If you run screaming to the grocer’s frozen food section rather than face making a pie crust from scratch, this is for you. Don’t believe the propaganda that has been spread about making pastry. It only takes a few ingredients and no special appliances. If you have a $7.00 pastry blender, you’ll be making pie crust with the master chefs. Just remember KISS:
Keep it cold: water, shortening and butter
Indulge in pastry flour
Save the counter. Use waxed paper.
Store the crust in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before rolling.
You can also freeze butter and solid Crisco. Then you can chop the required amount into tiny pieces or grate them on a cheese grater. Pop this back into the freezer until ready to use.
Pastry flour (available from King Arthur Flour) makes a big difference in your final product. You can use regular flour, but if you are into pie making, I’d order some pastry flour.
I always roll out my pie crust on floured waxed paper. Then I just have to flip it into the pan and peel the paper off the dough. It is much easier to handle. I’ve tried folding it in fourths and all the other tricks, but the waxed paper works the best. Roll your dough from the center, out. Don’t roll off the edges. Work the rolling pin in all directions, keeping the dough in a circular shape.
If you are making a fluted edge on the pie, allow about 1 inch of dough overhang. If you’re not into fancy edges, just trim the dough (with a sharp knife) even with the edge of the pie pan and mark the edge with a fork imprint.
Store you piecrust in the freezer while preparing the filling. If you are making a pre-baked pie crust (referred to as blind baking), place the crust lined pan into the freezer for 30 minutes before baking. I usually put a liner of foil against the bottom and sides of a pre-baked pie crust to keep the sides upright. Place in oven to cook. Remove the foil for the last few minutes of baking.
If you are making a pie that will not have a pre-baked crust, then put the fully assembled pie in the freezer for 30 minutes before baking. All this chilling of the dough makes for a more tender and flakey crust.
Slits and cutouts help release the steam from the baking pie. Every pie with a top crust should have slits or cutouts. I like to brush the unbaked top crust with milk and then sprinkle it with coarse sugar crystals. If you are making a custard pie, brush the bottom crust with a beaten egg before adding filling. No one likes a soggy bottom, and neither does your pie. Don’t place hot filling into your pie crust.
When I make an apple pie, I always cook the apples and sugar in the microwave for about 8 minutes to determine how much liquid it will make. Then I can add the appropriate amount of flour so it will thicken. If there is way too much liquid, I can discard part of it. This method works well with other fruits fillings. If you want to be extra cautious, sprinkle the bottom of the crust with 1 tablespoon flour mixed with 1 tablespoon granulated sugar.This year I found Pyrex deep-dish pie pans with extended sides. Anyone who has wrestled with removing a pie from the oven without crushing the crust will appreciate this improvement! Cooling on my counter right now, is a chocolate pecan pie...oh yum!!! (Horsey Pie page 104 in Chocolate Rehab) Can I possible wait until Thanksgiving? As soon as it is cooled, I will wrap it in plastic wrap, then foil and finally in a plastic bag and pop into the freezer. It will thaw in about three hours, just resting on the counter.