Another baking secret I have learned is that, if you are like me and can't make decent-tasting pie crust from scratch to save your life, use a food processor.
I have a 7-cup Cuisinart, and it's big enough to make a recipe for 2 pie crusts. You add the flour and chillled butter/vegetable shortening and pulse the mixture until it looks a bit like cornmeal. Then you add the ice-cold water and pulse until the dough just forms. At that point, you scrape it out onto a floured surface, roll out the crust, and you're good to go.
I've never been very good at cutting butter into flour with a fork or with two knives (and I don't have a special implement for it because I don't make pie crust often). I've also been told you can use your fingers, but I'm not nearly fast enough about it to get all the butter worked in before it gets warm. So the food processor makes a recipe that I've always struggled with darned near fool-proof.
I've never tried it with making biscuits, but I kind of suspect it would help keep them from getting all rubbery on me. That, and using cake flour instead of my usual all-purpose.
I agree with this! One of the first things I did when I got my food processor was make pie crust.
I cube the butter first and put it in the freezer for a few minutes. When it is very cold and almost frozen, I add to the food processor and process very briefly, until the butter is cut down into pea size chunks, and then add ice water. Process very briefly until the dough just forms.
Once you have the dough, refrigerate for an hour before rolling it. Roll it between two sheets of parchment paper. Freeze it for 10 minutes before transferring it to a pie plate.
Keeping it very cold preserves the integrity of the butter so that it melts into flaky deliciousness in the oven. It also makes the dough infinitely easier to work with, both with the rolling and with transferring it to the pie plate.
Is there a way to get softer, fluffier biscuits or rolls out of whole wheat flour, without adding white flour? I've tried using vital wheat gluten and it helps a bit, but I just cannot get that perfectly soft fluffiness without using 1/2 white and 1/2 wheat flour.