Son John's first attempt at pie making.It was good, but not great--a thick and somewhat hard crust. 

Son John's first attempt at pie making.It was good, but not great--a thick and somewhat hard crust. 

Pie Crust Making Tips

I have never baked a good, traditional rolled crust. On the other hand, my husband Eric has attained mastery. It is not because he has the perfect pie crust recipe. They are all very similar, diverging  primarily in terms of what fat is used--Crisco, lard or butter--the type of flour and whether to add vinegar. What matters most is how you manage these ingredients; they require a light touch, cold temperatures--and kismet.

Eric’s go-to crust recipe comes from his most well-used baking book, Rose Levy Berenbaum’s The Pie and Pastry Bible.

Ingredients for a one-crust pie:

  • 4 oz. unsalted butter
  • 6.5 oz. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. salt (Eric likes more than the original recipe,so this is doubled.)
  • 1/8 tsp. baking powder
  • 2-3 Tbs. ice water
  • 1 ½ tsp. cider vinegar

And now, I turn to Eric’s method as he has been baking pie since his childhood, when he was instructed by master baker Aunt Beanie and his mom Charlotte.

 Pies from a bakery in Seattle.They know crust! 

Pies from a bakery in Seattle.They know crust! 

Method

The most important thing about good pie crust is to make sure that all ingredients are chilled prior to working with them and kept cold while working with them. Butter or any other form of fat, should be refrigerated or frozen prior to use. Butter should be evenly cubed: start with 1/4 inch slabs, which are then cut into 3 to 4 sticks.  These are then cubed by cutting them perpendicularly from the end. Return cubed butter to the refrigerator or freezer until ready to use.

The second most important thing is that you should not use more water than the recipe suggests; rather, be patient and let the dough rest.  This allows the liquid to distribute. Work the dough into as cohesive a ball as you can, wrap in plastic wrap and let it rest for at least an hour in the refrigerator.

  • To blend the first two ingredients, use a sustained pressure with the pastry cutter to work the butter or other variety of fat through the flour. The fat should be introduced in two successive portions. This allows the fat and the flour to be integrated without over working.
  • After resting, the dough will be easier to roll out. Moderate reworking to get the dough to stick together is acceptable. However, handle the dough as little as possible.
  • When you are ready to roll the dough out, spread a layer of flour on a pastry cloth and coat the dough ball with a healthy dusting of flour
  • When rolling, the motion always starts from the center out, the dough can be rolled in a consistent direction and stretched evenly.
  • Once you have rolled out your dough, use the pan as a guide to cut the dough about one inch beyond the radius of the pie pan. This will also expose gaps in the edge of the dough. You can cut off excess dough scraps and paste them on with water, as needed, to smooth out the edges.
  • To transfer the dough disc, place your forearm under the pastry cloth and lift up the dough and the pastry cloth (which supports the dough), allowing you to transfer the dough to the pan. Match the edge of the dough with the edge of the pan so that an inch extends beyond it, and roll the dough into the pan.
  • If you don’t have a modern convection oven, which assures even heat, cover the edges with a pastry guard or foil to avoid burning the crust.
  • Enjoy the many pie filling recipes available as this crust works with both savory and sweet pies. 
 John and his first pie. 

John and his first pie.