It’s the season for sweets and treats, and one of our favorites in my family is a rich chocolate pudding pie. The secret to the pie is the pie crust: if it fails, the pie just doesn’t taste the same. Pie crust can be a difficult task to take on, especially if you’ve never made one or don’t make them often. But please put down the Pillsbury pre-made dough and try it with these tips––homemade pie crust is ALWAYS better, and you might just surprise yourself! The more you make it, the easier it gets.
We aren’t going to give a recipe since most have a favorite or can find one easily. What we are going to give you are tips that have always worked well for us. We aren’t pie-crust experts by any means, but we bake a lot of them…and we eat even more!
First, the basics: Pie crust involves mixing a fat (butter, lard, or shortening––I use butter flavored Crisco sticks), flour, and water. Most of the time there will be salt, maybe sugar, perhaps an egg. I’ve even seen vodka and vinegar used as the liquid! But we are going to focus on tips for a traditional crust.
1. Use all-purpose flour since it has the perfect amount of protein. Pastry flour doesn’t have enough, so your crust will fall apart. Bread flour has too much, so your crust will be hard.
2. If you’re using a metal mixing bowl or utensils, put them in the freezer. Having everything as cold as possible ensures your fat (butter, shortening, lard) won’t melt, which will help keep your crust together.
3. When cutting your fat into flour use a food processor or stand mixer (with the dough blade) or a pastry cutter. These items will help you cut your fat into flour with the most consistency.
4. Make sure your water is ICE cold for the same reason as in tip #2. If your fat melts too much you lose the flakiness of your pie crust.
5. Don’t play with it or overwork it! It’s probably one of the hardest things to learn when making crust. When adding your water to you fat/flour mixture DO NOT play with it. Do not try and mold it together or knead it––it isn’t bread and doesn’t need it. Use a spatula or your hand to gently fold your ice cold water into your fat/flour mixture. Mechanical action (like kneading or stiring) will promote gluten formation, which we don’t want. We want to form the gluten by adding water to the flour. Too much gluten formation means a tough crust and could also cause your crust to shrink.
6. Chill it for 30 minutes before rolling it out completely. Place it in a large ziploc bag, roll it into a patty and put it in the fridge. This will allow your fat to harden up a bit, which causes those flaky fat pockets when baking. This will also give your gluten time to form.
7. When bringing it back out of the chill, roll it as much as possible in the ziploc bag then cut the bag away. You can also use floured parchment. I use paper towels to roll between. I don’t know why it works, but it does.
8. Roll your dough over your rolling pin and roll it back out over your plate. It is a similar method the covering a cake with fondant.
9. Unless you have an excessive amount of dough over the edges of your crust, don’t cut if off, just fold it under. Make sure the edge of your crust is flush with the edge of your pie plate. Then pinch it to make it pretty. It doesn’t have to look perfect. In fact, it probably never will, and we don’t care as long as it tastes good!
10. If you’re baking a crust that will get a filling and be placed back in the oven (blind-baking), place a sheet of parchment in your crust and place beans at the bottom to keep your crust from rising up too much. You can also poke with a fork to help steam escape. Be careful though––too many holes could cause you filling to leak though.
There you have it! 10 tips for a perfect crust! If you have dough leftover here is one more tip:
Roll it out, cut some slabs of butter on it, cover it in cinnamon sugar, and roll it up. Place it on a pie dish and back in the oven until golden brown. Then you have this fantastic cinnamon roll with your delicious flaky crust…one of my favorite parts of making pie crust!
We know many of you love baking, so we want to hear from you! What are your tips for the perfect crust?