People over-think making pie crust. It is actually one of the easiest baked goods to make. There are a couple tips you can use to always have flaky, perfect pie crust. In my experience most often pie crust goes wrong when people (ie me) try to cut corners. The process is simple… just follow it!
This isn’t just a recipe, it is a guide. Read the whole thing, understand how and why pie crust works and then you will be free to improvise your own perfect pie crust for the rest of your life.
Weigh out the flour and put into a bowl or food processor. Pulse or cut the cold fat into the flour until the size of marbles (for flaky crust) or pea-size (for mealy crust). I use cubes of frozen butter and pulse a couple times to get them covered in flour. Add enough water to get it to just barely hold together when squeezed in your hand.
Wrap it up in plastic wrap and pop in the fridge to cool for at least 15 minutes.
Flour your surface or use parchment paper and roll out the dough until your desired thickness. Put it into your pie pan ( tart pan etc), fill and pop back in the freezer while the oven preheats. You want the fat to be very cold when you put it in the oven.
Follow your recipe for baking directions.
1) It is all in the ratios
Pie crust, whether shortcrust or sweet crust is all about the ratios and once you have those remembered you have been freed! A basic shortcrust (the most common “pie” crust) only has flour, fat and a little water to bring it together. Seriously, that is it. I am positive you are going to be able to remember this:
- 2 parts (250g) flour (see below)
- 1 part (125g) fat (see below)
- enough ice water to barely bring it together
- 2 parts (250g) flour
- 1 part (125g) fat
- ⅘ part (100g) powdered sugar
- 1 egg
- enough ice water to barely bring it together
2) Choosing your fat
One of the biggest difference from one pie crust recipe to the next is the fat used. All fats will work but different fats have different flavors. I almost always use butter because it has a great flavor and it browns nicely. Or a mix of butter and shortening. But basically use whatever you have on hand and love. You just want a solid fat that you can work into the crust. Try shortening, lard, coconut oil, butter or even full fat margarine.
3) Choosing the flour
Well this is really up to you and what you are baking. Lighter flours will create a lighter pastry. But a whole wheat crust holds up really well to the strong flavors of a savory pot pie. Just… don’t… stress. It really doesn’t matter. White, whole wheat, all purpose, pastry, bread flour etc.
What DOES matter is that you weigh your ingredients. Different flours have different weights and will therefore need a different amount of fat. You really should always be using a kitchen scale for baking. Seriously, get a kitchen scale lol. They don’t have to be expensive (mine was $20) and they come in handy so often in the kitchen. This is a newer version of the kitchen scale I own.
Even all purpose flours from different countries and regions have different weights. Our Canadian all-purpose tends to be more fine than the American counterpart.
Now, I am gluten free so I make gluten free pastry crust with all the same ratios and rules and with awesome results. Click here to get to the post about my BTMR Gluten Free Flour Blend. It is the only gluten free flour I use unless I am making breads.
4) Keep it cold
This is super important!!! This is what will make or break a flaky pie crust. The fat should be very cold, ideally frozen when you add it and the water should be ice-cold. Once you combine everything, put the dough back in the fridge for a half hour.
After rolling out the dough and filling if required, put it BACK in the freezer for 10-15 minutes. Take it straight from the freezer to the oven,
5) Flaky Vs Mealy
Flaky pie crust is created from having large pieces of fat between layers of flour that create space in the pastry as it cooks. Mealy pie crust is more firm and is created from having small pieces of fat in the flour creating smaller holes in the crust.
Do you ever want a mealy crust?
Actually yes! Just last night I made some “Hot Pockets” which is basically a pie crust filled with pepperoni, cheese and tomato sauce ( a very aweseome thing). I wanted to be able to eat it with my hands and have it not get soggy from the sauce. THIS is where you want a strong, mealy pastry.
BUT most of the time you want a flaky crust because that it what people rave about. So don’t over-process the fat. Let there be big pieces. I make my dough in the food processor and the fat is still the size of marbles when I start adding water. For a mealy crust, it would be pea-sized before adding the water.
6) Rolling it out
I have tried everything under the sun to get around having to roll out pie crust. I have even tried rolling it out in my pasta roller. The trick is to just do it. Just put down some flour or parchment paper and roller that sucker out. It doesn’t take any special tricks, it just takes some dough and a rolling pin.
If it sticks, flour it. If it rips, squish it back together in the pie plate. No one will see the bottom of the pie anyways so just make the edge pretty if you want. See my “Hot Pocket” below? What a mess! I was not particularly graceful with the pie crust this time around but you know what… it was delicious! And my next one will be more beautiful because I will be even better at it!
Is there anything I am missing? Any advice you have to add from experience? Any problems you run into that you’d like help with? Comment below!
This post can also be seen on: BTMR Homestead Hop