Pie crusts are not hard to make, but you do have to follow the directions (no shortcuts!) otherwise they will lose the flakiness or fall apart. I have posted my own favorite crust recipes here, meanwhile here are a few tips for making your own pastry crusts:
- Have all the ingredients as cold as possible--you can even set the bowl and mixing implement in the fridge for a little while ahead of time.
- Handle the dough as little as possible. Extra mixing, rolling, or mooshing reduces flakiness and makes it more stiff and chewey.
- Don't try to use an electric mixer--use a pastry mixer or a fork. Electric mixers tend to overhandle the dough.
- Pie dough is the one time when I use shortening instead of butter--the texture really does make a difference. Alternately, I use coconut oil (yes, it's solid at room temperature) or lard. Lard has less saturated fat than butter folks, don't be afraid of it! Coconut oil gives a very mild coconutty touch to a fruit or sweet pie, and it is amazing. I use lard for savory pies. But if you don't have either on hand, definitely go with the shortening. Margarine or butter will get it all wrong.
- Shortening is not hard to measure--you can buy the pre-marked cubes (they keep well in the freezer) or you can use water displacement--get a 2c measuring cup and put in 1c of water, then put in blobs of shortening until the water level moves up to indicate that you have enough shortening (1 1/2c water level for 1/2 c shortening, etc). No sticky greasy measuring cups, just one sticky spoon and some slightly damp shortening...but you'll be adding water to the dough in a second anyway so it's ok! ☺
- Did I mention to touch it as little as possible?!
TOO MUCH/TOO LITTLE DOUGH?
- Leftover crust dough always gets snitched around here, either raw, or made into pastry goodies.
- Another option for extra crust is to use a small cookie cutter and use the little cutouts to decorate the top of your pie.
- If you're shy on the amount of dough you need for a top crust, try cutting it into strips and making a lattice (make the spaces as wide as you need to so that there are enough strips). Alternately, use a small cookie cutter in a simple shape such as a star and cut out a bunch of those. Lay them together around the top of the pie with the edges touching--voila, a top crust!
PUTTING IT TOGETHER
- There are two main ways to get the crust from the counter to the dish: first, gently fold it into quarters then lift it over and unfold it into the pan...this is what I do for bottom crusts (and if it gets a little wrinkled or cracked it's ok because it will be covered!). For top crusts, I gently roll the pie crust up onto the rolling pin, then move that over to the pan and unroll the crust right across the filling.
- If you get your finger wet with water and run it around the edge of the pie before putting on the top crust it will help the two layers stick together. It's not such a big deal with a full top crust, but it will hold the pie together if you're making a lattice-top or doing the cookie cutter top.
- One area of pie making that I have always struggled with is making a pretty crimped edge. After years of simply pressing it with fork tines (which works fine for single-crust pies but not so well for two-crust pies) I have finally learned to make a nice crimp. My mom always used the tips of her thumbs and forefingers, but I can't get that to work. What does work for me is to use the first knuckles of my first two fingers. So play around a bit, see what works for you!
Put a cookie sheet under them because pretty much every fruit pie I know of will overflow and drip juices over the edge of the pie dish and you don't want to have to scrub that sticky goompy mess off the inside of your oven! I like to line the cookie sheet with foil because then the cookie sheet doesn't become a sticky goompy mess either.
PIES WITH PRECOOKED SHELLS
Use pie weights in the bottom of the shell to keep it from puffing up as you bake it. If you don't have pie weights, try a handful of dry beans--enough to cover the bottom (I just save the same set and use them over and over). Alternately, a small oven-safe plate or saucer works, or you can lay in 2-3 spoons (be careful when they come out, they'll be really really hot!!)
Make sure the shell is fully cooled before you try to put the filling in. Yes, this means waiting a while, but trust me, it's not worth the runny pie that you'll get if you don't wait. ☺