How to Make the Perfect Pie Crust

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Day 14. 

For as much as I love cooking and blogging, for the most part, I'm pretty average in the kitchen.  I still burn things occasionally, sometimes make things that taste horrible, and I have a knack  for making my food ugly whenever I'm bringing it to share with others.  There's just one exception to this declaration of mediocrity though....making pies.  It's taken me 20+ years of tinkering, but I'm to the point where people tell me that I can consistently make a pretty mean pie.  I've made a couple tutorials in the past here on Recipe Shoebox, but I realized lately that they were somewhat lacking in some elemental details and so I've decided to put together this new and improved how-to post for making your very own perfectly flaky pie crust.  Enjoy!

Not convinced to try it yet?

I've included the following testimonial quote from my {very awesome} friend's Facebook wall to help persuade you:

"I've been keeping a shameful secret. All my life I've been a failure--at pie crust. I've tried to put on a good show, but behind that composed facade has been total ineptitude at pate brisee. Today, however, Lara G. succeeded where notable others including Martha Stewart, America's Test Kitchen and even L'Academie de Cuisine have failed. Today, Lara G.'s blog taught me how to make pie crust. Today is the first day of the rest of my life." 

Click here for printable recipe.

Posted by Lara.

The ingredients:

1 cup butter flavored Crisco (no substitutes)
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 egg + enough ice water to equal 1/2 cup liquid

pastry blender (they're under $10 and great for making biscuits and pie crusts)
9-inch metal or stoneware pie pan (I went to a pie making class one time at a fancy cooking school and I learned that glass pie pans are the worst for making flaky pie crusts and that even disposable pans are better)
pie mat or parchment paper
rolling pin


TO MAKE THE PIE CRUST DOUGH:  You'll see from my notes in this section, that the key to success is to handle the dough as little as possible.  Do not be scared of having big clumps of shortening, those larger clumps are what will make the crust flaky.  Also do not think that it needs to end up looking like a perfectly round ball of cookie dough when you're done. Some of this may seem unnatural or wrong (especially if you're not used to making pie crusts), but I promise that if you stick with the directions, it will make one of the best crusts you've ever made.

1.  With a pastry blender (or fork) cut shortening into flour and salt, crisscrossing across the shortening pieces until mostly the size of peas (DO NOT OVERWORK THE DOUGH! You want to leave some big clumps of shortening and you definitely do not want to dough to start sticking together at all).

2.  Make the egg/water mixture by placing an egg in a half cup measuring cup, beat the egg slightly with a fork,  and add ice water to the top.

3.  Make a slight well in the flour/salt/shortening mixture, then add the egg/ice water mixture and stir with fork until just barely clinging together (10-15 seconds at most).
4.  Knead with hands for 15-20 seconds just bringing in some of the loose crumbs. (Only do this until the dough is just holding together.  There may be some loose crumbs still.  Do not be tempted to add any more ingredients or start kneading it too much). 

5.  I think the crust handles best when used right away, but you could cover and refrigerate the dough at this point. Yields two to three 9” crusts. (I always get two, but my friend Karen always gets three, so I guess it depends on how thickly you roll out the dough.)

 1.   Divide the dough into two equal sections.

2.  Then on a generously floured pie mat (mine's from Pampered Chef) or a piece of parchment, use your hands to pat the dough down until relatively flat. You'll want to flip it over a few times in the process of flattening, reflouring the surface slightly each time.

Don't be scared to flour the surface VERY generously.

3.  Making sure you start with both sides of the dough and the mat well floured, use the rolling pin to form the crust into a somewhat circular shape. Make sure that you rotate the whole mat a few times while rolling out the dough to ensure that the thickness is even throughout. (Do NOT be alarmed about streaks of shortening you see in the process of rolling out. This is normal and are what make the crust flaky.)
4.  After rolling it out to your desired thickness and size (I go for about a 12 to 13-inch circle), carefully brush off excess flour and lift the entire mat into a centered position over your pie pan and release gently into the pan.

Be careful when removing the pie mat/parchment paper, so that you can try to minimize any rips or sticky spots in the crust. (Making a mess is inevitable during this process)

1.  After the crust is in the pan, gently adjust the crust if necessary, centering it and making sure that there is at least 1/2 inch of dough overhang all the way around. 
2.  With a sharp knife or scissors, trim the excess dough from the edges, making sure to leave 1/2-inch overhang. 
3.  If the recipe you're making calls for an unbaked pie crust, then add the filling at this point, flute the edges, and bake as directed. 
4.  If you need a prebaked pie crust, then flute the edges, trying to keep the flute away from the inner lip of pan (tilting it outward).  This will help keep the crust from sliding down. 
5.  With a fork, poke the bottom of the pie crust. 
6.  If it is warm in your kitchen, you may want to refrigerate the empty crust for 15 minutes or so before baking.  (I usually skip this step, but it does help the fluting keep its shape better)

7.  Cut a square of tin foil slightly larger than the bottom of the pie plate.  Form it into a slight bowl shape.  Carefully fit it into the bottom of the crust, taking care that you do not disturb the fluting. 
8.  Pour about 1/2 cup dried beans or lentils into the foil "bowl", taking care not to let any slip underneath the foil.
9.  Bake for 10-12 minutes in a 425 degree oven.  (NOTE:  It is very important that the oven is preheated before baking the crust.  If the oven is still heating up, it will cause the crust to lose its shape.)
10.  Remove pie from oven and gently remove foil and dried beans.  During my pie making season, I just fold up the foil with the beans inside, store it in a ziploc bag, so that I can reuse it over and over again. 
11.   Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then add any fillings as desired. 

1.  After the bottom crust is in the pan, gently adjust the crust if necessary, centering it and making sure that there is at least 3/4 inch of dough overhang all the way around (don't trim it yet).
2.  Add the desired filling. 
3.  Roll the top crust out in the same manner as above, making it slightly larger than the bottom crust (about a 13-inch circle). 

4.  Gently lift the crust (still on the parchment paper/pie mat) and carefully place it over the pie.  It's more difficult to adjust the top crust, so it's important to try to get the crust placement as correct as possible the first time.  Gently remove the pie mat/parchment paper. 
5.  With a sharp knife or scissors, trim the excess dough away, leaving about 3/4-inch overhang. 

6.  As you flute the edges, make sure that you pinch the top and bottom crusts together. 

7.  With leftover pie dough, you can use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes and add to the top of the pie at this point.   
8. If making a dessert pie, lightly brush the top crust with milk, then top with a light sprinkle of granulated sugar. 
9.  With a fork or tip of a sharp knife, make a few small vent holes (place them decoratively if desired) to allow steam to escape.

10.  If it's warm in your kitchen or if it's been more than about 10-15 minutes past when you made/rolled out the pie crust, then you will want to refrigerate the pie for 20 minutes or so before baking.  Technically this step can be skipped, but the edges will hold their shape better if its been refrigerated.

11.  Bake as directed in your recipe, but start watching it around 1/2 way through the baking time to ensure that the edges are not burning. If it is starting to get too brown before the pie is done baking, then place little bits of tin foil over the browning edges for the rest of the baking time. 


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K December 14, 2011 at 11:02 AM  

Aitch and I may need to make a pie soon, so we can try and follow your tutorial. Your pie really is very good looking! (o:

Katie December 14, 2011 at 11:20 PM  

You've just given me a Christmas gift! I tried making a pie for Thanksgiving last year and the crust turned out so bad, this year I stuck with buying something frozen. This post gives me new hope!

Trisha December 16, 2011 at 9:01 PM  

Well, I've been a believer for years! Lara's crust is the only one I use when I am baking.

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About This Blog

My name is Lara and while I'm definitely not a gourmet cook, I do love preparing tasty, healthy meals for my family. Finding new recipes to try and sharing the ones we've already fallen in love with is a passion I've had since college and the reason why I've started this blog! With five kids, I'm usually in a hurry, so you'll find most of these recipes kid friendly and simple to make.

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