next 24 hours, put the discs in a Ziploc bag and place in the freezer. A few hours before use, put the pastry in the fridge to thaw a bit. It will last in the freezer for up to 6 months.

   I like to keep pastry on hand in my freezer. I find it too time-consuming to make pastry,  chill it, and bake a pie all on the same day. I usually make 2 batches this size, put the plastic-wrapped discs in a large Ziploc bag, and freeze, thawing in the fridge as mentioned before use.  This really speeds up the preparation of Redwall-themed meals. It's not required, obviously, but I definitely suggest it.

If you're not making a pie with your pastry, stop here and proceed with your other recipe.

2. Rolling and Shaping  Pie Crust

Assemble a rolling pin (you can use any kind, but I like a large, hefty pin with handles attached to an axle that runs through the pin), a pie plate (again, any kind will work, but 9 1/2", deep-dish glass or ceramic plates are recommended), your chilled pastry, and flour.

Sprinkle a generous pinch of flour over your work surface.

Unwrap the pastry and spread a little flour on it as well.

Begin to flatten it out by rolling firmly, lightening up near the edges to maintain an even thickness.

Flip the pastry over and continue rolling, keeping both sides thoroughly floured.

If it becomes too oval, rotate it 90 degrees and continue rolling.

Continue rolling, rotating, and flipping. The purpose of flipping is to prevent any one side from sticking to the work surface.

Before flipping, spread a little more flour on the top side, focusing on any sticky spots of fat.

If the crust cracks around the edges, pinch the split together with your fingertips.

Your finished circle should be approx. 1/8" thick. It should feel very thin and 'drape-y'. 

Carefully fold the circle in half. If it sticks in places, gently peel it up, going slowing. It's alright if it tears a bit around the edges.

Fold the half into quarters.

Place the crust in the pie plate, positioning the folded point in the center of the plate.

Unfold once...

...and again.

Don't press the crust into the pan - stretching the crust will cause it to shrink during baking. Instead, grab the overhand and ease it downwards, effectively pushing the crust into the corners.

Once you've done that, it's okay to press the crust into the pan gently.

All snuggled in.

Now, trim the overhang. Lift up the edge with your fingertips. Use a sharp paring knife to trim it to within 3/4" of the plate edge (I like to cut against my fingers, using the wrinkles below my fingertips as a guide).

If the crust splits as you're trimming, pinch it together and press to seal.

If some parts of the crust are too scanty/too close to the plate edge, patch the spots with extra trimmed pie crust.

Once you're finished trimming, set the extra pastry aside.

Fold the overhang in on itself, forming a double-thick, 1/2" thick lip around the edge of the crust.

If it starts to overlap and get crowded, don't worry....

....just tuck it all under. It'll be fine.

All tucked.

Neaten it up a bit, making the edge smoother and more upright.

Shape the edge by pinching it between 1 knuckle from one hand and 2 knuckles from the other hand, like so (reverse it if you're right-handed).

Don't be afraid to pinch hard - the scallops should be dramatic. They will melt and soften a bit in the oven. 

Chill the crust in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes before baking. It works best to roll and shape the crust, pop it in the fridge, and then make the filling.

If you have any pie crust questions, please email me (mrgxfincher@gmail.com). I'd be glad to help!

Printable recipe:

Pie Crust
Make 2 single crusts or 1 double crust

-1/3-1/2 cup cold water
-2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
-1 tsp. granulated sugar
-1 tsp. salt
-1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled
-1/4 cup vegetable shortening

1. Measure 1/2 cup water into a small bowl and put it in  freezer. Measure the flour, salt, and sugar into food processor bowl and pulse until thoroughly combined, approx. 10 seconds.

2. Cut the butter into small chunks. Add it to the flour mixture and process until the mixture resembles crumbs, approx. 5-10 seconds. Add the shortening and pulse again for the same amount of time.

3. Add most of the water to the food processor and pulse 4-5 times. The mixture should form large chunks and come together into a ball. If necessary, add the rest of the water.

4. Dump the crust into a large bowl. Shape it into a ball and cut the ball in half. For each half: place on a large piece of plastic wrap, flatten and shape into a disc, and wrap tightly. Freeze for two hours, or follow alternate directions above.