I'm going to be brave and make my first pie crust, any tips/fav.recipes?

Hi there,

My mother makes an awesome, awesome pie crust, which she learned from her mother (who learned it from her mother etc). I had her show me her method once, and I took copious notes, but I have never tried it myself so it didn’t really sink in.

Today we went to the apple orchard and I got a bag of apples to make a pie. I have decided I am going to be brave and make a real crust from scratch. Does anyone have any favorite recipes/methods to share? Any words of wisdom? I’ve decided that even if the crust turns out terrible it will probably still be edible and I need to get over my pie-crust-aphobia and go for it!


Pie crusts are easy! You just need to remember three things:

  1. Cut the shortning into the flour. You can do this with a pastry blender or just use two knives and criss-cross stroke with them, as if you were cutting spaghetti. You want to end up with little pea-sized pieces of dry dough. If your recipe calls for salt or any kind of spice–add it to the flour before you begin the “cutting”.

  2. **Add your water gradually. ** The best method I’ve found is to work in a shallow bowl with a fairly wide bottom. Sprinkle your water about 1 tbsp. at a time onto the flour and fluff with a fork. Once you’ve gotten an area of the flour well-moistened, use your fork to press it up against the side of the bowl so you can keep working on the dry dough on the bottom. Don’t be afraid to use a bit more water than the recipe calls for–just go in small increments and keep at it until it’s all been moistened into a dough.

  3. Handle your dough as little as possible. The more kneading, stretching, flouring you do to your dough, the thicker and heavier it will come out. The best crusts are light and flaky–to achieve that you need to lightly flour, quickly roll, and move on. The longer you spend working it, the less tender it will be. Once you’ve got it rolled out you can fold it in half, then in half again into a pie-piece shape. This will make it easier to transfer to the pan. With a top crust–like on most apple pies–I like to tuck the edge of the top crust beneath the edge of the lower before sealing them. Brush a bit of milk on top and sprinkle with some sugar for a pretty golden brown crust. And don’t forget to cover your edges with tin foil while it bakes to prevent burning. Take off the foil for the last 10-15 minutes of bake-time, and you should have a delicious tender crust to be proud of.

Good luck!

In all humility, my pie crusts get raves. Which is weird because I can never roll them out into nice circles and transfer them into the pan like Belladonna says to do. So, if yours don’t turn out perfectly round, don’t despair because you can patch them together all you need to and no one will be the wiser. Just stick the mess you’ve got into the pan, trim off the extra and use that to fill in missing places. Easy as pie!

Speaking professionally, the key is good flour and lard. Of course these days few people use lard, they mostly use vegetable shortening, but for flavor and texture lard can’t be beat. I use shortening at work of course. The first recipe is the one I make at work, scaled down. I work in weights, not measures, so I have included both measurings, but if you don’t get quite what you want you can adjust things. The second recipe is not my own but is from a book titled Heartland Baking-From the Jerre Anne Cafeteria, by Charla Lawhon. The Jerre Anne is in St. Joseph, Missouri. I’ve not been there but their pie recipes are the wonderful, and I heartily endorse the book.

Pie crust

175 grams flour(6.1 oz.)(1 cup plus 3-1/2 tablespoons)
130 grams cold vegetable shortening(4.6 oz.)(9 tablespoons)
2 grams salt(slightly over 1/4 teaspoon)
70 milliliters ice water(2.3 ounces)(1/4 cup plus two teaspoons)

Have the mixing bowl cool if you can. Mix salt and flour and add shortening. Working quickly with you fingertips rub the flour and shortening together until it resembles small flakes. There should be no big chunks of shortening. Pour ice water all at once over this mix and work the water in quickly, again with your fingers and not your whole hands(that would warm the mix, and the trick is keeping it cool). When all flour has been absorbed shape crust into a ball. Don’t overwork the crust mix. Wrap the dough and chill it while you prepare the pie ingredients. Then take slightly more than half of it and roll out on a floured surface. Place the crust into the pie tin, trim excess from edges, add pie filling, and, in the case of a two crust pie, cover it with the rest of the crust which has been rolled out. Some bakers moisten the edges of the lower crust, to make the upper crust seal better, and then trim the excess. I use a tope crust that extends just a little beyond the edges of the pie tin, then tuck the extra under the edge of the bottom crust, pinching it all around the edge to seal. Bush the top of the crust with beaten egg and, in the case of fruit pies, sprinkle it with a little sugar. Use a small knife to make 6 or 8 vents in the top crust. Bake as filling recipe directs, or until crust is a rich golden brown.

Jerre Anne crust

1-1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
6 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening
2 tablespoons lard
1/4 cup ice water

Combine the flour and salt in a bowl and mix well. Add the shortening and lard to the dry ingredients and mix with a pastry blender, a fork, or your fingers until crumbly. The mixture should resemble fine grain.

Sprinkle the dough with the ice water and toss lightly, only until all the pieces are dampened and hold together to form a ball. Never overmix or overhandle. (At this point, the dough can be held in the refrigerator for several days: Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill. When you’re ready to make a pie, unwrap the dough and allow it to come to room temperature, about 2 hours.)

At this point the directions go on as to rolling out the crust, and those are more or less the same as mine or any other set of rolling directions.

The richness of a pie dough depends on the proportion of fat to flour, the more fat the richer it is. An all lard crust, while not doing much for your heart, is arguably the tastiest. My ancient Betty Crocker cookbook had this: 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 2/3 cup lard(or 2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons shortening, 1/4 cup water). You might want to try that too.

The key is keeping the mix from getting too warm, and not overmixing the crust mix.

Save us a piece of pie!

I couldn’t have said it better, belladonna.

Personally, I like to use half butter and half shortening (since I like the flavor of butter in my crusts) and I put a little cider vinegar in the water. Use ice water, and keep your dough cold. After you your water to the dough, wrap it in plastic wrap and chill for 20 minutes, and after you’ve filled your pie and it’s ready to go in the oven–pop it in the freezer for 15 minutes before putting it in your preheated oven. Keeping it cold before putting it in the oven helps create the flaky crust, just as handling the dough as little as possible helps, too.

Wow, thanks everyone! It’s so awesome to have help from the experts :slight_smile:

What do you think about making pie crust in a food processor? Bad idea or worth a try?

oh and I forgot, one of my favorite parts of my mom making pies was that she’d give me the scraps of dough to roll out…I’d cut it into strips with the crimping tool (??? not sure what it’s called…a little fluted wheel that she’d run around the edge of the pie to seal it and make it pretty)…then sprinkle it with cinnamon sugar. She’d bake it with the pie and let us eat it as soon as it was cool enough to handle (the pie itself would have to wait for after dinner of course)…yummmm. Anybody else do this?

Another tip: keep everything very cold. If you’re using Crisco, keep it in the fridge, even though it says you can store it at room temperature. And if your recipe gives a range of amounts of water, start with the lower end of the range and use as little as you can get away with to get the dough to hold together.

Also, I highly recommend buying a pastry blender if you’re going to do this with any frequency. It’s much easier and faster than using 2 knives, which will also help you mix the dough without everything warming up.

My cookbooks all say that regular pie dough doesn’t work very well in a food processor - it gets too gluey. But tart dough should work fine. Some of the books give slightly different proportions for the food processor version. Let me know if you need one, and I’ll try to dig one up. Bon appetit!

My mom rolled the excess crust into a rectangle, basted it with melted butter and sprinkle it liberally with cinnamon sugar, then rolled it up and cut thin slices, like when you make cinnamon rolls. Then they were baked until crispy. Ah, the simple things were the best. She would impale a fresh pie cherry on a toothpick, roll the cherry in sugar, and voila! An hors’douerve that we thought was the neatest thing ever.

hill o beans and Baker brought back some of my best childhood memories of the hollidays. Cinnamon-Sugar pie crust scraps, hot out of the oven, were the best treat ever. My mom cut the sheet of crust into pieces with a ravioli tool before putting them in the oven, I still remember the sweet/buttery taste of those jagged edges.

I make great pie crust with a food processor. I’ve tried the hand method with the pastry blender, and it always came out too dry to roll out in a circle. It would always split and make me real upset. Since I started using a food processor, I’ve never looked back. I put 2 cups of flour in the food processor, then pulse it with a teaspoon of salt. I then cut 2/3 cup of margarine into little cubes. Add them to the flour and pulse until it resembles coarse corn meal. Then, while the processor is running, I add about 5 tablespoons of the coldest water (usually the Brita pitcher water works best). Once the dough forms a ball, it is ready. I wrap it in waxed paper and put in the refrigerator for about an hour. I cut it in half, then roll out my circles for the pie plate. I like to use one of those zippered bags made just for rolling out pie pastry. It’s so easy to transfer it to the plate and it makes a perfectly round product.

Have you ever tried making a simple cookie crust? It’s not necessarily appropriate for all pies, but it’s easy and next to impossible to screw up.

Buy a bunch of plain cookies. (Or graham crackers, or whatnot.) Pulverize them in a food processor or just smash 'em up in the bag into little bittie pieces. Melt a heap of butter in a pan. Add enough melted butter to the cookie dough until it holds together. Pat it down and up the sides of a pie pan. That’s it. Always tastes great. No fuss. No stress.

I always use a food processor, and people dig on my crusts – one friend apparently told another friend they were “legendary.”

My favorite recipe book is The Pie and Pastry Bible*, by Rose Levi Beranbaum (sp?). My most recent pie, an apple pie, used her recipe, including a recipe for a cream cheese crust.

The crust was a bitch to work with, very crumbly, constantly breaking as I rolled it out. But it came out crisp and flaky and delicious.

The filling recipe was also absurdly complicated – after letting the apples macerate in lemon juice for an hour, you drain them and boil the juices down to a syrup, which allows you to use less sugar and thickener in the final recipe. But good goddam it was tasty!

Check out Insanity Rose Beranbaum if you get a chance: she’s a marvel!


I’m sorry, but only Baker got it right.

As can be confirmed by two other dopers, I make the best pie crust in the world.

And the key is *lard. Hard to sell, conceptually, so just think of it as unsmoked bacon fat.

My crusts are made with half butter and half lard, and I often add a little sugar for flavor, or a little pepper for a savory pie, nutmeg for some, you get the idea.

I also use a food processor for fast, even blending, and dribble icewater in by hand.

Do all this as quickly as possible, so the butter and lard stay hard-cold. Then return to the fridge to harden again before beating and rolling into shape.

No need to be sorry, lissener. Have you ever made a cream-cheese crust, though? They kick the ass of any lard crust I’ve ever tried.

As for adding things to the crust, I do that too. For quiches, I’ll usually add either a handful of poppyseeds or a mix of herbs (parsley, basil, thyme, etc.), more for the lovely appearance than for flavor. For sweet pies, cinnamon is nice, as you can use enough to color the crust without overpowering the filling. Poppyseeds will also work for some dessert pies.

The coldness of ingredients is key. I also recommend a very light hand with the water: by the time it looks like you’ve added enough, you’ve added way too much. You want it to barely stick together.

Rose Beranbaum actually recommends this: once you’ve gotten a very slightly sticky mass of crust-crumbs, she advises throwing the whole mass into a plastic bag and squashing it back and forth until it reluctantly, grudgingly achieves cohesion. You’re not exactly kneading it – you don’t fold it over itself, thereby developing gluten. You’re more just pressing it into itself, spreading the moisture out.

It works great.

(emphasis mine)
This intrigues me. It seems like I use a little bit different amount of water every time I make a crust–if only because the flour is a bit different, or the humidity is higher on one day or the next. Don’t you have problems like that? Or is the professional kitchen controlled enough that it isn’t an issue?

I pour it all over at once because there is usually little time to sprinkle. The directions I gave I guess I could have altered for the smaller amount of crust. I usually start off with six pounds of shortening, eight pounds of flour, and so on, enough for over forty single crusts. With that amount, and with the method I gave, things usually turn out fairly consistent. The main thing with such a large batch is being very careful not to overmix.

The second recipe I gave, the one copied from a book, did say to sprinkle. Glad you caught me out on that one belladonna. I’m just so used to the recipe that I have it memorized and do it by rote.

Ooh, and I forgot, DanielWithrow, we do have a recipe for a great cream cheese crust, made is smaller amounts.

2 cups flour
8 ounces unsalted butter
6 ounces cream cheese

Cut the butter and the cream cheese into the flour as quickly as possible. Use a pastry cutter or your finger tips. Since there is not water resist the temptation to knead the dough to get it to hand together, until the mixture resembles small flakes. Only then press it together into a ball and chill until needed.

As you can see from the fat proportions this is a very rich dough and we use it for special catering items, and for our pecan-almond tart.

Yes, coldness is key. If it’s a warm day, I’ll set an icebag on the counter until just before I roll. I used to have a marble table, and I’d make piecrust in winter only after the kitchen windows had been open for long enough to chill the marble.

Good stuff here and nothing to add for recipes, cuz mine is handed down and a deep secret. But I would highly recommend buying a product called a Zilpat. This is a baking sheet made from a flexible glass product that absolutely nothing will stick to. The best-made crust on the planet is no good if it sticks to the surface it’s being rolled on (which shouldn’t happen if you’re using enough flour, but hey, accidents happen).