I would guess there are more pies made this week then any other week of the year, or at the very least more pie is EATEN! I think making pie crust is so satisfying, and I really want you to be able to enjoy it too. I know it seems crazy hard and buying those frozen pie crusts seems too easy, but will you just hear me out because homemade pie crust is a million times better, and I totally think YOU CAN DO THIS!
Of course it’s customary to begin with the recipe, but when it comes to making pie crust, the tips about how you go about combining ingredients are almost more important, so let’s start there.
Rules of Making Pie Crust
If you’ve got your mom’s/grandmother’s pie crust recipe but have never been able to get it to turn out the way theirs did, this might be what you’re missing!
No. 1 – Dry ingredients first. This applies to a lot of recipes, but when making pie crust it’s especially important because once you start mixing in the wet ingredients you have to be careful not to overmix or your crust will get tough. Also it’s hard to evenly mix in a dry ingredient like salt after you’ve started adding the fats. So make sure all the dry stuff is well combined before proceeding.
No. 2 Cut in your fats with a pastry cutter. Do not be tempted to melt your shortening/butter/lard and mix it in. The delicious flakiness of your crust depends on the chunks of fat being mixed throughout the dough with a pastry cutter. If you don’t have a pastry cutter you could use a fork but it would probably take you forever. Therefore, I think a pastry cutter is an essential tool for making crust, luckily they’re inexpensive. A word about pastry cutters… that wire pastry cutter in the pics is the one I received at my bridal shower, and I think it is adorable. It totally works, but I have to work HARDER, which is why I prefer this kind of pastry cutter. You want to keep cutting the mixture until you no longer have any large chunks of fat or clumps of flour. This step is the time consuming part, but I find it strangely satisfying and older kids can definitely take turns helping. Look at the bottom-right photo above to get an idea of the correct texture once finished cutting in the fat.
No. 3 Use ICE-cold water. Pie crust recipes usually call for cold water and they mean it — as in ICE COLD. (I think this again goes back to the not wanting to butter to melt, but not sure.) Now you don’t want any actual ice in your crust but before I start mixing my dough I put ice and water in a measuring cup (or pitcher depending on batch size) to chill. When it is time to add the water place your measuring cup into the ice water and let just the water into the cup like shown in the photo.
No. 4 Don’t over mix. Once you add the water to your dough it is critical that you don’t mix too much or the crust will lose it’s flakiness and become tough. When making pie crust you don’t really want everything evenly combined — you want more of a marbled effect.
So here’s the best way to handle the water when making pie crust: fill a pitcher/measuring cup with cold water and add a bunch of ice. I usually do this first thing before I even start mixing the dry ingredients or cutting in the fat. Strain out the ice and measure out the cold water. Pour the water in using a swirl pattern over your crust mixture. Let the water soak for about a minute and don’t touch it AT ALL! The water will soak in quite a bit and then you can use two forks to gently toss the mixture looking for any pockets of water. If you find a pocket, flip the lump of crust over so it can absorb the water. That’s it. That is all the mixing it needs. Your dough should look lumpy as shown in the photo above. Also what I wasn’t able to show in the photos, but if you look closely your dough should have a faint marbled appearance. Don’t be alarmed that is a very good sign that you’ve done things right — perfectly flaky pie crust here you come!
Okay so those are the four rules for making the pie crust dough. Now before we talk about how to roll it out and fit the crust into a pie plate, let me just give one last tip:
How to Freeze Homemade Pie Crust
Making pie dough takes some time, and as we are all very much aware pie crust freezes well. (I mean we’ve been buying frozen crusts, right?) With the holiday season approaching, save some time by doubling or quadrupling the crust recipe. Place dough in grapefruit-sized chunks and freeze inside a plastic, zip-top bag. Now you’ll have crust ready to go when you need it. To thaw, let the crust set on your counter for 2-4 hours. Turn it over and smash it periodically to speed the defrosting. In a pinch a warm water bath can help speed defrosting but do NOT use the microwave.
ROLLING OUT A PIE CRUST
Grab a rolling pin and begin by flouring your work surface. Next pick up a tennis-ball size chunk of dough. If your recipe is for a double-crust (as is the recipe below) just divide the dough in half.
Quickly work your dough into a ball (don’t get carried away kneading it… I know it’s hard to resist but that would be mixing and violates Rule No. 4). Smash the dough onto the floured surface and flatten. Rub flour on your rolling pin then roll the dough first one direction then perpendicularly the other direction. Now stop rolling and turn the dough over, spread the flour around your work surface again then place the dough back down. Flour the top of the dough again and press the sides to maintain a circular shape.
Continue rolling the dough out. I want to briefly mention that there is a difference between the sort of gentle rolling needed for pie crust and the more vigorous, back-and-forth rolling used when working with a yeast dough that you’re trying to stretch (like for cinnamon rolls). For pie crust you roll in just one direction always trying to maintain a circular shape. Stop regularly to check for a thick part and then roll over that thick part in the direction you want the dough to move to maintain a rounded shape. I feel like this concept is difficult to explain so I hope that makes sense. You will know you’re done rolling when the crust is large enough for the desired pan — hold the inverted pan centered over the crust and make sure there is about 1-2 inches all the way around the pan.
HOW TO TRANSFER ROLLED CRUST TO A PIE PLATE
Okay so I think this is the part that used to intimidate me the most, but now it’s my favorite of making pie crust, mostly because I get the rush of a #SupermomMoment every time I do it! Place a well-floured rolling pin at the edge of your crust and lift the edge of the dough up onto your rolling pin. Now continue loosely rolling the crust up onto your rolling pin — we want it to stay put but we’re not trying to press the dough onto itself so just roll lightly.
Once it’s rolled up move over the top of the pie plate, let the end of the crust hang over about an inch off the pie plate then begin unrolling the crust as you move over your pie plate. YAY!! YOU DID IT!
Go around and gently help your crust settle into the pan. Next trim off the excess dough — you only need about an inch of overhang all the way around. If your crust has any Ooops! spots where you don’t have overhang or what not, don’t stress… you’re still Super! Just take some of the excess dough and place it behind the hole and press together. No one will ever know.
Now roll the crust underneath itself to create a nice edge. Finish by crimping the crust’s edges into a pretty design — using a a thumb and index finger on one hand and index finger on the other pinch your crust’s edge all the way around. Voila! You’re ready for pie filling.
Finally, here is my favorite pie crust recipe as promised:
PIE CRUST RECIPE
(makes a double crust)
2 cups Flour
1/2 teaspoon Salt
2/3 cup Butter-Flavored Shortening
2/3 cup Ice Water (+ 1/3 cup if needed*)
*After you’ve mixed in and let the 2/3 cup ice water soak, you might feel that your dough is still too dry. In this case add a bit more a tablespoon at a time, then proceed to the fork tossing.
Most pie recipes contain directions for how to cook the crust and it’s best to follow those. Click the photo below for my heavenly Caramel Pecan Pie recipe!
When you do try your hand at making pie crust be sure to share a photo with us on Instagram @PagingSupermom, and be sure to #PieKick and #SupermomMoment if you like.
You might also want to make these pie tags to help keep straight which pie is which at your Thanksgiving Feast.
This post was originally posted in November 2013 but was revised and updated here.