Everyone enjoys a great piece of pie, especially made with fresh fruits from the farmers markets! It is easily one of America’s favorite desserts. However, the bane of most cooks is making the pie crust. While it’s easy and convenient to turn to store-bought, pre-rolled pie crust, nothing comes close to a homemade, buttery, flaky pie crust.
If you’re a newbie to baking, don’t try to make a pie crust from scratch when guests are expected in two hours! Instead, set aside a half hour and follow the directions carefully. Have your pie filling ingredients ready to go, and devote your attention to the pie crust.
Here are some of our best pie crust tips:
- Use a combination of shortening and cold butter. These fats have different melting temperatures and help create the pockets of steam that help form the flaky layers of pastry. Even if your favorite recipe calls for all shortening, replace a small amount with butter for the best flavor.
- Freeze your butter for 20 minutes before cutting into flour mixture. Pastry requires VERY cold butter. If you have time, measure out the flour into a zip-top plastic bag, and put it in the freezer while your butter chills, too.
- When making dough, the fat pieces should range in size from crumb-sized pieces to 1/2 inch pieces. When using a food processor, add your butter and/or shortening in three batches. Pulse the first batch of butter or shortening three short pulses, just enough to break it up. Add the second batch, and pulse again, three or four short pulses, taking care not to over process flour mixture. You want different sized pieces. Lastly, add the last of the butter, and pulse a couple of times. Check mixture. Again, you’re looking for a range of sizes — NOT a uniform meal-like consistency.
- When adding water, use cold water. Keep a measuring cup filled with a few ice cubes and water off to the side. When it’s time to add the cold water, dip your measuring spoon into the cup. Add the bare minimum of water – you want to create a crumbly texture that is not too dry or too wet.
- When mixing, use a very light “toss and stir” technique to incorporate the water. If there are a lot of dry bits at the bottom of the mixing bowl, add water a few drops at a time. Give the mixture a minute to absorb the water, and toss-stir again. The mixture should hold together when squeezed. Have a large piece of plastic wrap ready. Divide the dough in half if making more than one crust. Use the plastic wrap to gather the dough into a ball and flatten slightly to create a disk. Re-wrap the dough loosely, leaving space around the edges. With your rolling pin, gently roll dough to fill in the extra space. You want a uniform disk.
- Chill dough for half an hour. This step allows the dough a chance to rest and to hydrate.
- When ready to roll, use a piece of plastic wrap on the counter, and dust VERY lightly with flour. Unwrap the dough and place in the middle. Place another sheet of plastic wrap on top. Roll dough gently from the center until the dough is rolled out evenly.
- Use your rolling pin to transfer the rolled dough to pie pan. Remove the top piece of plastic carefully. Place rolling pin off center of rolled dough and lift plastic on bottom to wrap dough over rolling pin. Use your other hand gently peel plastic from bottom of the dough as you lift rolling pin. Center the dough over the pie pan and gently ease dough into pan, pressing lightly to fit pan without stretching or tearing. Allow excess dough to hang on rim. Trim to 1/2 inch.
- Add top crust. Trim edge to 1/2 inch. Gently tuck under excess dough on top rim of pie pan. Using your fingers crimp edges to seal. (Watch video below for other decorative pie crust edges.)
- Use an egg wash and a small, narrow pastry brush to add a shiny glaze to your pie. Be sure to apply egg wash evenly and into every nook and cranny. Sprinkle your dough with coarse sparkling sugar at this point if desired.
And, here’s how to put the finishing touches on your pie!
VIDEO: How to Make Decorative Pie Crust Edges