Many bakers swear by all butter pie crusts, but for every one who does, there is a baker who swears by pie crusts made with only vegetable shortening. Vegetable shortening can make a great pie crust. It is easy to work with and will turn out a crust that is consistently tender, which is a trait that has been winning pie lovers over for decades.
When making a pie crust with shortening, you should chill the shortening (and I recommend looking for trans-fat free shortening, of course!) thoroughly in the refrigerator before working with it. The shortening can be cut into your flour mixture just as butter can be, using your fingers, a pastry cutter or a food processor. Shortening has a higher fat content than butter (100% vs 80-85%) that is a bit less likely to get tough as you handle it. This can actually make vegetable shortening crusts a safer choice for pie crust novices who are worried about getting a good result from their homemade crusts, and it’s a bonus for experienced bakers who like that extra security.
Since a shortening crust is less likely to toughen up with extra handling, it is perfect for making a decorative crust, just as I have done in the photo above. The scraps from your pie dough can be rerolled and cut out with a small cookie cutter, and the resulting decorations can be pressed onto the pie’s crust for a very elegant touch to your dessert. Shortening crusts won’t brown as much as all butter crusts will, so expect your baked crust to be a blonde color rather than a deep amber. If you want to enhance browning, brush the edge of your crust with a little cream before baking. If you opt for butter-flavored shortening instead of a plain variety – I usually use Crisco when I’m using shortening – your crust will take on a little more color, as well.
I have made crusts with all butter, all shortening and with a blend of the two (my personal favorite) and get good results with all of these options. This is my basic all shortening recipe and it should deliver just as good results for you as it does for me.
All-Shortening Pie Crust
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup vegetable shortening (such as Crisco), chilled
5-8 tbsp ice water
Whisk together flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl.
Cut chilled shortening into 8-10 pieces and toss in the flour mixture to coat, then rub in with your finger tips (or a pastry blender) until mixture is coarse and no chunks bigger than a large pea remain. Add in water gradually and stir with a fork until dough starts to come together, then press dough into a ball with the palms of your hands. If dough is dry, add an additional tablespoon or two of water to pull the dough together.
Dough can also be made by pulsing together the dry ingredients and the shortening in the food processor, then adding water and pulsing until a dough forms.
Divide dough into two balls and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least one hour before using.
Makes two 9-inch pie crusts, or enough for a double crust pie.