Tuesday, September 16, 2008

.perfect pie crust.

Growing up, my dad was the big pie maker in the family. For holidays, he would spend a full day in the kitchen making pumpkin pies, apple pies, and the pie shells for cream pies. My mom would make the fillings for chocolate cream, banana cream, and coconut cream pies. We are serious about our pie! It isn't shocking to anyone to show up for Thanksgiving to find 12 pies waiting to be eaten after the big meal.

I learned a lot about pie making in those years. The techniques and recipes have been passed on and I've been able to share them many times with others I've met in my adult life.

Making pie crust isn't difficult. You just need to know what you're doing! Is your pie crust too tough? You probably handled it too roughly and too much. Does it break apart when you try to roll it out? Probably not enough water was put into the dough. Too sticky? Too much water!

The steps below are for a single pie shell that can be left uncooked for say, a pumpkin pie. Or it can be cooked, for a cream pie. I'll give recipes for both the single *and* double pie crust.

Here are the things you're going to need. Get them out before you begin so you aren't scrambling around in drawers with yucky/doughy hands.

  • Flour
  • Salt
  • Crisco
  • Fork
  • Pastry blender
  • 1 cup measuring cup
  • 1/2 teaspoon measure
  • 1/2 cup measuring cup
  • Tablespoon
  • Sharp knife
  • 1 glass of ice water
  • 1 large ziploc (optional)
  • rolling pin
  • rolling mat (if you have one)
  • pie plate

Begin with your flour. Put 1 1/3 cups flour in a bowl.

Add 1/2 tsp salt. Don't go crazy with the salt. It will affect your crust! Mix together.

Add 1/2 cup shortening. You could use butter, but I have found it makes the pie crust shrink, or makes it tough. I don't know why... but I really prefer using Crisco for my crusts.

Use a pastry blender to cut the shortening into the flour/salt. It will be nice and crumbly when you're done. The pastry blender I use was bought at King Arthur Flour. I love it!

You can be as rough as you want with the dough up to this point. Once the liquid is added, you want to treat it like a baby. I emphasize that because if you work with it too much or too vigorously, it will turn into a sheet of cardboard and we don't want that!

Add Tablespoonfuls of ice water at a time into the bowl. Fluff gently with a fork.

Dough loves cold. If you could chill everything before hand, great! It is important to use ice water because it helps keep the fat (whether you use lard, crisco, or butter) from congelling together.

This is where you want to stop. See how the dough has started pulling together? Quickly push everything together (gently!) and make a flattened ball.

At this stage, you can put the dough in a ziploc and chill in the fridge until you need it. I'm not that patient and roll it out immediately.

I have this awesome silicon rolling mat I bought from Pampered Chef. It makes pie making so much nicer. I highly suggest you get one! Throw some flour on the mat. Put the dough on top of that, and put more flour on top. You really can't use too much flour. It will help keep things from sticking too much while you roll out.

Using your rolling pin, roll your dough out until it reaches the end of your mat. If you don't have a mat, just roll out until it's nice and thin and looks big enough to fit in a pie plate.

A really great tip I learned over the years is to roll the dough up onto your rolling pin, then quickly unroll it over your pie plate.

Carefully line the pie plate and begin trimming any excess off. Don't cut it too close to the top. You need a little extra. You can see where I started trimming on the bottom of this picture.

Fold the excess under.

And then crimp the edges.

Since I'm making a baked pie shell for a lime pie (recipe to come), I need to poke holes in it so it doesn't get a ton of air bubbles. Poke all around the pie crust using the fork. Make sure you get the sides and in the crease where the bottom meets the side.

Put in a 425* oven and bake for about 10-12 minutes, or until the crust is nice and golden.

Once done, pull from the oven and let cool completely.

Now if you're making a pumpkin pie, where the shell doesn't need to be pre-baked, don't poke holes in it! Just leave it whole and pour in your filling then bake.

Now you know how to make pie crust. Don't be intimidated! Next time you want to make a pie, don't be in such a rush to buy one of those store-bought frozen crusts. They're full of additives to keep them fresh and don't taste anywhere as good as something you created yourself.

Printable version:


Catherine said...

My Dad was big into baking, too! I remember watching carefully as he rolled out pie crusts and cinnamon rolls... and 12 pies at Thanksgiving was the norm for us, too! Go to my in-laws and you're lucky if they have two pies at Thanksgiving dinner!

heidigoseek said...

'tis the season for the yummy pies! This is a great tutorial for the people asking for pie crust recipes. Its more than just the written recipe. Seeing it done is so helpful:)

squillen said...

Catherine, we must be related! LOL It is so strange going to someone's place for Thanksgiving and not having a big variety for dessert. Makes me scratch my head.

Hi Heidi!!!!! Hey, I have been meaning to ask... when did you go vegetarian!? I know when I was there last and stayed with you, you were eating meat. Is this new? Miss you guys!

Michelle said...

OK, I could still TOTALLY screw up the pie crust recipe. You just don't understand how pie crust challenged I am. My MIL uses the same instructions as you do and she tried to teach me and walked off muttering "I have no idea what you're doing wrong."

So I found a recipe on allrecipes.com that calls for an egg and some vinegar. It works perfectly and flakey every time.

Anonymous said...

I think I can help with why your butter crust shrinks: butter is about 80% fat. The rest of the volume is taken up with a wee bit of milk solids and water--about 15% water! The thing is, the water doesn't separate from the fat until it's in the oven. Then, it's too late--if you haven't compensated for the water in the butter, you've got way too much water in your crust and there's nothing to be done. Sigh. I think that butter adds tons of flavor to a crust. Try using 1/2 butter and half shortening. Just a thought.

Take care:)