Let’s all be honest, it is the pie crust that makes the pie. Yes, the filling is important too, but if the crust is bad, then the whole pie isn’t right. But the crust is also the hardest to make. Well, people think it is hard to make which is why they go out of their way to buy store-bought crust. And while that works, the flavor just isn’t the same. Not as flaky. Not as buttery, but will do in a pinch. While most people think homemade crust is difficult, it really isn’t.
People often equate baking with a higher level of difficulty than cooking. And while baking can be a little more difficult if you have the right recipe, almost anyone can bake something from scratch.
Pie Crust Recipe
- 2½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ lb unsalted butter (1 stick)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons shortening (butter flavored if possible)
- ice water
- In a large mixing bowl, sift the all-purpose flour, sugar, and salt. If you have a food processor, once the dry ingredients are well mixed add them to the processor.
- Add butter and shortening. If you are using a food processor about 6 to 8 pulses should incorporate the fat into the flour. If you don’t have a food processor, then there are a few ways you can do this step.The fat needs to be incorporated or cut into the flour. You can do this in a few different ways. If you have a food processor, then that will do it for you. Or you could use a fork, or you can use your fingers. I personally like to use my fingers. Cut the fat into the dough until it resembles bread crumbs.
- Now, you need to add the water. It’s hard to know exactly how much you will need to add. Make sure the water is ice cold. Some people find that 1/4 cup of ice water does the trick, some people find they need to add a few tablespoons more of ice water. Add the ice water slowly, a few tablespoons at a time until the dough is tacky.
- Dump the mixture onto a floured surface. The flour will keep it from sticking to the surface. Make sure your hands have flour on them, and then knead the dough. Knead it long enough to form a disk. Do Not Over Knead. This is very important. You want your crust to be tender and flaky. Over kneading develops the gluten in the dough, and that is something you do not want. Cut the disk in half. Then knead both parts until they resemble disks.
- Wrap both disks in plastic wrap and stick them in the refrigerator. They should stay refrigerator from an hour to a week. Do not skip this step. You may be tempted to just go ahead and put the pie crust in the pan and then stick it in the oven. Don’t do that. While the butter and water were cold when you added them to the flour, your hands have warmed them up. Because the butter is no longer cold when you put it into the oven, the butter will cook before the dough and burn. Putting the dough in the fridge and letting it rest will re-solidify the butter.
- Take the dough out of the refrigerator and set it on a floured surface. Dust the rolling pin with flour to stop it from sticking to the dough. Roll out with the rolling pin until the disk is a 12-inch circle. Don’t use a lot of pressure when rolling out the dough. You want it to be at least 1/8 inch thick. Carefully put the dough into the pie pan. Press the dough gently into the curves of the pie pan. There will be a little bit of dough hanging over the top of the pie pan. You should trim the dough 1/2 an inch from the pie pan’s edge.
- Add filling.
- Optional step. You can roll out the second disk and place it in a pie pan to make another pie, or you can roll it out and place it on top of the filling.If you are going to place it on top of the filling, do so gently. Trim off any extra dough. You can crimp the edges by using your thumb and forefinger, or you can use a fork to seal the edges.
- Score the pie with a knife four times. Each slice should be about 2 inches long. You need to do this if your pie has a top so the steam can escape.
How to Bake the Pie Crust
After you’ve finished the steps above, now you need to bake the pie. Usually, a pie with any filling will take about 40 to 45 minutes to bake. Unless the pie has a pre-baked crust.
Make sure to preheat the oven to 350 degrees. You don’t want to put your pie in a cold oven. If the oven is cold and the pie is cold that means that when the oven starts heating the butter in the piece will no longer be cold. The butter will soften and or melt before the rest of the pie starts cooking. The butter will burn while the rest of the pie hasn’t fully cooked yet.
Instead, place the pie in a preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes.
If you want the pie top or the edges to have a shine to them take an egg yolk and add a tablespoon of water to it. Then take a pastry brush and brush the pie top and the edges. This will give your pie a nice sheen to it.
Pre-baked Pie Crust
If you are making a custard, you will need a pre-baked pie crust. This is easy to do.
- Once you do the steps above, place the pan in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. This will ensure that the pie dough won’t slide down the sides of the pan.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Take the pie crust out of the freezer and then line it with aluminum foil. The foil should go over the sides a little.
- Fill with pie weights. Pie weights can be dried beans or rice. You need something that won’t burn but will help the pie crust keep its shape as it’s baking because there is no filling.
- Bake. If you are making a pie that you will have to cook after you add the filling, then bake for 45 minutes. If you are making a pie that requires no further cooking, then bake for 60 minutes.
- Let the pie cool before you add the filling. If you are worried about the edges burning then you can tent them with aluminum foil. That will keep them safe.
Origin of Pie Crust
It may surprise you but pie has been around for a long time. The Romans were making pies in reeds. The reeds were really just there to hold the filling, not for eating. Historians believe that the Romans may have learned about pies from the Greeks. The Romans published the first pie recipe. The pie consisted of a rye crust with goat cheese and honey. Around the 14 century, pies were popular in Europe.
Pies during this time were mostly meat pies. The pies during this time looked very different from how we eat pies now. Now you want a nice ratio of crust to filling. Back then, there was more crust than filling. In these meat pies, there was some type of fowl filling, but they left the legs attached. The legs hung over the side of the pie and were used as a kind of handle.
When the pilgrims came to America, they brought pies with them. Only they used pie crust as a way to preserve meat fillings. It was thought that have a meat pie with a top and bottom crust would help preserve the meat filling during the winter. The crusts weren’t usually eaten.
Pie Crust FAQ
Do I need to use all-purpose flour?
Yes. There is a thought that you could use pastry flour. After all pie crust is a type of pastry. And while it tastes good it doesn’t make a good crust. This is because pie crust made with pastry flour doesn’t stand up to fillings very well and your pie may become soggy. It is best to use any kind of all-purpose flour you have on hand.
Why use shortening and butter?
You don’t have to use both. You can use all butter or all shortening. The fat in the dough is what makes it flaky and gives that buttery taste that everyone loves. If you are only going to use butter, then you should use a cup.
Does the butter need to be cold?
Yes! Everything needs to be cold. If you live in a particularly hot place, then you can even chill your flour. Everything needs to be cold except for the shortening. Keeping everything chilled means that when you put it in the oven the dough starts to cook before the butter melts. This means that the butter won’t burn before the bottom of the pie crust starts cooking. It helps it to cook evenly.