Chilling pie crust: a question for bakers

I’ve been baking pies recently. And I’ve taken to making my own crusts. I’ve recently switched to a new recipe from Pieometry, which is pretty similar except she makes a big deal about how important it is to rest the dough in the fridge. And she instructs you to put the dough back in the fridge from time to time. (She gives instructions for fancy lattice-like crusts, and each time you cut some pieces, she suggests that if they are getting melty you should pop everything back in the fridge.)

I don’t get it. I used to roll out the dough directly after mixing it, and that was a lot easier. The chilled dough is TOUGH and it’s really hard to get it to roll out at all, and it tends to “rip” as I do so. And i feel like i end up over-working it as a result.

And when I make fancy lattice tops (which is something of a speciality of mine, and why a friend gave me this book) I sometimes have issues with a piece of crust cracking, but I’ve never had a home-made crust “melt”. I guess the supermarket crusts sometimes do, but not the ones made with her recipe, nor the ones made with the Joy of Cooking recipe, nor the ones made with the recipe that came inside the label of the canned cherries, nor any other recipe I’ve concocted.

So, what gives? Is my kitchen a lot colder than hers? Maybe that’s it – I live in New England, and mostly bake from September (first apples) through spring. Who wants to leave the oven on for more than an hour when it’s hot out? Is my fridge too cold for pie crust? Something else?

Anyone else chill the dough? Or not chill the dough? Why or why not? What differences have you observed?

Chilling the dough is just so that the butter does not turn into grease or oil. So keep that in mind. This gives the dough a more flaky consistency when it is baked. Flaky pies or greasy tough dough. This make all the difference. It matters with the butter.

If you are not putting a lot of butter into your pie crust you are doing it wrong. Keep the butter, as butter, as long as you can. Then you get flaky crust.

I’m guessing you’re chilling it too much. It should be cool enough to keep the butter solid but the dough pliable.

Right. That would be leaving it out in the counter. The fridge is WAY too cold for pliable dough.

I got a flakier crust the first time i tried this recipe, when i didn’t bother to let the dough rest or chill. I honestly think that leaving it in the fridge makes it too hard, and ends up with my over-working the dough as i fight to roll out out.

But other people must have different experiences, and I’m trying to understand what’s going on.

Your kitchen is likely cool enough to not need periodic chilling of the dough, then.
Resting the dough lets the gluten relax. You could put a chilled sheet pan on the dough while it’s resting if it gets too warm.

Hmm. I hadn’t seriously considered resting the dough on the countertop. I don’t know why not. Maybe I’ll try that next time and see how it goes.

What’s the typical temp range of US kitchens, i wonder. And what is the critical temp for butter to melt?

I assemble the pie crust using cold butter and a food processor. I make 3 single crusts at a time and shape all three crusts into a disk about the size of a saucer. Normally I put 2 in the freezer and put the 3rd in the fridge overnight. The overnight stay is because I used the food processor. If I make a crust by hand, then I would roll it out directly and let it chill in the fridge for a bit before baking.

Next day, take the crust from the fridge and let it warm up a bit so I can work with it. I roll it out and put it in the pie pan. And then I put the pie pan back in the fridge for an hour or so, to let the gluten relax again. Then I bake it, with or without filling, depending on the recipe.

I never do double crust pies. If I want something on top, I’ll make streusel.

My mom uses Crisco and never rests the crust. Everybody loves her pie crust. I don’t use Crisco because here it’s a specialty item.

I want pie.

I always do upper crusts. The lower crust gets soggy within a day of cutting the first slice. The upper crust stays flaky and delicious until the last piece is gone. I’ve considered making pies with no lower crust, but I like the top crust. Also, as mentioned above, I enjoy doing fancy crusts with complicated lattice patterns. Honestly, a plain, flat crust is nicer to eat, but the lattice gives the pie a lot of visual oomph, and I enjoy making them.

Streusel is okay, but if I want that, I definitely leave out the crust and just call the dish “crisp”.

I guess that’s for fruit pies, which is what I like to eat. I make pumpkin pie for the family, and that’s open top, of course, but has a lower crust. And the crust doesn’t go soggy, either, because the filing is pretty dry once it’s cooked. But my typical pie is blueberry or apple and pretty juicy.

I make crusts by hand, with a pastry cutter. I’ve times myself cutting in the shortening, and i think it would take me longer to take out the food processor and put it away than it does to “process” it by hand. This may be a flaw in my food processor storage…

I use butter from the fridge and ice water. And sometimes I replace some of the butter with palm oil shortening (which is chemically very similar to lard.) which I use at room temp. Or… depending on the recipe, I replace some of the shortening with butter. :slightly_smiling_face:

I do sometimes use all shortening for my vegan friend. And sometimes I use all butter for the flavor. Shortening is easier to work with.

I have never worried about the condition of a pie days after cutting the first slice. Typically irrelevant in my family!

The three of us don’t eat a whole pie in a day. :slight_smile: And when lots of us gather for pie-events (principally Thanksgiving) there are lots of pies.

Actually, I adore leftover pie, and love having pie for breakfast. My pies aren’t overly sweet, the filling is typically 3 pounds of fruit to 1/2 cup of sugar, maybe 3/4 cup sugar, plus a little spice/lemon juice/tapioca. So it’s a pretty decent breakfast item.

I’ve been to Christmas in November several years in a row and Anna Olson and Giselle Courteau both recommend keeping the crust cool as you work it (They’ve made more pies in a week than I will in a lifetime), and it’s critical if you make your own puff pastry, which is a whole other animal entirely.
Links provided if you don’t know the names above.

If you can roll it out fast enough to keep it flaky, don’t worry about it.

Resting the dough before baking it helps keep it from shrinking so much when it bakes. It also helps keep it from getting too tough. But most people do overwork the dough, causing the fat to melt.

When the dough is removed from the fridge, it does really need to come up to temp a bit in order to roll it out if you don’t have a mechanical dough sheeter.

When I make pie dough, I only use butter, never shortening - I really dislike shortening pie dough. I mix the dough, flatten it into very flat discs for each crust almost the full size of the final crust (between layers of plastic wrap or waxed paper), chill for a little while, and then quickly finish rolling it out.

I learned from Bernard Clayton’s Complete Book of Pastry to form each crust worth of dough into a ball and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate at least four hours, then let rest at room temperature for half an hour to warm up slightly before rolling out. The point of the four-hour chilling is not just to resolidify the fat, but allow the flour to absorb some of the water. That may mean mixing in a skosh more water to the dough than you think it really needs. This process makes it significantly easier to roll out, in my experience, but your mileage may vary.

Also, I use pastry flour or low-gluten brand of all-purpose flour like White Lily, though it’s hard to find outside the South. A decent substitute is one part cake flour and one part bleached all-purpose. Lard or a mixture of one part butter to one or two parts lard (softened, creamed together then refrigerated) works better than butter alone.

Pro tip: forming it into a flat disc saves a lot of rolling out later on. Hence less over-rolling the dough, maximizing tenderness and flakiness. Added benefit of stacking better in the fridge, and also coming to temperature more evenly throughout after removing it from the fridge.

- ex-pastry chef

Resting the dough adds a LOT of time to the process. If I’m making apple pie, i can use some of that too prepare the apples. Otherwise, it just means that making a pie takes more planning and is more onerous. How much difference does it really make?

If you’re not overworking the dough to begin with, resting the dough wouldn’t make as much difference as if you were overworking it and letting it rest to help it relax. If any. Honestly, if your crust works for you the way you’re making it (it’s not overshrinking, it’s flaky, etc.), don’t worry about it.

You could always make it a project one day to make 2 pies side by side after letting one rest and see if you even notice a difference.

You know, that’s a really good idea. I could make two small pies, instead of the large one I usually make. I could maybe even send some leftovers to my mom. I’ll give that a try.

I tried blind baking the lower crust for a while, and my family voted that they preferred the one that was baked with the pie, even though it did get a little softer.

Of course… really, I should try 3. One cooked immediately, one rested at room temp, and one rested in the fridge. :wink: That’s starting to feel like too much pie.

Sometimes I try baking on a lower oven rack in hopes that the bottom crust will cook more thoroughly. I couldn’t tell you if it actually works, though, as I never use a control pie to test it.

That’s like too much bacon, or too much chocolate, or too much butter…

I wonder if it works to link to dropbox here

Here are some of the decorative crusts I’ve done.

eta: oops, I included some unbaked ones. The x-pentomino was on purpose, as the color faded when I cooked it, but the trilateral lattice was a mistake. There are a couple of cooked ones of that, though, as well. That’s sort of my signature pie crust.

The plain flat crust is softer and flakier. But the fancy ones still taste very good.