Pie crust is an extremely versatile pastry. With a few variations, you can use it for savory and sweet dishes, pies, tarts, and turnovers. The trick to a really good pie crust is the right recipe and a delicate touch.
Pie Crust Recipes
The basis of a pie crust is a simple ratio. All pie crusts contain (by volume) roughly three parts flour, two parts fat (usually shortening or butter), and one part water. Usually, you toss in a few other ingredients as well. For example, a sweet pie crust may have a teaspoon or two of sugar while a savory pie crust may not. Likewise, salt enhances the flavor in just about every food, so most pie crust recipes call for a little bit of salt.
Butter Pie Crust (Pâte Brisée)
Yield: 2 crusts
- 2-1/2 cups of flour
- 3/4 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 cup of butter, very cold and cut into small pieces
- About 1/4 cup of ice water (or perhaps a little more as needed)
- Whisk together flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl, or pulse them in the bowl of a food processor a few times to mix.
- Sprinkle the very cold pieces of butter over the top of the flour mixture.
- If using a food processor, use about 10 one second pulses until the mixture resembles wet, coarse sand. If using a bowl, cut butter and flour mixture together with two knives or a pastry cutter until the mixture resembles wet, coarse sand.
- Add a few drops of water at a time and pulse food processor or mix dough with a spoon. Keep adding water until the dough just comes together to form a shaggy ball.
- Divide dough into two balls and flatten slightly. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 60 minutes.
- When you are ready to use the dough, remove from the refrigerator and allow it to stand for about 5-10 minutes.
- Generously flour a silpat, pastry cloth, or your work surface and rolling pin. Roll dough into a round slightly larger than your pie dish.
- If baking a one crust pie, shape into the pie plate. Prick holes in the pie, weight it with pie weights, and bake at 325 for 20 to 25 minutes.
- If baking a two crust pie, follow recipe instructions for the pie.
Shortening Pie Crust
Yield: 2 crusts
- 2-1/4 cups of flour
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 2 teaspoons of sugar
- 3/4 cups chilled vegetable shortening, cut into small pieces
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup of ice water
- Whisk salt, sugar, and flour in a large bowl or pulse it in the bowl of a food processor a few times to mix.
- Sprinkle the cold pieces of shortening over the top of the flour mixture.
- If using a food processor, pulse for about 10 one second pluses until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Otherwise, cut shortening into flour mixture using two knives or a pastry cutter.
- Sprinkle water one teaspoon at a time while gently mixing dough or pulsing the food processor. Add only enough water for the dough to come together in a shaggy ball.
- Handling the dough minimally; shape into two balls and flatten each slightly. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for about 60 minutes.
- Roll dough onto a well-floured surface and bake per pie directions.
Butter and Shortening Pie Crust
Recipe by Patrick Mooney
Yield: 2 crusts
- 2-1/2 cups pastry flour
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- A pinch of salt
- 2-1/2 ounces of cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 2-1/2 ounces of cold shortening, broken into small pieces
- 1/2 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup of ice water
- Sift pastry flour and sugar.
- Add in salt.
- Using a pastry cutter or a plastic bench scraper, cut in the butter and shortening.
- Drizzle in the apple cider vinegar.
- Drizzle in the cold water and continue to cut the flour and fat until the dough becomes soft and dry.
- Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and roll out to 1/2 inch thick.
- Let the dough relax in your refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
- Roll out to 1/4 inch thick and place in your pie plate.
- Fill or blind bake according to your pie recipes needs.
Tips for Perfect Pie Crusts
Pie crust has a reputation for being a bit persnickety. If you use a bad recipe or mishandle the pastry, you could wind up with a tough crust. Baking is really simple math. When you use ingredients in the right proportions, you're more likely to have a successful result. Basic tips for success with pie crust include:
- Follow the recipe exactly, carefully measuring all of your ingredients.
- Use a dry measure for all dry ingredients.
- Pie is a pastry; use pastry flour whenever possible to get the best results.
- Thoroughly chill shortening or butter. The colder it is, the better, because it helps support the tiny pieces of butter in the dough that melt away to create flakes.
- Cut the butter/shortening into small cubes - about 1/2 inch for best results.
- Make sure you use very cold water to avoid melting the tiny pieces of butter. As you roll out the dough, you'll notice tiny bits of butter. This is exactly what you want to see.
- You might not need to use all the water. Add the water slowly until your dough is soft but can hold together. Stop adding water at this point, and proceed with the recipe.
- When baking, it's generally better to use table salt than kosher salt. The smaller grains of table salt mix in just a little better.
- Avoid over mixing the butter. Pie crust gets its flakes when little pieces of butter melt away during cooking to leave pockets of air. You don't want to make the butter homogenous in the dough or you won't get this effect and you'll wind up with a tough crust.
- Use plenty of flour on your board/rolling pin so the dough doesn't stick. If it sticks and you have to roll it out again, it will toughen the dough.
- If you are making a two crust pie, wrap the balls of dough separately before refrigerating.
- Don't over handle the dough. Handle it as little as possible, or the dough will get tough.
- If the crust breaks, don't re-roll it. This will toughen it up. Instead, patch it together in the pie plate.
- Before baking, re-refrigerate your crust for about 30 minutes. This keeps the dough from shrinking away from the edges of the pan.
- If you're making a two crust pie, cut slits in the top of the crust to allow steam to escape.
Tips for Using Pie Crusts
While pie crust is used most often for creating desserts, it can also be used in other ways. According to Michele Stuart the owner of Michele's Pies in Westport and Norwalk, CT, and the author of the best-selling cookbook Perfect Pies, two additional tips for using your pie crusts include:
- Double duty pie crust: Use leftover pie dough to make a variety of savory appetizers. Dust with cinnamon and sugar, sprinkle with savory flavors like Parmesan cheese, fill with salsa or mashed potatoes, or even roll into tantalizing fruit empanadas.
- Less is more: The miniature trend is still going strong and it's a fun way to sample a variety of pie favorites during the holiday season. Instead of making one 12-inch pie, let guests sample from a diverse variety of small 5-inch pies.
If you get stuck and need help, call the Crisco® Pie Hotline:
- Live pie experts can be reached Monday through Friday (9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. EST) by calling 1-877-FOR-PIE-TIPS (1-877-367-7438).
- During the busy holiday season, the hotline offers extended hours (8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. EST) from November 12-21 and (8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. EST) from December 12-21, 2012.
Easy as Pie
There's no need to be intimidated by pie crust. By following a recipe exactly and handling the crust as little as possible, you'll wind up with a tender, flaky, delicious pie crust.