With Thanksgiving right around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about our epic holiday feast. Turkey? Check. Mashed potatoes? Check. Cranberry sauce? Check. Pie? Um, not so fast.
While we love our store bought pies, nothing can compare to a fluffy, warm, fresh-out-of-the-oven pie that can only be created from the comfort of home. Fillings are usually the easy part, but there’s one mighty player in the pie making process that stumps us year after year: the crust.
Don’t worry, we’re here to help. By following these ten easy steps, you’ll become a master of pie crust in no time.
- Understand the process. This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how easy it can be to overlook the essentials. A classic pie dough recipe calls for blending flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl and then incorporating cold chunks of butter into the dry mix.
- Start with the right ingredients. “Good food depends almost entirely on good ingredients,” says Alice Waters. For pie dough, those ingredients are simply composed of butter and flour. The high-quality European style butter you always walk past at the supermarket but never care to try out can really take your pie crust from ordinary to extraordinary. Flour is also a key player, and you’ll want to make sure yours is fresh and labeled all-purpose or pastry flour, a lighter blend that results in a more tender crust.
- Choose the right pan. Here is where the expression less is more really comes into play. Save that cutesy decorative pan for another occasion because for your Thanksgiving pie, standard glass or aluminum pans will do. Not only are the materials sturdy and conduct heat well, they also allow for the crust to crisp while cooking the filling throughout.
- Don’t overwork your butter. One may think that thoroughly mixing in your butter with the dough results in a better flavored buttery crust – but surprisingly, that’s not the case. Keeping your dough smooth with visible pieces and streaks of butter marbled throughout will give you that perfect flaky crust you so desperately desire. You should be aiming for a crumbly mix with pieces of butter the size of peas or small pebbles.
- Keep your ingredients cold. Using cold butter is the key to creating pockets of steam which “lift” the dough and result in luscious flakes. If your butter gets too warm, it will melt before it cooks, resulting in a greasy crust. To avoid this, make sure to chill your butter beforehand and work quickly so that your body heat won’t melt the butter.
- Use the right amount of water. Too much of anything is never a good thing – especially if it has to do with the amount of water used in your perfectly prepared dough. Try adding water one tablespoon at a time just until your dough comes together when you squeeze it with the palm of your hand. That way, you won’t have a water overload that leaves you with soggy, wet dough.
- Let your dough relax. Don’t forget to think ahead and let your dough sit and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour or up to two days. That way, the water and butter will hydrate the dry ingredients and allow for gluten structures to form – resulting in a perfectly moist and pliable dough that’s easy to roll out.
- Watch your flour. Sprinkle a light dust of flour into your dough before rolling it out. Using a little flour helps prevent your dough from sticking to itself or to the surface you’re rolling on.
- Roll with purpose. Speaking of rolling, it’s important to not take this step for granted. When you’re rolling out the dough, check to ensure the dough is always “moving.” That means when you go over it with a rolling pin, the dough spreads and is getting thinner. Roll as many times as needed to ensure that it’s in tip top shape for placing.
- Set your crust. Before you start heating up the oven, it’s time to make another detour to the refrigerator. Chill the pie for 10-20 minutes before it goes into the oven to harden the shape of the crust into place. Then, heat up your pie at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for the first 15 minutes or so, then lower the temp to your recipe’s recommended level for the remaining bake time. If your crust begins to brown too much before the rest of the pie is cooked, you can tent it with aluminum foil.
Any tips we missed in creating the perfect pie crust? Let us know in the comments below.