Updated: Nov. 26, 2019
When you fancy flavorful homemade pies as much as we do at #FoodieScore, you spend a lot of time thinking about how to make your favorite recipes better in your own kitchen. And any great pie, no matter the rest of the ingredients, starts with a firm foundation—a great crust.
So, naturally, much of my musing about pie pertains to the pastry process and the question: How can I improve this essential building block on which the entire enterprise deliciously rests?
I’m still very much in the early phases of my pie-making life, but I have already learned a couple of must-succeed steps and a couple more optional tricks that help lead to a better crust. But as my mother and wife, two extraordinary and seasoned bakers, have told me, so much of the process and its positive result depends on a wide array of factors, such as climate, oven quality and specific ingredients.
Despite those wildcard variables, I believe you’ll find something useful and encouraging in the following lessons I’ve learned through the hundreds of crusts I’ve already made the past few years. (But I’m not giving away my most unique pie-making secrets!) As with your pastry dough, please be gentle when working with these tips!
BE COLD: No matter what ingredients you choose, you want the water you include to be as cold as possible without being frozen. That will help the dough form best without being as sticky. If you have sticky dough, it will be much harder to roll out. I’ve even tested placing the water in the freezer for a few minutes before adding it to my crust ingredients. And I’ve gone a step further and placed the entire ball of mixed crust dough into the freezer for up to a half hour before rolling it out to make sure everything’s nice and blended together.
BE FRUGAL: Your recipe likely calls for several tablespoons of water. Don’t pour all of that liquid into your mixture at one time. Add a couple tablespoons and start to work the dough. You’ll literally get a feel for how much more water you need. Once you’ve added too much, it becomes a pendulum game of add dry ingredients, add more liquid, and that becomes blatant guesswork. While there’s some guessing and intuition to forming your crust, as with baking and cooking in general, you don’t want to take a complete shot in the dark. Just be frugal with the water to begin with and drizzle a little in at a time, and remember that you might not need all of it.
BE SALTY: As Josh Brolin’s character says while making pie in the movie Labor Day, don’t forget the salt! With sweet pies, a slightly salty crust can provide a nice balance in taste.
BE HANDS-Y: If you read this post in the past, you know that I used to suggest mixing your dough gently on a low setting with a food processor. No more! The best way to mix your dough is with your bare hands. Any other way and it’s likely you will overwork the dough and make it tougher than you’d like.
Do you have tried-and-true tips for making pie crust? We’d love to hear all about your experiences! Comment below, share on our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages, or email us here. Thanks for reading, and enjoy that pie!