Baking & Desserts

Easy pie crust: Tips for baking perfect pies

By: Christine Picheca

Author: Canadian Living

Baking & Desserts

Easy pie crust: Tips for baking perfect pies

By: Christine Picheca
Perfect pie crust doesn't have to be difficult to master. These pastry-making basics will take you from Pie Disaster to the Queen of Tarts!

1. Keep it cold
When you are making pie dough, cold fat and ice cold water are essential. Make sure you are chilling your dough before you roll it out and - if your recipe permits - chill it again after you have lined your pan with the dough. When the cold pockets of fat between the layers of dough hit your hot oven, they will melt and create steam that lifts the surrounding dough apart and makes light, flaky layers.

2. Acid makes a tender crust
Not all pie crust recipes call for lemon juice or vinegar and you can have perfect pastry without them. But if you like a tender crust, than a little acid will give your pie melt-in-your-mouth appeal.

3. Use a light touch
Break down the fat into the flour until it is fairly evenly distributed with a few large pieces left. Once you’ve add the iced water, try not to overwork the dough – pick up the dough and drop it back into your bowl a few times until the dough has come together.

Make sure you use enough water so that the flour is just coated but not soggy. You should not have large amounts of dry bits of dough in the bowl – if you do, sprinkle in a bit more water. Pat the dough into rounds without handling it too much, and wrap in plastic wrap.   

4. Chill your dough
Chilling your dough for at least 30 minutes will distribute the water throughout the pastry, making the dough more even and easier to roll out. If you have chilled it more than 3 hours, you can let it rest at room temperature for 15 or 20 minutes until it can be rolled out easily.   

Page 1 of 2 -- Learn how to bake pies for a crowd, and when to use butter vs lard on page 2
5. Roll out once
When you are rolling out your dough, use as little flour as possible. Lightly flour the surface you are using and roll from the center out. Keep turning the dough so it doesn’t stick to the surface you are rolling on.

For best results, only roll a piece of pastry once, if you gather it together and re-roll it, the dough will be tougher than on the first roll. If you do need to re-roll your crust, lightly press the dough together and chill for 30 minutes before rolling, this will help to prevent the crust from shrinking when you bake it. Roll your pie crust a scant  1/4-inch thick no thinner.

Making pies for a crowd?
The large amounts of fat can be difficult to manage. Using a box grater to break up the butter or shortening makes for short work and easy handling.

Butter, shortening, lard?
Different recipes call for different types of fat, and pie connoisseurs are unflinching in their loyalty to their preferred lipid:
  • Shortening or lard will yield a flakier crust.
  • Butter will give you a delicious melt-in-your-mouth flavour.
  • Shortening is the choice for vegetarians and there are trans fat-free versions available on the market.
  • Lard has a distinct flavour – a bit savoury that is delicious with apple pie.

Soggy pie crust?

Blind baking a pie crust for a custard pie ensures that the bottom of your pie will not be soggy.

How to blind bake:
Line your pie shell with parchment paper or foil, fill half-way with dry beans or a pie weight to weigh the pastry down and bake as directed. When the crust begins to turn lightly golden, remove the weights and paper and continue to bake for a fully-baked shell or fill and continue to bake as directed.

The incredible shrinking pie?
Pie dough will shrink to some extent when you are baking it. To have a perfect finish, do not roll the dough too thin, leave a generous overhang when you trim and crimp your pie, use well-chilled dough, use pie weights when blind baking.

Want to get a head start?
If you love to make pies, pie dough is the best pastry for making in large batches and freezing in individual portions to whip up a quick pie whenever the urge beckons you. Defrost pastry in the fridge overnight or store lined pie shells in your freezer for even quicker results.

Ready to bake your best pie ever? Satisfy your sweet tooth with one of these 18 Canadian Living pie recipes.

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Baking & Desserts

Easy pie crust: Tips for baking perfect pies