The Essential Steps to Perfect Pie Crust
Your flour choice doesn’t matter as much as you might think for making pie dough. All-purpose flour will do the trick here, but you can also opt for lower-gluten flour, such as pastry flour, to help avoid chewy crusts. You can also make your own pastry flour by adding some corn starch to all-purpose flour. Mix in a pinch of salt (and some sugar, too, if it’s for a sweet pie) to the flour at this stage for seasoning.
This is your call as well. Lard, butter, and vegetable shortening all help create flaky crusts. All-butter pie crusts come out flakier than a butter-shortening combination, but the addition of shortening helps maintain decoration along the crust, such as fluting. You can also use coconut oil, which is a solid at room temperature, to make a flaky vegan pie crust.
Make sure the water for pie dough is ice cold. It’s best to prepare a small bowl filled with water and ice cubs, and add one tablespoon of the ice water at a time. This method allows you to add just enough water to allow the dough to stick together, and stop before it becomes too diluted.
Making the Dough
The easiest way to make pie dough is in a food processor. It only takes a few pulses to cut the butter into the flour and then another few pulses when adding in the water, minimizing how much gluten the gluten strands elongate (which toughens the dough).
Resting the Dough
Resting the pie dough is important because each time you manipulate it, you activate the gluten in the flour; each time you rest the dough, you allow the gluten to relax. Initially you should rest the dough, wrapped in plastic wrap, for at least 30 minutes (or, ideally, 2 hours to overnight). Then rest the dough again after rolling and lining the pie plate to ensure that your crust won’t shrink as it bakes.
Rolling the Dough
Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface or, for sticky dough that may not peel nicely, roll in between two sheets of parchment paper. Start from the center and work your way to the edges to make sure the dough is even. Aim to roll your dough out to be between ⅛- to ¼-inch thick.
Lining the Pie Plate
Carefully flip the dough into the pie plate and fit it into the dish. Leave about an inch of dough hanging off the side, and then cut the excess dough off. Create a fluted edge by crimping pieces of dough between your knuckles: press one knuckle into the dough and the other hugging the outside of the pan.
When to Blind-Bake
Blind-bake the crust (that is, bake the crust without the filling) for custard-based pies like pumpkin or key lime, or for no-bake pies. Line the pie shell with parchment paper and fill with dried beans (you won’t be able to cook with these afterwards) or pie weights. Bake the crust until golden brown, then remove the weights and continue baking for a bit to crisp up the bottom (fully bake the crust until golden brown all over for no-bake pies).