Quiet Reflection – Making Pies from Scratch

It has been a reflective week. Do you ever have those? The kind where your thoughts run a little slower. You have a feeling of nostalgia that you can’t quite pinpoint. You might even be a little more withdrawn and less talkative than normal. It’s not a wistful look back, a pitty party, or a time for dwelling on mistakes or regrets. It’s simpler than that. It’s calm. It’s peaceful. You could even call it a quiet acceptance – of what, I’m not sure. Maybe everything? Maybe nothing? Maybe it simply marks the closing of a chapter. A new one is afoot afterall.

Well, this is one of those weeks. Perhaps it’s the upcoming adventure. Or maybe it’s my way of procrastinating. It could be the cherished time spent with a good friend and honest conversations. Or maybe it was even the concussion I got while trying to free a bird from under the lawn mower. Seriously. (I think the universe literally whacked me on the head to get my attention – slow down it said!)

pie making

Well, message received. So today, we’re going to revisit my recipe for a Shortening Double Pie Crust. The timing seems right. We’ve recently shared new pie recipes, have one more coming, and it is the holiday pie making season! Not to mention, dough is one of my favorite things to make. Preparing dough brings me completely into the present moment. It’s meditative and Zen like. When I’m making a dough, especially a pie crust, the rest of the world is shut out. It’s me and the dough. It requires concentration as so much of its success is based on the tactile experience.

pie with grandma

I found these pictures in a box of photos from my Grandma Pat’s house a while back. I don’t really remember these particular days, but it would seem as though making pie crust was rooted early. It’s funny, because I don’t recall making a pie until I was in mid-twenties (let alone ever really cooking until then!). My first pie crusts were a shortening and butter mix. They were good, but I wanted them more like my Grandma Farreline’s.

double shortening pie crust ingredients

So, when I was about five or six months pregnant with Mr. N, I drove down state to Grandma’s for her to teach me how to make her blackberry cobbler. In my hormonal, nesting state, I simply could not imagine a world in which I could raise kids without this knowledge! While I have yet to master the cobbler – according to my kids, I’m getting close, but (Great) Grandma’s is still the best – I have nailed down the shortening pie crust. (And a butter pie crust that’s fantastic with blueberry pie!)

cutting shortening

The crust is made from a few simple ingredients – flour, salt, sugar, shortening and ice cold water. That’s it. First the dry ingredients are sifted together. Then the shortening is cut into the dry ingredients.


Is anyone else excited about shortening sticks? I do not miss having to measure shortening from a tin and getting it all over my hands. While I love making pie crust, I loathe the feeling of shortening on my hands. The sticks are my favorite cooking convenience ever!

water to dough

Once the shortening is cut in, it’s blended with the dry ingredients using a pastry blender or two knives (using them in a scissoring motion). I use a pastry blender in most instances, but sometimes out of necessity or just for fun or a sense of nostalgia, I’ll go the knife route. Once you have a mixture of small and large clumps in the dough, it’s time to begin adding the water.

dough ball

Here’s where the sensory experience begins. Most recipes will call for 6 to 8 tablespoons of ice cold water. The water is added one tablespoon at a time, while pulling the dough up with two forks from the bottom of the bowl to incorporate. While sometimes this works for me, more often than not, I find I need about 10 tablespoons of water. You don’t want your dough too dry or it won’t roll out properly, nor do you want it too wet and sticky. It’s a fine line and it takes practice to know when it’s right. Fortunately pie crust making is a trial and error process with delicious results! If it’s too wet, add a little more flour. Too dry, add a little more water.

dough ball

I usually add about 6 tablespoons without thinking too much about it, then add one at a time thereafter until it’s right. After about 8 tablespoons of water has been added, I ditch the forks and dig my hands in. This is the only way for me to tell when the dough is ready. I knead and fold the dough until it’s smooth and slightly sticky to the touch. I form it into one ball, then break it in half and form two balls. One ball of dough should be slightly larger than the other (for the bottom crust).

pie crust dough

From here, the dough is flattened into a disk about 1/2″ to an inch in thickness and wrapped in plastic wrap. I then refrigerate it for a minimum of one hour. This is usually when I prepare my pie filling. You can also add the dough to a sealable plastic bag and store it in the freezer for use another day. Or if you’re making a tart or a one-crust pie, use one and store the other in the freezer.

rolling dough

Once the dough is done chilling, remove the bottom crust first. Place it onto a lightly floured surface and begin to roll it out. Don’t forget to flour your rolling pin too! I generally roll in one direction and give the disk a quarter turn, then roll again. Once the dough is getting to the desired size, I roll it in all directions to even it out. I then carefully wrap the dough around my rolling pin and unroll it over the pie pan.

rolling out pie crust

Now is the time to add your filling to the pie and then repeat the rolling process with the top crust. I typically use a traditional top crust with pinched edges, but with the grape pies used a lattice so the stunning colors could show through. For a good step-by-step on how to place the strips of dough for a lattice pie, click here. There’s also a good printable illustration here.

lattice top

I’ve used this recipe for both 8″ and 9″ round double crust pies, but it also works just as well for a 9-inch-by-13-inch double crust. As far as baking the pie crust goes – there are a number of tricks to get that beautiful golden brown coloring. My Grandma Farreline uses a light sprinkling or brushing of milk over the dough before baking. You can also brush on an egg wash, or even butter.


Next week, we’ll have another pie recipe to share. Remember those cherries we picked in the Finger Lakes? Time to put them to good use (in more ways than one)! My only question…double shortening curst or double butter crust? Decisions, decisions.

grape pies

Until next time, enjoy the weekend! Perhaps you’ll find a little time for reflection (without having to be whacked over the head!) or even some time to make a pie. Cheers!

Print this recipe: Shortening Double Crust

38 thoughts on “Quiet Reflection – Making Pies from Scratch

  1. Johnnie Wobbler says:

    Never a die-hard fan of pastry and deserts, but it makes it all worth it when you share the joy of getting your hands dirty and making something with the people that you love. It’s this love that wipes away any executional imperfections and makes it even more delicious. Bloody hell, I to bake this with the lady.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Eva Taylor says:

    JT usually has these reflection moods in the Springtime when we go up north and open the cottage, he says he reflects on what happened in the year before and if his expectants came true. I just go up for the scenery.
    Europeans are not pie people so I don’t have a crust recipe handed down from my grandmother, I will definitely use your lovely recipe in future because I’ve never been satisfied with any of the pastry recipes I’ve tried. Have you ever considered using vodka instead of water? Apparently the alcohol from the vodka doesn’t promote gluten formation, leaving a lovely, tender, light, flakey pie crust, perfect for those who tend to over process (like me). It’s NOT BREAD DOUGH, I keep telling myself! I have yet to give it a try! Our shortening also comes in a tub, but I hardly go through it so a size like that would be a waste, I generally buy a 454 g (1 lb) block and use the displacement method to measure it out. I also have a very cool gadget I bought years ago which is a plastic clear tube fitted with a very snug softer plastic plunger (http://www.amazon.com/OXO-Grips-Measuring-Sticky-Stuff/dp/B00A2KDAIW); it works beautifully for brown sugar, peanut butter, butter, shortening etc. and the plunger pushes every last bit out for good measure!
    Love those nostalgic photos, you are so cute!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kristy says:

      Ooohh! A sticky stuff measuring tool. I LOVE it Eva! How fun is that. Definitely going to have to pick one of those up. Thank you. 🙂 I have tried vodka in my dough on a few occassions. I don’t know that it made much of a difference, so I just stick to my original recipe. I have no doubt you could master this one Eva. 🙂 I suppose my quiet reflections tend to be in the fall. I can see why the cabin brings it out in JT though. Hugs dear friend!


  3. ChgoJohn says:

    You are so right about the sticks of shortening. I think that’s why butter crusts are so popular. People gave up trying to measure shortening. I’ve been toying with the idea of using lard for a pie crust and the one thing holding me back is the measuring. I guess it’s too much to ask of the CSA to tell the farmer to package his lard in sticks.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. hotlyspiced says:

    I love your old photos but I can’t stop thinking about you rescuing a bird from your lawn mower. Did it even survive? And I do wish I had one of those masher tools. My mother had one when I was growing up and I don’t know what happened to it. I think they went out of fashion as most people started making pastry in their food processor so I haven’t seen one in a long time. I’d love to get my hands on one again! xx

    Liked by 1 person

Thank you for commenting!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s