November 17, 2016
A Quick Guide to Making the Perfect Pie Crust and 6 Easy Recipes
Do you want to know the secret to a perfect pie crust? Whether you’re an expert baker or planning to bake your first pie this holiday season, we can help you create a golden, tender, flaky, melt-in-your-mouth pie crust. It seems simple enough to mix flour, butter, salt, and water, but it can be very tricky to get just right. Once you master all the variables, you will have an amazing pie crust in your repertoire. Continue reading to learn how to bake an amazing crust and find some delicious recipes to experiment with.
5 Things to Know for Beginner Pie Makers:
#1 Cracking dough means it’s too dry or too cold.If your dough cracks when you roll it out, it’s either too dry or too cold. If it’s crumbling, it needs a bit more water. Add a tablespoon of water and work it into your dough. If your dough is cracking at the edges, it’s too cold. Let it warm up on the counter for just a few minutes, as it will get sticky if you leave it out too long.
#2 Always bake pies on the bottom rack.To avoid soggy crusts, bake your pie crust on the bottom rack of your oven on a preheated baking sheet. When possible, use a glass pie dish so you can see how the crust is cooking. Depending on the type of pie, you can partially or fully pre-bake your crust.
#3 Unfilled pie crusts need help maintaining their shape when baking.Prick the bottom of your crust all over with a fork, then line crust with parchment paper and fill with pie weights. No pie weights on hand? You can use dried beans instead! Both the weights and the beans help flatten the crust and prevent it from bubbling.
#4 Top crusts need to be vented.Are you making a two-crust pie? The top crust needs to be vented to allow moisture from the filling to escape. You can use a decorative pie cutter or simply make slits in the top crust.
#5 Use a pie crust shield to prevent burnt crusts.A pie crust shield can protect your crust from burning. You can buy one or easily make your own from aluminum foil. Loosely fold two-inch-wide strips of foil around the outside edges of the crust and dish to protect it while baking.
What you need to know about choosing your crust ingredients:
- Begin with flour. All-purpose or a blend of all-purpose and pastry flour are the easiest to work with. The blend will result in a more tender crust and is much easier to work with than pure pastry flour for the novice baker.
- Add in the fat. Shortening, butter, or lard work best here. Butter will give a rich flavor, shortening will hold its shape the best, and lard will result in an extra-flaky crust with an old fashioned taste. Whichever fat you choose, make sure it is cold to help keep the crust flaky.
- Add in the salt. Table or fine salt distributes the best in the flour.
- Use ice water. This water should be too cold to drink, use our Precision Pro Digital Thermometer to ensure your water is a frigid 32°F. You need to add enough water so the dough just holds together. Too much water will cause the dough to become very sticky and you will end up with a hard cracker-like crust.
- What about the extras? Some people add a little vinegar, lemon juice, or vodka to their dough. Scientifically speaking, they really don’t make a difference in the crust’s texture. Others add in milk, buttermilk, or egg to add sturdiness and enhance browning. Sugar sprinkled over the top of a pie crust can make it crunchy and add both shine and flavor.
Tips for mixing the crust:
- Add your flour to a large sized bowl. You want enough room to be able to maneuver easily. The best way to get accurate measurements is to weigh your flour on our Precision Elite Digital Kitchen Scale. Too much, or too little, flour can greatly impact the texture of your dough. To keep mess to a minimum, put the bowl on the scale, turn it on and add your flour. One cup of all-purpose flour weighs 120 g.
- Cut your butter or shortening into pats and work them into the flour. You can mix them with a pastry cutter, two knives, a fork, or your hands. Press down on the biggest chunks and flatten them so you can start to break them down and mix with the flour. Be sure to leave some pea sized chunks of butter in your flour to create that flaky texture.
- Once your butter is distributed, it’s time to add the water. Start with 4 tablespoons of ice cold water and mix it in. Add additional water, one tablespoon at a time, until your dough starts to stick together. Test a pinch of dough to see if it sticks together. If it sticks but then falls apart, add a little more water. Stop adding water once the dough forms clumps and stays together.
- Work the dough gently. Take the crumbly dough and mix it with your hands or use a piece of parchment paper to work the dough. Fold it over on itself 3 – 4 times to add air into the dough and create layers.
- Press the dough into a disc and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.
- When it’s time to roll the dough, lightly flour a pastry sheet or a piece of parchment, the dough, your hands, and the rolling pin. Flatten your disc slightly and start rolling out from the center in all directions. Roll gently or the dough will split. Move the dough around to ensure even rolling. If the dough sticks to the surface, add a bit more flour. Roll the dough until it is 3 inches wider than the top of your pie pan.
- Depending on the type of crust you’re making, follow instructions for the specific oven temperature and baking time.