Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Perfect Pie Crust 101

Along with being eaten by sharks and giving a speech in public, many people are afraid to make a pie crust. A pie crust has no teeth whatsoever and can be done in absolute privacy, so let's abolish that fear so that a new dread can move into its spot. With a little practice, making a beautiful, flaky piecrust is actually elementary, my dear Watson
So let's make a pie crust, shall we?
A few tools will make your job a little easier. Waxed paper and a rolling pin, I wouldn't make a pie without them. If you have a pie cutter, your job will be quicker, but you can use two butter knives instead. I really can't say why I took a picture of a fork and ice water. They're not exactly special equipment, and if you don't have access to a fork and some cold water, then making the perfect pie crust isn't your most pressing issue.
In a large bowl, using a fork, combine 2 and 1/2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon salt and a teaspon sugar.
Let's talk a little about fat and flavor. Fact: Shortening produces a flakier crust than butter. Fact: Most people prefer the flavor of butter to shortening. Opinion: You need both butter and shortening to make a piecrust that has both the perfect structure and flavor. It's more expensive, but I like to buy the shortening in cubes (pictured above) in the baking section of the market. I only use shortening for pie crusts, and if I buy even the smallest can, I end up having to throw it out. The cubes are individually sealed and premeasured, so they're ideal for butter-bakers, like me.
I use half shortening/half butter, both of which should be firm and chilled. Dice them both into small pieces.
Use your pie cutter to "cut" the fat into the dry ingredients. You can use two knives in a slicing motion, if you're piecutter-less. It takes just a couple of minutes of constant cutting before the mixture resembles coarsemeal, with a few larger-pea size pieces. Stop there! You want bits of uneven fat throughout the mixture that will melt into your dry ingredients and create layers of flakes.
Take your ice water now and drizzle 6 tablespoons over your dusty dough. Use a fork to mix in the water and try to gather it into a ball. I neglected to take a picture of the drizzling process, because my sister came over with this dear little baby. She's my dear little friend. She's wearing dear little pink pajamas and looking at me with a dear little Gerber expression. I can't stop saying dear little whenever she is around, so shall we get back to my dear little pie?
Now, 6 tablespoons is NEVER enough water for my pie crust, so I always end up drizzling at least 1-2 tablespoons more. Go slowly, and get just enough in there to make the pie crust come into a ball. If you err, err on the side of too much water. It's just too hard to roll out a bone-dry pie crust. Here's my ball of dough just after I stopped sprinkling water and staring at the dear little baby visitor. Get out a generous sheet of waxed paper and a pen. We're going to trace a 12 inch circle onto our waxed paper as a size guide for rolling out the crust. (Just flip the waxed paper over after you make your circle, so that no ink comes in contact with your crust.) Put your crust in the middle of the circle and pat it out a little to make your rolling job a little easier. (If your pie crust is at all moist, lightly flour your waxed paper.) Pat your dough out from the center. There's very little rolling to do, if you pat your pie crust down first. But let's roll now. Start from the center and push lightly on the rolling pin. Move your pin 1/8th of a turn, and continue around the pie, pushing the crust to just outside your circle guide. If you like, you can trim your pie to a perfect circle with a pair of kitchen shears. I never do, but I always think it would be nice. Now, lightly flour the top of your pie crust and fold it in half with the waxed paper. Peel back 1/2 of the waxed paper and place the piecrust down into your piepan, centering the fold line with the middle of the pan. Peel of the rest of the waxed paper and unfold. IMPORTANT: Don't try to make the pie crust look pretty yet, I repeat do not try to make the pie crust look pretty yet. This is where most people make their mistake, and I'm speaking from experience because I did it for years. It's shaggy and uneven, I know, but we're going to fix it. Right now we're just going to build up a ridge. Fold up the extra pie crust over itself to create an even ridge around the top of the pie dish. If you have too much crust in one area, pull it off and add it where you need it. This still needs a little bit of work. When you have it as even as you like, then you can make it look nice. Force your knuckle into sections of dough, pinching it into place with your fingers on the other side. Go all the way around the pie. Now, take a look at the OUTSIDE of your pie dish. Oh, dear. If there's anything hanging over the edge too far, fix it now so it doesn't break off during the baking process. Much better.
And there you are, a beautiful blank canvas. It's ready to fill if you're making pumpkin, apple or berry pie, or ready to pre bake, if you are making quiche, cream pies, or pecan. It's just waiting for you, so get cracking.
Perfect Pie Crust
Estimated Cost: $1.25
Notes: Making your own piecrust is inexpensive and delicious!
2 and 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
5 tablespoons cold shortening
5 tablespoons cold butter
6 tablespoons and more ice water
Combine dry ingredients in large bowl. Cut in fats. Drizzle with ice water and shape into ball. Roll out and place in 8 or 9 inch pie dish.
Post Edit: Another wise Prudence from the comment section asked me some very good questions that I should have included, so here goes. I'm glad my readers are so on the ball, since I can be a bit of a ninny. You CAN freeze this pie dough very easily. I prefer to freeze it BEFORE rolling it out and let it thaw in the fridge for a couple of hours. It will freeze magnificentally, which is why you should always make a double batch at least.
Have you voted at French's today? Click right here! It's easier and faster than baking a pie! So head on over. And a million thank yous. My new goal is 300 votes, since I just passed 200, thanks to all of you.


Leslie said...

What an adorable little munchkin!!!
Gotta love a good pie crust!!!
I have the same silverware!

Adrienne said...

"and if you don't have access to a fork and some cold water, then making the perfect pie crust isn't your most pressing issue." I was laughin out loud! I love the wax paper circle trick.

Prudence said...

How about freezing pie crusts? Can I make my crust, freeze it, thaw it later, and then fill and bake?

gigi said...

That really sounds and looks as easy as can be :} Why am I always afarid to try that, I have no idea.

The precious little baby has the sweetest face and biggest eyes I've seen in a long time. I can see why you would be distracted.

Thats for the help, I'll let ya know when I make on as to how it turned out. Off to vote now.

Fantastic Mr. R said...

Thanks for the tutorial....Some years I just give up on pretty, but this year I want the full package pie :)....Remember the NY years where we made like 12 pie crusts and froze them? Good times. :)

Prudy said...

Prudence-why didn't I think to include that? I'm going to go and add answer your questions right in my post. Thanks!

Amanda said...

Fabulous tutorial my dear :) I hae to ask though, is that a 9" deep dish pie plate? That's what I have and want to make sure the crust will fit right. Last time I made one it shrank quite a bit :-/

Oh and...

"if you don't have access to a fork and some cold water, then making the perfect pie crust isn't your most pressing issue."


Prudy said...

This one is a nice fat generous recipe so you should fit just fine in a deep dish nine inch pie plate. Believe it or not, this one is an odd shaped 10 inch pie plate, but I had to use it. It was pure vanity-I loved the blue color. My sister left the pie plate at my house last year at Thanksgiving and now she'll find out and want it back!

Amanda said...

Great! So glad to hear that :) My daughter has been driving me nuts to make pumpkin pie. I cooked up 6 sugar pumpkins a couple of weeks ago and froze 18 cups of puree. I'm so hoping that she will like pumpkin pie with fresh pumpkin instead of canned. Guess I better get busy!

Oh and LMAO about the pie plate and your sister LOL!

Prudence said...

I have another question because I am trying to get better at making pie crusts. If I am making a pie with a top crust, is there a trick to sealing the edges so the filling doesn't ooze out? Do I pull the bottom up over the top when I do the edges or vice versa?
Thanks for the help!

Catherine said...

I loved . . ."and if you don't have access to a fork and some cold water, then making the perfect pie crust isn't your most pressing issue." I laughed out loud! Too funny.

Thanks for the tutorial. I really should try a pie crust.

I love that picture of my little sweeie pie. And I love how you always say, "dear baby" when you talk about her. You're so good to her, and my two other turkeys too!

Seth and Julie said...

Okay, you made that look so easy that I want to try it right this minute but I am pretty sure it will be more frustrating, and less attractive when I am the one behind the wheel. I usually do a no roll crust. Rolled cookies and pie crusts have been my achilles heel in the kitchen to this point.

Thanks for sharing.

Off to vote!

luckygirlgifts said...

O.K, I made your "best ever tortilla soup" today and WOW it was fantastic. I really HATE, I mean dislike it when I spend the money and time making a recipe from one of the big fancy t.v. star chefs and it tastes yucky. So, far you are 2 for 2 Yeah!!
Thank you so much, my family loved it. We even had mom over and she was gushing over it too.
Your site is truly a treasure.
Cari b.

Prudy said...

Great question! Maybe I should do a double pie crust tutorial, too. But in the meantime, for double crusts, fit your bottom crust into pie pan leaving a 3/4 inch overhang. Fill the pie. Brush the overhang and rim with water. Put the top crust on and pinch it just to close. Trim the overhang of both again, just to be sure you have only a 3/4 inch overhang. Now, tuck the overhang UNDER itself so that it sits flush with the pie dish. Poke a few steam holes on top and you're all set! Best of luck!

Leigh said...

I've never gotten around to buying a pastry cutter (somehow I never think about it until I'm in the throes of making a pie or biscuits). I've used the two knives method with OK results. Then I got inventive and just used a wire whisk to mash the fat into the flour, much like you would use a pastry cutter. I think it's a decent substitute. Just thought I'd share. Love the blog :)

Prudy said...

Ooh, Leigh, what a great idea. I love multi-tasking tools in the kitchen. I'm going to make my next pie crust with a whisk just to try it out.

Amanda said...

Erin, I love you.

I just pulled a PERFECT pumpkin pie out of the oven. This was the easiest pie crust I've ever made. They've always been so fussy, but not this one. Thank you!

wileyfamilyof5 said...

After years of making pie crust. My secret ingrediant is a shortening/lard mix you can only find at walmart. It is walmart brand right next to the regular shortening. My pies always turn out extra flaky with this special ingrediant.

Leslie said...

I want to come over and make 12 pie crusts with you and Heidi.
Pie crusts remind me of making Quiche Lorraine. My kids love Quiche. Can you post a recipe for that some time when you get done doing all the millions of things you're doing.
Also, that dear little baby, in dear little pink pajamas really does does look quite dear.

The JR said...

Your crust looks great. I'm too lazy. I use premade. But, I KNOW your's is so much better.

Anonymous said...

So funny and so helpful. Thank you! I'm saving this for the next time I need to make a crust.

Amanda said...

Pk Erin another question. How long do you parbake your crust? I made a pumpkin pie today, which was delicious, but once again the bottom of the crust wasn't done right. Grr! I baked it for 15 minutes with pie weights, then another 10 without them. It looked pretty good when I took it out. I put the pumpkin filling in and it baked another 60 minutes.

How long do you do the initial baking for? Oh, and I baked at 375.

Venessa said...

I just had to comment because being eaten by a shark and public speaking are my two biggest! I also have always thought to myself why bother? when it comes to making a pie. Maybe I will give it a try. Thanks.

Prudy said...

That's about what I do, but the truth is it's pretty difficult not to get a mushy pie crust with a custard pie. The best option if you want it to hold up a little better is to brush it with egg yolk AFTER you take the pie weights out and let it bake a good 8-10 minutes. Good luck, dear friend!

Katy ~ said...

Terrific tutorial. Thank you for taking the time to do this post. It will be appreciated by many!

Emily Rose said...

The waxed paper is a great tip! Strangely, a pie crust was one of the first things my mom taught me how to make when I was little so I've never been afraid of it but I always have trouble with the transfer from the counter to the pie plate. I will definitely be using your tip this Thanksgiving!

Heather said...

This is the pie crust I've been looking for! Best one I've made.

Prudy said...

Thanks, Heather! So glad it worked out for you.

Amanda said...

Hi Erin Honey :) Thanks for all your help with this. Wanna see the pie I made with it? I linked to you of course ;)

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