Pie Crusts Made Easy
There’s nothing better than slicing into a gorgeous pie after a comforting meal. For some reason, pie baking has taken a back seat when it comes to kitchen know-how in more recent generations. Artisan foods have experienced a revival, and the foods we remember from grandma’s kitchen are now more likely than ever to make a presence on our family dinner tables. We enjoy these foods for the simple comforts they bring in flavor and texture and the stories and memories brought about with every scrumptious bite.
Pie crust is viewed as kitchen alchemy by some, but if you learn a little bit about how the ingredients interact and how to treat them during mixing, you’ll be baking fine pies in no time! It should be well-known that creating the perfect pie crust does not entail a one-size-fits-all approach. Some of your grandmothers likely used different fats as a base for their recipes.
You’ll find a bit of sugar and different liquids to pull the pastry dough together in some recipes. I have found that I like just about any pie crust I can taste, not because of the difference in flavor, but rather the kind intention behind the baker who made it. All pie is good pie.
Follow these tips to make your next pie baking experience a good one. And if you are new to pie, the crust I use for my Easy Harvest Pear Pie is the easiest recipe I’ve ever made, and it’s my family’s favorite!
Watch the video below for step-by-step details, and find the Easy Harvest Pear Pie recipe.
Step-by-Step Crust Basics
- Pre-measure all flour, salt and sugar.
- Sugar is optional in pie crust pastry. It lightly browns the crust.
Fat of choice:
- Whatever fat is used, it must be cubed and well chilled.
- Butter makes for a golden-brown crust that is flavorful, but it tends to be denser and less tender. However, it is easy to work with when rolling out.
- Shortening makes a crust that is more blonde and slightly less flavorful than an all-butter crust. A shortening-based crust will be light and flaky and pretty easy to roll out.
- Lard will yield a blonde, flavorful crust that is the flakiest and most tender of all. But, it is difficult to work with when rolling out.
- Oil-based crusts are perfect for beginners to roll out and taste great with less hassle.
- Using a combination of fats is also a great idea. My favorite combination is butter and lard.
- Follow a ratio of flour to fat that is 2:1 in standard pie crust recipes, which use solid fat like butter, lard and shortening.
- Use ice water to combine ingredients so the pastry dough will stay well chilled and be easier to roll out.
- Vinegar, combined with the water, can tenderize the crust.
- Using eggs in the crust will deepen its color and help ease pastry incorporation but can make the crust tougher.
- Dairy ingredients like milk and buttermilk can be used in pie crust but often make a crust tough if over mixed.
- After dry ingredients are sifted, fat is ‘cut’ into the flour until mixture resembles coarse crumbs (pea sized).
- Carefully adding water one tablespoon at a time is best. When a tablespoon of the mixture can be squeezed in your hands, and it holds together on its own, the dough is ready.
- Do not over-work the pastry. It will make the pie crust tough.
- Use a food processor for incorporating ingredients. Pulse only, do not over process.
- Chill ingredients before beginning.
- Always use plenty of flour when rolling out your crust.
- If crust is difficult to work with, return it to refrigerator for a brief chill before continuing.