The first few times through, making pie pastry is going to seem awkward. As much as you may want to throw in the dishtowel and drive to the store for a frozen pie shell, just know this: it gets easier with time. Once you’ve tasted your first truly exquisite homemade pie crust, you’ll never want to go back to store-bought.
We make a lot of pie crusts from scratch at our test kitchens, and we’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t. While we have a large section on our website full of tips for making the perfect pie crust at home, we’ve compiled a shortened list of must-have tips for the first timer. Clip them, print them, or stash them away on your phone’s notepad. At the very least, give these a good read through before embarking on your first pie crust adventure. You’ll be glad you did.
- The butter, lard or shortening should be cold and cubed. When the recipe says this, don’t ignore it.
- Use ice cold liquid. This helps keep the butter from melting too much as you mix.
- Add the liquid gradually and add only enough to barely hold the dough together. Overmixing can lead to tough, hard pastry.
- Measure ingredients carefully. Too much flour toughens the pastry.
- Use a pastry cutter or two knives for cutting the fat into the flour.
- Use cold ingredients and run your hands under cold water before working the dough.
- Do not overwork the dough. It should be handled as little as possible. Again, overworking will yield a tough dough instead of a perfectly flaky pastry.
- Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes before rolling it out.
- Always roll the dough from the centre out, not back and forth. Roll out as lightly and as little as possible.
- Gently lower the rolled out dough into the pie plate, being careful to avoid stretching the dough.
- Baking in a glass pie plate is preferred. Glass pie plates give a golden colour crust. Shiny aluminum pie plates can create a soggy crust and dark pie pans can over bake the crust before the filling has thickened.
- If the edge of the crust is browning too quickly during baking, cover the edge with strips of foil.
- Before baking a double crust pie, cut steam vents in the top crust. Start with basic vents before indulging your inner pastry artist.