Image: Jeff Coulson | Images below: Alanna Lipson
Learn how to make a tender, buttery, flaky pie crust at home. We promise it’s easier than you think!
While there’s nothing wrong with using a store-bought pie dough in a pinch, nothing compares to the real deal. Homemade pie dough is crisp and flavourful, and is worth every bit of effort that goes into making it. First time pie-makers can be nervous about dough because it has a reputation for being finicky, but if you heed a few simple rules, you’ll be baking like a professional in no time.
1. Keep it cold: Due to the high fat content in dough, you want to keep it as cool as possible (especially in the summer), so keep all the ingredients as cold as you can. Use ice water for the liquid, store your cubed fat of choice in the fridge until the last possible moment, and if your hands run warm, touch the dough as little as you can.
2. Reign in the flour: When rolling out the dough, you’ll need to flour your working surface to keep the dough from sticking to it; however, an excess of flour will result in a tough dough. Try to use just as much as you need, and keep a pastry brush on hand to sweep off any extra flour.
3. Choose your fat: All-butter pie crusts are the most flavourful, but they can also be slightly trickier to work with. If you’re just getting started, using half butter and half lard (or shortening) results in a crust that is easy to roll and holds its shape well.
4. Don’t stop until you hit gold: Underbaked pie crusts taste like raw flour, and are often soggy to boot. You want your crust to be a deep golden-brown when you take it out of the oven. The easiest way to check this is to use a pyrex glass baking dish, so that you can tell when the bottom of the crust has cooked.
5. Don’t panic: This is the most essential rule. Like all baking projects, ensure that you aren’t pressed for time. And try not to be nervous, even if your dough isn’t perfect. It will still taste wonderful, and each time you make one, the process will get easier.
- Pie plate (ideally pyrex or metal)
- Rolling pin (or clean wine bottle, in a pinch)
- Pastry cutter (or two knives)
- Pastry brush
- Bench scraper (or large spatula)
- Small bowl of all-purpose flour, for dusting
Pie doughs can vary tremendously in terms of ingredients. Some have cocoa added to make a chocolate dough, and others have cheddar, or fresh herbs in the crust to increase flavour. Whatever dough you choose, they will have the following in common:
- All-purpose flour
- Granulated sugar
- Fat (butter, lard, shortening, or some combination thereof)
- Ice water (sometimes mixed with an egg yolk, sour cream, or buttermilk)
1. In bowl, whisk together flour, sugar and salt.
2. Using pastry cutter or 2 knives, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with a few larger pieces.
Steps 1 and 2
3. Drizzle with ice water; toss with fork, adding more ice water if needed, to form ragged dough that holds together when squeezed. Gently knead 2 or 3 times in bowl until dough comes together.
4. Shape into disc (or two discs if you are making a double-crust pie); wrap in plastic wrap.
Steps 3 and 4
5. Refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour. If you'd like, you can refrigerate dough for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 1 month. (If frozen, thaw overnight in fridge before continuing with recipe.)
6. Let dough stand at room temperature for 5 minutes before rolling.
7. Lightly flour your work surface, the top and bottom of your dough, and your rolling pin.
8. Roll out dough into a 9-inch circle. At this point, your dough might be cracking slightly, and look shaggy rather than smooth.
9. Fold the dough into thirds, brushing off any excess flour. Roll up tightly into a log, and pat firmly back into a disk. If dough has become too warm, return to refrigerator for 15 minutes before proceeding.
10. Again, lightly flour surface, dough, and rolling pin. Roll dough into 12-inch circle, rotating and flipping the dough frequently, and flouring the surface as needed.
11. Fold the dough in half, and then in half again. Transfer to 9-inch pie plate; unfold.
12. For single crust pies, trim dough to fit, leaving 1-inch overhang; fold overhang under. Use thumb and forefinger to crimp dough edges; proceed as directed with your recipe. For double crust pies, brush overhang lightly with egg wash, mound with filling as directed, and cover with second dough. Press top crust into bottom crust where they meet, and trim dough to fit, leaving 1-inch overhang; fold overhang under and crimp edges. Cut slits into upper dough for ventilation.