Making pie crust can be a challenge for most amateur bakers (like me). The key, as with everything else, is practice. A LOT of practice. Finding a great recipe is also good as it will help lessen slip-ups. If you’re new to pie making, it may be nice to start out with store-bought shells, and work on your filling flavors first. But isn’t it nicer if you made your shell from scratch and knew exactly what was in there?
I first learned to make pie crust in high school for a Food Science class, which I took because
Fun Fact: Aside from food, I also love Chemistry, and sometimes I combine both. Our high school Food Science class taught us how to re-create flavors from seemingly odd sources. It was like nerd heaven for me. With a lot of sugar.
Though I can’t remember the recipe we used back then, which used shortening/margarine, I did find the following butter crust recipe which has worked well for me every time I used it. This one is good for a single shell pie, but if you want to make a crust top as well, simply double the recipe. It is the same crust I use for my Crumb Apple Pie.
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
- 1/2 cup (1 sticks) unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into cubes
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 3 to 4 Tbsp ice water
This recipe is a bit picky on equipment for preparation. It is recommended that you use an electric food processor for preparation, or use a similar hand-cranked one like the one I use.
There is very little difference between using a food processor and mixing everything by hand though, but I will go through the food processor method first.
Using a Food Processor
Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor; pulse to mix. Add butter and pulse 6 to 8 times, until mixture resembles coarse meal, with pea size pieces of butter. Add ice water 1 Tbsp at a time, pulsing until mixture just begins to clump together. If you pinch some of the crumbly dough and it holds together, it’s ready. If the dough doesn’t hold together, add a little more water and pulse again.
Remove dough from machine and place in a mound on a clean surface. Gently shape into 2 discs. Knead the dough just enough to form the discs, do not over-knead. You should be able to see little bits of butter in the dough. These small chunks of butter are what will allow the resulting crust to be flaky. Sprinkle a little flour around the discs. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour, and up to 2 days.
Remove disk from the refrigerator. Let the disc sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes to soften just enough to make rolling out a bit easier. Roll out with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface to a 12-inch circle; about 1/8 of an inch thick. As you roll out the dough, check if the dough is sticking to the surface below. If necessary, add a few sprinkles of flour under the dough to keep the dough from sticking. Carefully place onto a 9-inch pie plate. Gently press the pie dough down so that it lines the bottom and sides of the pie plate. Use a pair of kitchen scissors to trim the dough.
When hand mixing, use a sturdy fork to break apart the butter into smaller pieces and mix with the dry ingredients. You may also need to soften the butter a bit to make mixing easier. Be careful not to let the butter soften to room temperature or you may loose some flakiness desired in the finished crust. The rest of the steps are the same.
When you’re done, simply bake the crust (filled or pre-baked) according to your pie or tart recipe. Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t work out the first time, just be patient with it and practice more.