Step-By-Step Guide to Homemade Pie Crust
For most people, a great pie boils down to the crust. Was it flaky enough? Tender enough? Buttery? Too buttery? There are some basic principles that every baker should go by if they wish to make the perfect pie crust.
And the recipe really is simple, even beginners can do it. Don't be intimidated if you haven't made a lot of things from scratch. Just get in there and have fun and do your best. If you screw it up, just get take-out!
1. Everything should be cold. All of your ingredients, including the flour, should be refrigerated ahead of time.
2. The right ingredients. The way a pie crust turns out also depends largely upon which type of fat you use. Old school bakers swear by lard. If you are reluctant to use lard, here is a link about it's nutritional properties and uses. But lard falls into the same category as shortening as far as how it affects crust; it makes for a more tender, flaky crust. However, lard will produce a slightly crisper crust than shortening. If that golden brown color and crispy texture is what you want, use butter. Some bakers like to use half butter and half shortening or lard to maintain a buttery flavor as well as the tender, flaky texture. Personally I like to use real all-natural butter; it's healthier than shortening, and it still gives enough flakiness for me.
Ingredients (for a two-crust pie or 2 single-crust pies):
-2 & 1/2 C all purpose flour (can substitute with all purpose gluten-free flour)
-1 C (2 sticks) lard, butter or shortening~cut up into small cubes
-1 tsp salt
-6 to 8 TBSP ice cold water
1. Preheat oven according to your pie recipe--350 F if you are prebaking the crust. Combine flour and salt. Use a pastry cutter or food processor to blend in the butter or shortening until it mixes to form bits the size of peas or smaller.
2. Add the ice water and continue to mix with pastry cutter or food processor until the dough sticks together.
**I suggest using a pastry cutter and your hands to avoid over-mixing. You want an even amount of butter bits throughout the dough when you roll it out
3. Form into two balls then flatten into disks. Seal the discs in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes. (Any less and it will be too warm and might stick to surfaces. Any more and it'll be too cold and might crack as you roll it out.)
*If you want to store it for later, just let it thaw at room temp until it's still cool but easy to work with. You can store it in the fridge for about 4 days and in the freezer for a few months. Just move it from the freezer to the fridge to defrost 24 hours before using it.
4. Flour your rolling surface or counter top and also flour your hands, the rolling pin and top of the dough.
5. Flatten the disk out a bit with your hands then use the rolling pin to roll the dough out, starting from the middle. Click here for a very thorough tutorial on rolling out dough by The Smitten Kitchen.
Okay, so that might not have been my best work rolling out dough. But it still made it into the pie dish just fine. Make sure the crust hangs a bit over the edges so they don't slip down past the edge while baking. And don't let those extra scraps go to waste! Sprinkle them with some cinnamon and sugar and bake for a yummy snack.
3. Blind Baking. If this crust is for a pie recipe in which you need to prebake the crust, you will need to do a blind bake. Blind baking is prebaking the crust to keep it from becomming soggy if it is going to be filled with a liquidy filling or if you need it completely prebaked to make a no-bake filling like a lemon meringue or banana cream pie. It also helps to keep the dough from puffing up while prebaking. Simply place a layer of parchment or wax paper on the bottom and fill with something like dried beans or lentils. I have some I keep in a jar that I reuse specifically for blind baking. You can also purchase pie weights.
If you are doing a blind bake, cook it at 350 F for about 20 minutes or until golden brown and semi-firm. If you need to prebake it all the way for something like a pudding or cream pie, bake for twenty minutes then remove the pie weights and parchment paper and bake ten to twenty more minutes until the entire bottom of the crust is golden brown.
And there you have it! From here on out, it's just a matter of practice, so start making those pies.:)
My Best Pie Recipes