I used a TNT recipe for years to make my pie crusts. The crusts came out very flaky. But like your experience, I always had to fight the pie crust as it was extremely fragile and broke easily. I followed all of the tips for resting the crust, for using cold ingredients, even for chilling the working surface and rolling pin. Nothing seemed to help.
Now you have to understand that I experiment with things all of the time. I'm kind of famous for that around here. So, as with so many ohter things, I had to find a definitive answer to the problem and began experimenting. What I found was deceptively simple and made it so that I now longer need a recipe and my crust come out perfectly, and are easy to work with. I share the results of my experimenting with everyone here.
Follow your standard recipe, the one that is hard to work with. Add ice water to the pie dough, a little at a time until it holds together better. Just be careful not to overwork the dough as it will make the crust tough. So here's the technique.
Place flour and salt in a bowl. Add shortening , butter, or cooking oil and cut it into the flour until the mixture resembles a bowl full of pea-sized granules. You can mix all you want at this stage and it won't toughen the crust. The gluten doesn't develop until the water is added.
Finally, add three tbs. of ice water to the dough and lightly press into a ball, as if you were making a snowball. If the dough has enough water in it, it will hold together without pieces falling off. If it's too dry, it will be fragile.
If you need to, break the ball into small pieces and add more ice water, two tbs. at a time. Again make into a ball.
Now, roll out the dough, and if it hasn't been worked much, it's ready to be placed into the pie pan. If you have had to add more water several times, the dough will need to rest, to allow the gluten to relax. This will depend on how much dough you've made.
Dough is flaky because the little pea-sized balls are comprised mostly of flour and fat. They don't stick well together. The water softens the flour-starch and makes the little dough wafers (that's what they become when they are rolled flat) stick together better. To much water will make things messy. Too little water will not create the cohesion required to produce a good dough texture. And unfortunately, as I no longer use a recipe, I can't give you exact measurements. I know the dough is right by how it looks, and by its texture. And using this technique, I can always make the right amount of dough for what I'm doing without having to multiply or divide recipe quantities.
Follow your existing recipe and add two tbs. more ice water. This should solve your problem. Then, learn the general ratio of flour to fat, or learn to recognize the texture after cutting the two together, before adding the water. Once you get the knack for it, it becomes second nature, intuitive. Hope this helps.
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