Making a pie crust from scratch is the stuff of love songs—when it’s good, it’s really good and when it’s bad, it’s seriously bad. Made up of only three ingredients—flour, fat, and a liquid—homemade pie crusts can be a cook’s nightmare if those ingredients are not properly combined.
Here are a few tips that will get you on the path to the perfect pie crust.
Tips for making the perfect pie crust
1. The first key to success is to start with ingredients that are cold. This is a departure in baking as most recipes for cookies, cakes, and other treats require ingredients at room temperature. When you’re making a pie crust, even your flour and shortening should be cold. The cold keeps the flour from absorbing too much of the butter or shortening.
It’s better that the fat—whichever one you’re using—settles in tiny clumps in between the layers of flour in the dough. When your crust is heated, the clumps of butter or shortening melt and leave behind tiny air pockets that make up a flaky crust. If your ingredients are warm and the flour begins to absorb the fat, your dough will end up tough.
2. The liquid you use in your crust, usually water or milk, should also be well-chilled and it should be added to your dough gradually, not all at once.
You want to add just enough to moisten your dough and not a drop more. If you really want to keep your dough chilled, run your hands under cold water, then pat them dry before you knead it; this will keep the heat from your hands from warming up the dough.
3. Once you’re turned your three ingredients into an actual dough, it’s important to keep the dough chilled, as well. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and chill it as soon as it’s mixed, then chill it again after you’ve rolled it out and placed it in your pie dish.
This will keep the butter or shortening solid and prevent your crust from shrinking when you bake it. You also can make your pie dough the night before and store it in your refrigerator to make sure it’s nice and cold before it’s baked.
4. To save time on clean up, roll your pie crust out on a sheet of parchment; it’ll keep your countertops clean and you won’t have to worry about the dough sticking to the counter.
Use a glass pie pan to make it easier to see if your bottom crust has browned enough.