Pie Crust 101

09.10.2014

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pie-crust-101

One of the nicest aspects of getting out of town is that it afforded me a few weeks of the warm, summer weather that we never really had this year. As a result, I found myself finally ready for fall upon my return. And fall it is! Gorgeous foliage, pumpkins in every store window, and frantic emails between family members about who’s bringing what (and when, and how) to Thanksgiving.

Alas, Canadian Thanksgiving, you always come so soon!

This time every year, we confront a potentially ugly situation: store-bought pie crust. As someone who’s spent most of her summer styling pies with said crust, I can assure you that it tastes like sugary sand. Wouldn’t you much, much rather have one of those ultra-buttery crusts, that’s flaky and just s little tender and melts in your mouth? I know you would. You seem like a highly reasonable person.

On with it, then! Let’s begin our Pie Crust 101 lesson, Tough Cookie style. You’re going to learn to make a double-crust — enough crust for one covered pie (like apple, for example) or enough for two single-crust pies (like pumpkin).

General Tips & Tricks:

  • Pie dough likes to be kept cold, so make sure all the ingredients you’re working with are as cold as possible. It will make the dough easier to handle.
  • You can totally use a food processor for this process instead of a pastry cutter. And if you don’t have either of those, just use your fingers (but quickly, to keep the butter cold)!
  • When rolling out the dough, you want to flour enough to keep the dough from sticking, but still using the least amount of flour possible, so as not to make the dough too tough. As you keep making crusts, you’ll get better at gauging; don’t worry too much about it your first time around.
  • Don’t have a rolling pin? No sweat, just rinse off a wine bottle and use that instead.
  • Don’t panic. This is the number one rule. Just keep reminding yourself that a) people have been doing this successfully for centuries, and b) even the very, very worst homemade crust is usually miles better than a store-bought one.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 1 cup very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, then shoved right back into the fridge
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar, plus more for dusting
  • 1 scant teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cold water with a few ice cubes

pie-crust-101

Step 1: The basics

You have a pie plate on hand, yes?

Step 2: Butter incorporation

In a large bowl, whisk together your flour, sugar, and salt (or quickly pulse them together in a food processor). Add your cubes of butter and cut them in (or pulse in the processor) until the butter chunks are the size of small peas, and you have what looks like a very coarse meal.

Pie-crust-101-tutorial

(At this point, if you’re using a food processor, scrape contents out from the food processor and into a large bowl. People doing this in a bowl already, just keep using the same one.)

Step 3: Bringing it all together

Add half of the ice water and mix it in. Continue adding water 1 tablespoon at a time, until dough is slightly shaggy, but holds together when squeezed.  Try not to overmix.

Pie-crust-101-tutorial

Pie-crust-101-tutorial

Shape dough into two disks.  Wrap in plastic wrap/parchment paper and refrigerate for minimum 1 hour. This resting period allows the glutens to relax, the liquid to distribute evenly, and the dough to become firm enough to roll out — all good things for a tender crust!

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Also, if you’re only making a single-crust pie, you can freeze the other dough serving for up to 6 months, or keep it in the fridge for another 2 days to use another time.

Step 4: Rolling prep

Remove one of your doughs from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature for 5 minutes before rolling. Set aside a small bowl of flour for dusting. If you’ve got them kicking around, you might want a pastry brush and a bench scraper. The former helps dust off any excess flour from your crust, preventing it from getting tough (fingers work just fine; however, I do not recommend blowing the flour off, as you’ll end up with a huge mess, trust me). The latter is very, very useful for scraping crusted-on dough off your countertop, but a firm plastic spatula/the back of a large knife/a damp cloth and hours of dedication will achieve the same result.

Pie-crust-101-tutorial

Step 5: Rolling out

Generously flour your work surface, the top and bottom of your dough, and your rolling pin. The first rolling-out is always a bit of a — pardon my French — shitshow, but stick with me. Roll it out into a oval-ish shape as much as possible.

Pie-crust-101-tutorial

Fold that rectangle into thirds, lengthwise, dusting off excess flour as you go. Then, starting at the bottom, roll the dough up into a spiral-ball (see photo below). Pat this with your hands into an actual ball, then roll the dough out again and repeat the steps above. Even though the first one will look like a shaggy disaster, the second one will already look much, much more like normal, workable dough. If at any point your dough becomes too difficult to work with, just pop it back in the fridge for 10 minutes.

Pie-crust-101-tutorial

Pat the second spiral into a ball. Also, flour everything and keep flouring. Roll your dough into a 12-inch circle. As you’re rolling your dough out, check that you are periodically chucking some flour under the dough, so it won’t stick when you finally have to lift it off. Once it’s been rolled out, fold the dough in half, and then in half again. Transfer it to the centre of your pie plate, and unfold it.

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Gently press dough against plate without stretching. Trim dough edge, leaving 1-inch overhang, reserving trimmings to patch any holes that might arise. If you’re making a single-crust pie, tuck the overhang under and crimp the edges using your thumb and forefingers. (If you’re making a double-crust pie, don’t crimp yet! Skip down to my instructions below.) Prick the crust all over with a fork, and freeze for 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400F.

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Fill your crust with your pie filling of choice (–might I suggest Pumpkin Pie Perfection‘s filling?) and bake at 400F for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350F and bake for 40-50 minutes  more, until the filling is set and a toothpick inserted near the centre comes out clean. (Keep an eye on the crust towards the end of the time for over browning. If the crust seems to be getting too dark tent a large piece of foil over it – just put it on loosely.) Allow to cool for at least 2 hours before eating.

Double-crust pies:

Fill up your double-crust pie as desired (perhaps you’d like some Apple Pie?), mounding the filling slightly in the centre. Remove your upper crust dough from the fridge, and roll out just as you did for your previous dough. Unfold it on top of your filling, and trim any scraps that hang over the pie plate by more than an inch. Press the top crust firmly into the bottom crust, all around the edges. Tuck the overhang under itself, and crimp.

Very gently, cut a few slits into the top crust, to act as air vents.

Refrigerate the pie for 20 minutes. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 400F and prepare an egg wash by beating an egg in a small bowl with a splash of water or milk. Just before the pie is ready to go in the oven, brush the egg wash over the crust.

Bake at 400F for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350F and bake for another 40-60 minutes more, until the crust is a rich golden brown, and the filling inside is bubbling. (Keep an eye on the crust towards the end of the time for over browning. If the crust seems to be getting too dark tent a large piece of foil over it – just put it on loosely.) Allow to cool for at least 2 hours before eating.

All done!

Congratulations, you pie-making expert, you! If you have any questions at all, please ask them in the Comments section. Let me know how it turns out, & Happy Thanksgiving!

xo,

A

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5 Responses to “Pie Crust 101”

  1. Hayley June 22, 2015 at 8:36 AM #

    I finally tried this crust on the weekend and it was a huge success! I would say my ‘shitshow’ looked much worse than the pic above but it all came together in the end. Really interesting technique with the roll out, I was nervous about overworking the dough but it just added layers of flaky goodness :) Yum yum, it’s a winner!

  2. Katie October 9, 2014 at 4:49 PM #

    Making Pumpkin Pie this weekend! Just want to make sure that the ice cubes stay out of the dough?
    Beautiful adivce and photos! I will send you a slice from Quebec :).

    • onetoughcookie October 10, 2014 at 10:39 AM #

      Yes, the ice cubes stay out! They’re just to keep the liquid extra-cold. Let me know how it turns out, and Joyeux Thanksgiving, ma belle!

  3. Florence October 9, 2014 at 3:14 PM #

    Hi, What an amazing lesson!! Your teacher mother and her grandmother would be proud of you, as am I. I can’t imagine how anyone could fail to make a perfect crust after all your instructions and beautiful pictures.

    Love, Florence