Late-summer fruit is prime for pie making, but everyone knows who the real star of the show is: the crust! Whether you’re a pro pie baker or just starting out, here are the best tips for perfecting that pastry.
1. Chill it all
A little planning goes a long way. About an hour before you begin, pop your supplies in the freezer — ingredients AND tools — so everything is ice cold (including mixing bowls, pastry blender or food processor, rolling pin, etc.) This will keep the butter/shortening from melting and will make rolling much easier.
2. No hot hands
From the room temperature to the heat coming off of your hands, temperature affects your pie crust from start to finish. Before you think about turning the AC way down low, there are alternatives: If you want to have complete control over your dough, you can use a pastry blender or food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse, don’t process, to avoid over mixing.
3. Go half and half
All-butter crusts taste great but leave room for error. For an easier (and crispier) pastry, use half shortening and half butter. You’ll still get that great butter taste.
4. Add booze. Yes, booze
You need liquid to bind the crust but adding too much water will make your pastry tough. A quick fix: Use half water, half vodka — the ethanol in this plain spirit does not encourage gluten formation (which water does)! Don’t worry, the alcohol will burn off during baking, so the pie will still be kid-friendly.
5. Let it rest
Once you make your dough, shape it into a round disk, tightly wrap in plastic wrap, and put it in the refrigerator. Let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 day. This allows the stretchy gluten that formed during mixing to relax and adjust so it doesn’t act like a stubborn rubber band when you try rolling it out! When you are ready, let the dough come to room temperature for a few minutes. Rolling cold dough leads to tearing. Once you’ve eased the dough into the pie plate, let it rest again in the fridge for 15 to 30 minutes.
6. Roll it right
Like water, too much flour can make your crust chewy and hard — so don’t over-flour your board. Roll it out between sheets of lightly floured parchment paper or plastic wrap. Bonus: Easy cleanup!
7. Master the perfect circle
Pastry experts have different methods for rolling out their dough as well as safely placing it into the pie plate. The key is to try to roll the dough into as close a circle as you can get. To get the perfect shape, roll dough from the center out, turning the dough by a quarter turn after each roll.
8. Better baking
To prevent your crust from shrinking during the baking process, lining your dough with parchment and weighing it down with pie weighs, beans, or rice is a must. Also, instead of trimming the extra dough from the edge before crimping, just fold it under to make a thicker rim — the added outer weight keeps your crust looking just right.
9. Trick out the trimming
Half the fun of making a pie is creating a beautiful top to add the real “wow” factor. Luckily, we have a step-by-step tutorial for some of the basics. Whichever design you choose, add an extra shine by brushing the crust with heavy cream and sprinkling with coarse sanding sugar.