How to Make Flaky Tender Pie Crust

From just flour, fat, sugar, salt and water, we can create ethereal pie crusts that are flaky, tender and delicious. It's a skill, an art truly, worth mastering. Good pastry takes practice but tried-and-true pie crust tips can help and those that follow here have made the most difference in my own quest to make not just good, but great, pie crust.

Pie crust dough, ready for rolling

Along with the recipes for Flaky Tender Pie Crust and American Apple Pie, the tips below are the guidance of Anne Cori of Kitchen Conservatory, St. Louis' kitchen store and cooking school. Anne's own pastry sets a high bar, indeed. She shares her insight and skills so generously, I call her the 'Pastry Whisperer'.

Prepare to bake the best pie crust you've EVER made!
~ Alanna
(updated in 2010
with large photos!)

HAPPY COOKS: Reader Testimonials

"Thank you, thank you, thank you!! I'm 54 years old and have been baking most of my life but I never could bake a pie that I felt worthy of serving...until now! I made this apple pie and it is perfect." ~ Janice from Ontario
"It was the most wonderful pie I have ever made. And I thank you from the bottom of my heart." ~ Julia from Utah
"I absolutely loved this recipe. I made it the other day, and it was the best pie crust I had ever made, hands down! Thank you for helping me out of my pie crust rut!!" ~ Chris
"I made the apple pie with your recipes and it was absolutely scrumptious!" ~ Anonymous
"I also had problems with pie crust. Then I did this recipe for my "tortierre" pie for Xmas and they were the most amazing crusts ever." ~ BJ from Montreal
"This is THE best pie crust I have ever made! ... The reminder of a hot oven and cold dough stuck with me all throughout, and because of that, the crust turned out perfectly!" ~ Jennifer
"I've been making pies since I was 13 and with your recipe and instructions, I finally made a tasty, flaky crust. I'm so excited to make pies for guests now!" ~ Mary
"I've tried to make crust before but because of no success, had given up and settled for store bought crusts...not today. I made your recipe and it was fantastic, absolutely the best pie crust I've ever made. THanks SO MUCH for the step by step instructions. ... I especially appreciate the comment about not worrying about what it looks like when it goes in the oven...mine looked not so nice going in but great coming out." ~ Louise



Anne's Four Pie Principles

Pie is ‘American’.

A perfect French tart is a thing of beauty. An American pie is homely, and rustic-looking. But done well, pie is so delicious that we’re happy to eat pie without ice cream; so comforting that a double crust is worth the calories; so tempting, we break off ‘mouse bites’ of crust from the edges to eat on the spot.

The perfect pie crust is flavorful, flaky and tender. If a slice of pie can be held without bending, it’s probably tough and thus not worth eating.

Flavor comes easily. Just use butter, preferably good butter. Use a higher-fat butter such as the 82% butterfat Plugra (Anne's favorite) or the 82% Land O’ Lakes Ultra Creamy. But don’t let butter availability stop you from making pastry. Good butter is readily available, including Land O’ Lakes with 80% butterfat, and makes delicious pastry too.

Flakiness comes easily too. Just add an equal measure of shortening (Crisco) to butter. Then, when cutting first the butter and later the shortening into the flour, leave dime-sized pebbles of the fat. "Pea-size pebbles" are too small! [Alanna: The flour will feel 'unmixed', it's hard to leave such big pieces of fat, but make yourself, it makes a big difference.] This way, when the dough hits the oven, the fat pockets pop, creating lightness between the layers of flour during baking.

Tenderness does come harder, from a magic balance of the right amounts of flour and water plus a light touch when blending the water into the flour and fat. This is the step where even experienced pie-makers can go astray. [Alanna: If you pay close attention to just one step, this is the one.]


Pie is easy to make but takes practice to perfect.

Supermarket pie crusts and how-many-takes food television have warped our expectations. Think how supermarket tomatoes look beautiful but aren’t worth eating, how industrial pie crusts look so perfect but have exactly the same dull taste every single time.

Don't just accept imperfections in appearance, revel in them for these are pies that taste delicious! American pies are supposed to be rustic-looking. The beauty of a home-baked pie comes from within. Warm from the oven, our pies will be applauded by our families.

Pastry patches beautifully. In the oven, many imperfections will magically disappear. So don’t feel like a failure if the pastry tears or needs patching. But whatever you do, don’t ball up the dough to roll it out again. It would be better to throw out the dough and start over entirely. [Alanna: Trust Anne and me on this count, I've made pies with more patches than a crazy quilt. Out of the oven? Gorgeous.]


“Cold Dough + Hot Oven = Pastry.”

If your dough is not cold and your oven is not hot, you will never, ever have pastry no matter how long the dough bakes. Pastry is created by the cold fat popping in the hot oven, creating an air pocket.

At every point, keep the dough and filling as cold as possible. Start with cold butter, cold shortening and ice water. Refrigerate the dough while preparing the filling. Let fillings cool completely. While rolling the bottom crust, refrigerate the dough for the top crust. While rolling the top crust, refrigerate the already-rolled (but not filled) bottom crust. See? At every step, keep thinking, "Cold dough."

Preheat the oven completely. [Alanna: I've learned to start the oven just when starting the filling, giving the oven a good 20 - 30 minutes to preheat. Longer can't hurt.]


To perfect your crust-making technique, study the basics, then just move into the kitchen to make a crust.

Let the basics, along with instinct and judgment, guide your hands. Later, as time goes on, let experience be your guide.

Take notes. What worked for you? What is important to remember for the next time?

Get a hands-on lesson or two from someone who makes good pastry or take a class from a professional.

Keep it simple. Recipes that employ food processors and odd techniques and ingredients distract us from our goal, flaky tender pie crust mixed in minutes, anywhere, by anyone.

Tips & Tools for Flaky Tender Pie Crust

[Alanna: Please, don't be daunted by this long page of tips. Anne gave me one hands-on pastry lesson and ever since, I've made one pie after another, more than a dozen in the past month, without consulting a recipe or notes. The ingredients, the techniques are simple. These tips are things you would learn yourself, given the time. But most of us no longer make pies every week, as our grandmothers did, so my goal is to give all of us a headstart, so that we can produce tender, flaky and delicious pies and feel rightful pride of our results.]
Step One: Gather Your Equipment & Ingredients

[Alanna: Please know, these products are recommended because they are making a big difference in my own pie crusts. Be assured, I'm not being paid to recommend them, nor do I receive any compensation if you choose to buy them.]

pie crust equipment

Pictured are a nine-inch Pyrex pie pan; inside it is a metal benchknife; leaning on it is a flour duster; a silicone brush; a hand-held pastry blender; a rolling pin; and a Rollpat.

Two pie-crust tools are essential, a Rollpat and a pastry blender. [Alanna: Agreed.]

#1 Essential - Rollpat Like the Silpat used for baking, a Rollpat is a silicone mat made by a company called Fiberlux. It is a dough mat (it is also called a pastry mat) too large for the oven but large enough for rolling both pie crust and puff pastry. It's like an updated pastry cloth that's easier to use since it doesn't slip on the counter top, larger with ample space for flipping the dough, and more sanitary and dishwasher safe. [Alanna: I love-love-love the Rollpat.]

#2 Essential - Hand-held Pastry Blender Use one with blades, not wires, for cutting in the butter and shortening.

Other pie-baking tools are useful but not essential, call them "nice to have".

Benchknife A benchknife is used for turning the pastry during rolling. [Alanna: I love the benchknife and now keep it handy not only for pastry but also for scooping up chopped vegetables.}

Flour Duster The flour duster lightly sprinkles flour onto the counter but also works for dusting a Bundt cake with icing sugar, etc. The Kitchen Conservatory staff calls it a 'fairy duster'!) [Alanna: The flour duster works really well, too, it's a really handy kitchen tool.]

Nine-inch Shallow Glass or Ceramic Pan For a double-crust pie, this size and depth pie pan is the perfect proportion of filling and crust.

[Alanna: Kitchen Conservatory offers a great selection of pie and pie-crust tools, including the items listed here plus many more.]


ice water for pie crust in a gravy strainer

Reminded by the adage "Cold dough, hot oven", use ice water to wet the flour mixture. A gravy strainer isn’t required but is useful because it both strains out the ice cubes and controls the water flow. When making pie crusts, make the ice water first-off so it can be as cold as possible.


use good-quality, high-fat butter & fresh shortening

With a knife, cut the butter and shortening into smaller pieces before adding to the flour.

The recipe for Flaky Tender Pie Crust is very 'short', this means it has a high proportion of fat to flour. The recipe uses butter for flavor and shortening for flakiness.

For butter, if it's available, use a butter with a higher-fat content (and thus lower-water ratio) such as Plugra or Land O' Lakes Ultra Creamy Butter. If a higher-fat butter isn't available however, just use a good-quality butter such as Land O' Lakes. Do cut the butter into smaller pieces before distributing over the flour to cut in.

Use a high-quality shortening such as Crisco. [Alanna: Be aware that Crisco may look like it keeps indefinitely but it really doesn't so choose just-purchased Crisco for the best freshness.]


Step Two: Cut the Fat into the Flour Mixture

If you prefer, here's the recipe for Flaky Tender Pie Crust in a standard recipe format.

ready to cut in the butter

In a large bowl, stir together 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon table salt. Cut 4 ounces (that's one whole stick or 8 tablespoons) of butter into 16 pieces, spread the butter pieces across the flour. Cut in the butter first by itself because it's harder and needs more cutting than the shortening.

[Alanna: I find it easier to gauge the size of the butter and shortening by cutting them into half the flour. After they're the right size, then I stir in the remaining flour.]

the butter cut in, in dime-sized pieces NOT pea-size pieces

Then use the pastry blender in an up-and-down motion to cut the butter into the flour mixture until the pieces are dime-sized. Yes, that's right – aim for pieces that are dime-sized, not pea-sized. Pea-sized pieces are too small to yield the flakiness we lust for in a good pie crust. If needed, use your left hand to break butter chunks off the blades of the pastry blender but with a consistent up-and-down motion, it shouldn't be necessary.


cut in the shortening too

Once the butter is the right size, cut in 4 ounces (1/2 cup) of shortening until it, too, is dime-sized. Larger pieces of fat are better than smaller pieces!


Step Three: Add Water - Carefully!
add just enough water, no more!

Plan to use no more than 2 - 4 tablespoons of water, total. Sprinkle the flour mixture with half the water. With a full and open palm, squeeze the flour mixture against the side of the bowl, pressing it to form a dough. Do this two or three times. Check the dough, if it needs more water to hold together, add some, but only a few drops at a time for the less water the better. Squeeze against the side again.

[Alanna: This is the step where I've learned to pay the most careful attention. The goal is to add just enough water to barely hold the flour together. If you add so much water that the dough easily forms a wet pack, the pastry will be tough instead of tender. This means using far less water than you're likely accustomed to. It's hard to get used to because we've been trained to think of pastry dough as soft and supple. The trouble is, when it's soft and supple, it turns out tough. If my pastry ever turns out less than tender, I think back and sure enough, the dough was wetter than it should have been.]


brush damp buttery chunks back into the dough

Midway through, brush your hands together, loosening the damp buttery pieces to fall back into the mixture.


the finished dough, with flour crumbs on the bottom of the bowl

The finished dough holds together but is not wet. Dry crumbs on the bottom of the bowl are good!

[Alanna: I'm always tempted to add more water here, to make the dough hold together better and roll more easily. But I'm learning to trust my judgment. Less water is better.]

Just as is, place the bowl in the fridge while you make your pie filling. If it's going to be in the fridge any longer, cut into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other, then form flat discs, pressing the sides to smooth the edges. Wrap the two pieces separately with plastic wrap.


Step Four: Mix the Apple Filling

For a double-crust apple pie, see Anne's recipe for American Apple Pie in a standard recipe format or use another filling of your choice.

gauging how many apples to use

To gauge how many apples are needed, just fill the pie plate with apples. If the apples are large and rise above the side of the pan, remove one. That's enough! Anne likes to use Jonathan apples, Alanna favors Galas or a blend of apples.

[Alanna: Yes, that's Anne, showing us how to estimate how many apples are needed for our apple pie!]


peel and slice the apples, Anne's technique make this quick work!

Peel the apples. Top to bottom, slice off the fruit in four swaths, missing the core. Slice thin, then in half. As the apples are sliced, toss them with the juice of half a lemon in a big bowl. For really quick work peeling apples, consider an Apple Master, which peels apples in record time.

[Alanna: I've always peeled, quartered, cored and then sliced apples. When Anne showed me her 'four swaths' technique, I didn't want to like it because apple is wasted. But it sure is quick and I've not gone back.]


add sugar, cinnamon and cornstarch - no flour!

Stir in 1/2 to 1 cup of sugar, a teaspoon of cinnamon and 3 tablespoons of cornstarch or potato starch. Don't ever use flour for thickener, it creates an unappealing gumminess that doesn't occur with cornstarch or potato starch.


Step Five: Roll the Bottom Crust
dust the Rollpat with flour

Dust the Rollpat with flour, over the entire area where the pastry will roll out. You can be generous with the flour, it will help the pastry lift from the Rollpat.


half the dough, shaped into a disc, ready to roll

Remember, "cold dough", so work quickly from here. Cut the dough almost in half, the bottom crust needs just a bit more than the top crust. Return what's left to the fridge. Then shape the dough into a disc and place in the center of the Rollpat, dust it with a little flour, too. If the dough has been in the fridge longer than the time to make the filling, it may need to warm a bit before rolling. If so, cover with plastic wrap so it doesn't dry out.

[Alanna: You can see in this shot how the pastry dough is "so not" a roll of a Pillsbury pie crust.]


roll in one direction, forming a rough oblong

Dust the rolling pin with flour too. With quick, light but assertive strokes, roll the dough in just one direction to form an oblong, not a circle. Use your fingers to draw together big cracks along the edges.

[Alanna: Before rolling out the dough, often even before refrigerating it, I've learned that it pays to shape and smooth the edges of the disc. This mostly prevents those big cracks from forming in the first place.]


gauge the size of the dough

Use the pie pan to gauge when to stop rolling. Allow for the diameter plus the sides.

[Alanna: Take note how there are visible smears of butter in the pastry dough as it's rolled out. This is good! It's the result of aiming for dime-size, not pea-size, pieces of butter when cutting the fat into the flour. Once those buttery spots hit the hot oven, they will create an airy spot that is the essence of light pastry. ]


lift and turn the dough 90 degrees

With the benchknife, loosen the dough from the Rollpat on all sides, then lift and turn 90 degrees.


Now, roll the dough again, just one direction but this time forming a circle. If needed, patch cracks along the edges with your fingers.

Brush excess flour off the pastry.

[Alanna: Don't despair if the crust is a messy circle. Some of my most tender pies started off looking a real mess. This is really hard to accept when the pie crusts we see on TV and the ones that come from a box are so very perfect looking. Remember, this is going to be the very pie crust you've ever made! It takes a little trust!]


gently flip the crust dough onto the pie plate

Position the pie plate to the left of the Rollpat. Place your hand underneath the Rollpat, palm side up, just below the pastry. Now gently flip the Rollpat and pastry over, turning it onto the pie plate. Adjust the crust onto the pie plate.

[Alanna: this is when I'm most grateful for the Rollpat.]


patch the crust

If the crust needs patching , tear off dough hanging off the edge and gently place over empty spots. Don't roll these pieces, just put them into place, they will seal in the oven.

[Alanna: don't worry, I do plenty of patching! It all comes out fine in the end.]


important - brush off excess flour

Important - use the pastry brush to wipe off any excess flour. Remember the adage, "Cold Dough + Hot Oven = Pastry"? Refrigerate the bottom crust!

[Alanna: Once the bottom crust is done, I like to put the crust onto a dinner plate with a raised rim to support the crust hanging off the edges so that it doesn't stretch thin. If we were making a single-crust pie, we would form and crimp the edge right now. Either way, refrigerate the bottom crust while rolling the top crust. There's no need to cover it, it'll just be in the fridge for a few minutes.]


Step Six: With a Top Crust, It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Pie!
roll the top crust

Roll the top crust, using the same technique as for the bottom crust.


fill the bottom crust with the apples

Turn the apples into the bottom crust. Tuck any stray apples into the rest so the top is smooth. Don't overfill the pie, it will just boil over. The apple can mound, very slightly, but shouldn't be in a big heap.


flip the top crust over the apples

Use the Rollpat to flip the top crust over onto the filling, adjusting if needed. Patch if need be, don't worry, imperfections will disappear in the oven. With a knife, trim away the excess dough, letting about an inch hand over beyond the rim of the pie plate.

[Alanna: With one pie, I experimented with little cut-outs that you often see in magazine pies. With a pastry this flaky and tender, they simply disappear in the oven, so aren't worth the trouble.]


Step Seven: Trim, Seal, Crimp & Finish the Crust
turn the pastry over (or under) itself to form an edge

Working your way around the rim, turn the edge of the dough over itself to form the edge, squeezing just a bit to seal.

[Alanna: I have better luck turning the pastry under itself, rather than over.]


crimp the dough to form a decorative edge

Moving around the pie, crimp the edge of the crust to form a decorative edge. To form a scalloped edge, place your left thumb and forefinger about an inch apart on the inside edge of the crust's edge, then from the outside edge, insert the knuckle of the second finger of your right hand between the two fingers.

[Alanna: Once again, a plate underneath is handy. Here, it makes it easier to turn the pie while working my way around the edge to crimp.]


brush the top (but not the edge) with an egg wash

Brush the top of the pie — but NOT the crimped edges — with an 'egg wash' made from an egg yolk whisked with a tablespoon of water. This gives the top a golden, finished look.

[Alanna: After the egg wash, I like to sprinkle raw sugar on top for a sparkly top.]


a pie shield is not recommended

If the pastry is strong enough to hold up under the weight of a pie shield, it's simply not as tender as it should be, even if the pastry shield is quite light, as pictured. Really tender pastry will collapse under the weight of a pie shield - so it's not recommended. If you're worried about the edge of the crust browning too much, use foil. Just cut circle of aluminum foil larger than than the pie pan, then cut a circle from its center, leaving the edge just wide enough to cover the edge of the crust.

[Alanna: I haven't found foil necessary.]


Bake Your Pie!

Bake the pie for 45 minutes at 375F or until top crust is golden brown and juices inside are bubbling. The bubbling fruit juices mean that the starch has combined with the fruit and the filling is cooked.

[Alanna: If you've ever had a pie crust turn out a little 'raw' on the bottom crust, start the pie off on a rack in the bottom third of the oven, closer to the heat, rather than in the center. Bake it there for 20 minutes, then finish on the center rack. This quick tip has made a huge difference for me in two ovens.]


Leftovers
dry the Rollpat on the oven door

[Alanna: How to dry silicone mats is always a question. I wash the Rollpat and hang it over the oven handle to dry. Easy!]


[Alanna: Don't throw away the scraps of rolled dough but don't re-roll them either. For a treat, open up the pastry scraps onto a baking sheet. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon or just raw sugar, then bake for 15 - 20 minutes. I put the scraps on the center rack while the pie spends its first 20 minutes on the bottom rack.]


Now, Enjoy the Apples! of Your Labor
American Apple Pie, flaky, tender, sweet, delicious!

Kitchen Parade's Pie Recipes

~ Flaky Tender Pie Crust ~
in standard recipe format

~ American Apple Pie ~
in standard recipe format

~ more pie recipes ~

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. Follow Kitchen Parade on Facebook!


WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE PIE? Win a copy of a great 30-minute teaching video (VHS format) called 'Perfect Pies' by the Pie Whisperer Anne Cori. Just leave a comment mentioning your favorite kind of pie on any of these three articles by midnight CST, Tuesday, November 13th. When you do, your name will be entered into a drawing, the winner will be announced here the next morning. (In your comment, please leave some bit of information that will help me identify and notify you later, "Alex from Houston" is plenty.)
 
Alanna, what a fantastic post!!! Perfect for pie - a - phobes like me. I never seem to get the dough right, so I've given up making them completely...until now!

Thanks so much for sharing this step-by-step lesson.
 
Ruth ~ Thank you! I so completely relate. Just yesterday when I was finalizing this post and wanted to link to other pie recipes, I realized that in five years of writing this column, I'd written only ONE column about pie -- and even then it called for 'your own pastry or a Pillsbury crust rolled thin' -- this from someone who is KNOWN for making pie. For years, when I went home to visit my folks/now my dad, I am famous with friends/neighbors for making a pie every single day. But I lost the knack and my crusts too just never worked. But I've got it back, yes, and I am so excited about making pie again.

Did you see that I'm challenging us to practice our pie skills for Pi Day on March 14th? Maybe now is your moment too ...
 
Alanna - I have ALWAYS had trouble making pie crusts, and now I know why! I thought I had to add more water because of the flour at the bottom of the bowl. I can't wait to try to make a pumpkin (my favorite!) pie for Thanksgiving now. I agree that the boughten crusts are tasteless. Thank you SO MUCH Alanna and Anne!
 
Lemon meringue -

Dad
 
I made my first pie (with pastry) recently! It was a beef and ale pie, which is incidentally my favourite pie! That was very exciting, and extremely delicious, but I feel I need to work more on my pastry! For this reason, your article is absolutely perfect for me! It would be great to receive the video, too! :)
 
Maninas ~ Congratulations and welcome to the world of pastry makers! I'm so glad you mentioned a savory pie, because yes, they 'count' as favorite pies! My recommendation? Over the next while, make pastry often, so that you can compare your technique and the results.
 
Alanna -- Wow...I thought I made a pretty good apple pie, but I do a lot of things wrong. I hope to wow my family for Thanksgiving when I serve my favorite...Apple Pie! Thank you. Diane from Michigan
 
This is a superb post, Alanna.

I'm off to make my Thanksgiving pie, and your step-by-step will guide me along the way.
 
I have been on the look out and tried every pie crust there is...I realized the ingredients are all close to the same in one way or the other...What I found on this website was the way it all comes together. The way the ingredients come in each one having a different purpose for the perfect pie. Even tho I mess-up the first try it was still the most wonderful pie I have ever made. And I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Julia in Utah
 
Dear Alanna,
Thank you, thank you, thank you!! I'm 54 years old and have been baking most of my life but I never could bake a pie that I felt worthy of serving...until now! I made this apple pie and it is perfect. You are making the world a little sweeter place to live =) So I just wanted to say...well...thank you!
Janice from Ontario
 
I can't wait to try this! Thanks so much. I'm going to use your recipe for Thanksgiving for apple and pumpkin pies. I've never been able to make great pie crust but this seems so simple and thanks so much for the wonderful instructions!
 
I made the apple pie with your recipes and it was absolutely scrumptious! Didn't last more than 24 hours in this house!
 
Alanna,

Thank you for this. I also had problems with pie crust. Then I did this recipe for my "tortierre" pie for Xmas and was the most amazing crusts ever. Thx again for the step by step.

BJ arsenault montreal Qc.
 
This is THE best pie crust I have ever made! I used it to make a fresh rhubarb pie for my husband. The reminder of a hot oven and cold dough stuck with me all throughout, and because of that, the crust turned out perfectly!
 
I made this crust for Thanksgiving. I rolled it out just big enough for the pie pan. Someone commented to me that it was too thick. I never thought about how thick to make it. Does everyone prefer thin crusts? I thought it was just the right thickness. Just wondering.
 
Hi RG ~ What a great question! There is definitely plenty of dough here, enough to fit a deep dish pie pan and even what I call a 'French pie dish' which is extra deep and that I use for making Chicken Pot Pie. (Hmm, must post that recipe!) My own taste is to roll the dough quite thin, that means once the crust is trimmed, the scraps can be baked separately sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. People love-love-love those scraps!
 
I went to the link you offered to purchase the rollpat. I was given a message that said sorry. When I checked their store price, it was quite a bit more and added shipping. I liked the special you offered and no shipping, so am disappointed not to be able to get that offer.
I really liked your recipe.
Kay in WI
katy8did@centurytel.net
 
Hi Katy ~ I'm so sorry to disappoint you. That link goes way back to 1997 when the recipe was first posted and I should have removed it long ago since the offer was valid for only a week. Thanks for letting me know so that others won't be disappointed too.
 
Thanks Alanna! I've been following your blog for a few months and your website is now my go-to site for everything cooking related! I've been making pies since I was 13 and with your recipe and instructions, I finally made a tasty, flaky crust. I'm so excited to make pies for guests now!
I have a question - if you want to make pies beforehand, say two or three days ahead, should you just bake them, then refrigerate and reheat, or could you freeze them unbaked? Or bake them and THEN freeze them??
 
Oh yeah - and thank you so much for explaining the purpose of leaving large chunks of fat in the dough. Understanding that made a big difference for me.
 
Mary ~ You've made my week, thank you soo so much!! And I'm especially glad to know about a fellow pie baker. For something so 'easy' (and it is), there's lots to remember. If I've not made a pie in a while, I'll review these steps myself.

Okay, as for making ahead. It's not my practice to do this so I'm not speaking from experience here, but from what I read. You can definitely make the pie crust in advance but no, don't bake, just keep the disks in the fridge until it's time to roll them out.

I have seen recipes for some kinds of pie, apple was one, I think, that could be made, baked and then frozen. Or hmm, maybe it was made, frozen and then baked? THAT would be cool. But I would look for a recipe that has been tested and perfected that way, the liquids might be different, there might be good tricks to having it all work out.

Thanks again for writing, Mary!
 
my four year old twins picked fresh blackberries today and I decided to bake a pie for their Dad's birthday. I've tried to make crust before but because of no success, had given up and settled for store bought crusts...not today. I made your recipe and it was fantastic, absolutely the best pie crust I've ever made. THanks SO MUCH for the step by step instructions. The only thing that would have helped would have been adding sugar to the pie... but that wasn't a crust issue, that was a new cook issue! I especially appreciate the comment about not worrying about what it looks like when it goes in the oven...mine looked not so nice going in but great coming out. Only question I have is, how much additional flour/butter/crisco should I use for a 10inch pie plate? thanks again for the super helpful post.
 
I grew up among older women who could throw together the most flavorful, tender, and flaky pie crusts. They set high standards for good crust that I thought I could easily emulate. When I ended up with tough crust, it was clear that good crust is mostly a matter of technique. I'm grateful for the internet and people like you that we fan turn to in a moment to correct the error of our baking ways.

BTW, I love coconut cream pie with real whipped cream topping, sprinkled with shreaded and toasted coconut. Beyond that, I love berry pies, mostly blackberry with a lot of butter merging with the taste of hot berries. But then, apple in natural juices, (not too syrupy ), with a little extra cinnamon is amazing. My dream pie is a great crust filled only with real whipped cream. I've never made one, but my birthday's coming up. This might be the year. I'd probably sprinkle a dash of cinnamon on top.

Thanks again,
Lydia from Omaha
 
Hi there, what wonderful step by step instructions. I have two questions, firstly, a lot of websites advise adding 1 tsp vinegar per cup of flour for tenderness, would you recommend this or not? Also, do you think your recipe would work just as well using a mixer or would you stick to the manual method? Thank you!
 
Anonymous ~ re the vinegar, I just don't find it necessary, this crust is already oh so very tender; re the mixer, stick with the pastry mixer, you'll have much closer control of getting the fat pieces the right size, "cutting it in" without actually, when I think of it, "blending" or "creaming" as a blender does. Good luck with your crusts, it's a skill oh-so-worth developing!
 
Great instructions.

After trying, I had some questions.

I can't turn the dry dough you insist on or get it into the pie pan without it falling into many pieces. The only way I've been able to handle it is by adding more water. Tips?

You emphasize cold shortening. Does that mean you freeze the butter and shortening? I'm guessing, since you cut it in by hand, frozen shortening would make it too difficult to cut.

Butter cut in fairly well, because it retains its solidity. I tried using Crisco a couple times, but I couldn't get it to cut into the flour. It just came out a gooey lump that stopped up my garbage disposal when I threw it away disgustedly. Maybe if I measured the Crisco then scooped it into dime size pieces onto a tray and froze it first?

I finally settled on using my Cuisinart and using frozen butter and Crisco. But the food processor does cut the shortening into smaller pieces really quickly.

Do you refrigerate your Crisco as a matter of course? Or just what you need for the pie crust?

Since you emphasize the limited shelf life of Crisco: When should you throw out old Crisco? What is the shelf life?

I've never seen such detailed instructions. I'm really grateful for your efforts. I apologize for needing even more instructions.
 
Deb ~ Aiii, I feel your pain! My own "issues" with pie crust were different but I definitely had trouble making pie crust. Even now, when my pie-baking is maybe once or twice a year, I go back and review these tips. For something so simple, there's so much to know! THANK YOU for investing the time (and the Crisco!) to learn how to make a great pie crust. Once you get it, it's totally worth it!

re water, this is the very hardest thing to judge. It's a constant balance between keeping the pastry workable and keeping it tender. The crust DOES need to hang together to move onto the pie pan. If it totally falls apart, it's too dry. If it breaks off in two or three large pieces, no problem, just pat these together. The biggest thing for me? Just accepting the fact that THIS IS NOT A PILLSBURY CRUST. Nor is it the Cook's Illustrated vodka crust that is a dream to work with but has too much liquid. When I realized that tenderness and flakiness and taste trumped easy-easy handling, I moved past the need for perfect-looking crusts.

I keep Crisco in the refrigerator, it helps with the freshness issue and also means that it's cold whenever I'm ready to make a pie -- but soft enough to cut into the flour easily.

I use just-from-the-fridge butter but will cut it into cubes, then put back into the fridge to stay cold while I gather the rest of the materials.

What are you using to cut the fats into the flour? The pastry blender that's pictured, one with blades vs wires, makes a huge difference. It's worth investing in, especially if this step is a challenge for you.

I also find it much easier to cut in the Crisco first, kinda large pieces, then the butter. And I cut it into only HALF the flour, it's easier to get the size right. Then I just lightly stir in the remaining flour.

Lots of people turn to a food processor for making crust. Two issues. The first one you know, the size gets too small. The second is that all that whirring creates heat. I suppose you could put the flour/fat back into the fridge again however, never thought of that before.

re stale Crisco, I used to buy the big container, now I only buy the tiny one and even then, will take a sniff before making a pie. If it smells clean and neutral, then I go ahead, if there's an off stale smell, out it goes.

Hope this helps, keep at it and never worry about asking questions. When I was re-learning, I peppered my friend Anne with sooo many questions and details.
 
Are the apples Cooked before you put them in the oven?
 
Anonymous ~ Hi, no, the apples aren't cooked first. The actual recipe for the pie is American Apple Pie, it will give you all the necessary information. This page is really focused on insider tips/techniques for making the crust itself, no matter the pie.
 

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