In this comprehensive article, How To Make Pie Crust Dough & Flute a Decorative Edge, we will be covering all the basics to include The Ingredients, The Measuring, Types of Pie Dough, The Steps, The Tips, The Tricks and The Tools to succeed for baking single-crust pies or double-crust pies with a top crust or lattice top and a decorative fluted edge as part of Wicked Good Kitchen’s How To Bake Series.
Easy As Pie:
How to Make Pie Crust Dough & Flute a Decorative Edge
Learning how to make homemade pie crust is much easier than we think. And there’s nothing quite like a buttery, tender, flaky homemade pie crust made from scratch. Once the simple techniques are mastered, homemade pie pastry can be whipped up in a snap. Preparing the dough in advance by a day or two is an incredible time-saver for baking days. In fact, having pre-made pie crust kept on-hand in the freezer is a major bonus during especially busy times of the year—such as the holiday season. The added benefit of this time-saving step is that it also keeps stress in the kitchen to an absolute minimum. As a result, this tip is listed as one of Wicked Good Kitchen’s Top 20 Pie Crust Making Tips below.
With this tutorial in our How To Bake Series, loaded with foolproof tips, tricks, techniques and visual cues as well as helpful information such as measuring, keeping ingredients chilled, rolling dough, lining pie plates, docking and fluting decorative edges, you will become a master at making beautiful and tasty pie crusts of Blue Ribbon quality.
Let us begin.
Flour, fats, salt, ice water and other ingredients are used to make pie crust dough. Sounds simple enough, right? However, just as important as using the proper or very best techniques in making pie dough, it is essential to use the very best ingredients available. Furthermore, learning the baking properties of each ingredient, and their importance in making pie crust dough, leads to a greater understanding of how these ingredients work together to yield the ideal characteristics of buttery, flaky and tender pie crusts for your favorite homemade pies.
Start with the Proper Flour
Using the correct flour is truly essential. It is practically impossible to make a tender and flaky pie crust with cake flour, for instance, that is actually strong enough to hold together. It is also difficult to make a tender pie crust using bread flour due to its high protein content which would create a tough texture versus a light, tender and flaky one. The answer is to use a quality pastry flour or a homemade pastry flour such as our Best Homemade Pastry Flour.
The Best Flours to Use for Making Pie Crust Pastry (based on protein content)
Pastry Flour, 8 to 9%
Homemade Pastry Flour, 8 to 9%
Whole Wheat Pastry Flour, 9%
Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, 11 to 12%
Gluten Free Flour Blends, varies widely
Using unbleached all-purpose flour to make pie crust dough is entirely doable—especially if blended with a starch (such as cornstarch or tapioca flour, also known as tapioca starch) to lighten the protein as we have done with our Best Homemade Pastry Flour. Using a gluten free flour blend is definitely doable as well. However, the protein values do vary widely—especially with homemade flour blends if gluten free protein flours are used. Generally, store-bought gluten free flour blends are very low in protein and high in starch.
Below is a simple yet helpful guide to learn the levels of protein in each type of flour commonly used in baking. Of course, these amounts can very greatly by brand. Not only that, the protein content in these flours can vary by region and also by country.
Common Flours Used in Baking and Their Protein Content
Bread Flour: 14 to 16%
Whole Wheat: 14%
White Whole Wheat: 13%
Type “00” Flour (Italian-Style Flour): 11%
All-Purpose Flour: 10 to 12%
Pastry Flour: 8 to 9%
Cake Flour: 7 to 8%
Beyond the best flours to use when making pie crust dough, the following ingredients include not only the types of fats, types of salt and ice water typically found in pie crust dough recipes, but other ingredients found in recipes from time to time as well.
Chilled purified (distilled or filtered) water
*See Baking Powder below in The Purpose of Ingredients.
The Purpose of Ingredients
Since we have already covered the best flours to use in making pie crust dough, and their protein levels which can affect the dough, knowing the purpose or properties of each of the following ingredients is helpful when the goal is making the most tender and flaky of pie crusts.
Fats: Fats are essential in making pie crust dough as not only do they create flaky layers, they also tenderize and provide moisture. Using the very best in quality is important. For instance, grass-fed butter and European style butters are best in flavor and performance as well as using the finest coconut oil and shortening, such as organic all-vegetable palm shortening, for the flakiest of pie crusts. When it comes to liquid oils, we highly recommend organic canola oil—especially when making a tender and flaky vegan pie crust.
Although I am mostly vegan and follow a vegetarian diet, this information is being included for my readers who wish to use lard in making their homemade pie crust dough. When using lard, be sure to use the highest grade of lard also known as leaf lard. Leaf lard is ideal for use in baked goods as it has very little pork flavor and tends to produce a flakier, moist pie crust in comparison to those made with butter. Combining both butter and lard is also an option as you can effectively use the shortening properties of lard with the added flavor of butter. Since lard is a pork-based product, be sure to take into account the dietary concerns of individuals who do not eat animal and especially pork-based products.
Salt: Salt provides flavor, period. Without it, pie crust would taste incredibly flat without an adequate amount. My preference is using fine-grain sea salt because of its exceptional and pure flavor when compared to other salts—such as kosher salt or regular table salt which may contain additives. It is recommended that when preparing pie crust dough for savory fillings, use one and a half times the amount of salt called for in the original recipe.
Ice Water: The most important purpose of ice water when making pie crust dough is that it helps the fat remain cold and solid. The ice cubes serve to keep the water icy-cold. The colder the fat when the pie enters the oven to bake, the increased chances for a flaky baked pie crust. The other main purpose of ice water in making pie crust dough is that it provides structure for the flour/water matrix. Without liquid, such as water, the proteins in flour would simply not be able to connect to form the gluten structure needed to hold the dough together. In fact, the amount of water used is crucial. Too much water will leave you with a very sticky mess on our hands. Too little water will leave the crust too dry resulting in an unworkable cracking dough during rolling. The goal when making pie crust dough is to use just enough ice water for the dough to come together and hold its shape.
Eggs, Milk and Cream: Some pie crust recipes call for an egg, egg whites or egg yolk, and/or milk or cream. The purpose of adding an egg, milk or cream is that they each provide added protein which enhances both browning and tenderness to the baked pie crust. Adding non-dairy milk, such as almond milk, is key when making vegan pie crust dough with a liquid fat—such as organic canola oil. Egg also provides enough added protein to create a more sturdy crust that has more body. Professional bakers often use an egg in pie crust for pies and tarts that they wish to serve outside of the pie plate or tart pan in order for it to maintain its shape. When it comes to cream, milk and buttermilk, these liquids also provide extra fat which aids in tenderness. In the case of buttermilk, it provides acidity as well. (See below.)
Buttermilk, Lemon Juice and Vinegar: Acids found in buttermilk (and sour cream), lemon juice and vinegar are wonderful additions to pie crust doughs as they impart a delicate pleasant flavor. The purpose of adding these acidic ingredients is that the acidity they contain breaks down or weakens the gluten strands (protein) in the flour—just enough to make rolling the dough easy as well as helping to provide a tender and flaky baked pie crust. According to Rose Levy Beranbaum, author of The Pie and Pastry Bible, vinegar’s acidity weakens gluten to the point that it makes rolling out the most elastic of doughs a dream—even a remarkable 1/16 inch (.16 cm) thin—after resting for only 45 minutes. In addition, acidity prevents the shrinkage and/or distortion during baking. However, to ensure a perfect shape, it is always best to allow the dough to chill and rest for at least 6 to 8 hours after rolling it out. (For more, see Chill & Rest the Pastry below in The Steps section.)
While there are thoughts within the baking community that adding an acid to pie crust dough offers no appreciable difference in the flavor or texture of baked pie dough, I respectfully disagree. I have found that buttermilk, lemon juice or vinegar offers the acidity needed to tenderize the dough by breaking down gluten formation when working with the dough as well as enhance its flavor. A good analogy of this principle is the use of buttermilk, lemon juice or vinegar in a marinade to tenderize meat (protein). In addition, acids actually bring water to the dough and are known to prevent over-browning of pie crusts during baking—a boon for pies with fillings that take a long time to cook, such as Pecan Pie. My favorite vinegar to use is raw organic apple cider vinegar. However, white distilled vinegar, regular cider vinegar, rice and white wine vinegar may be used.
Cream Cheese and Sour Cream: In general, dairy ingredients not only provide acid for a tender and flaky pie crust, but they contribute to both the flavor and browning when added to pie crust dough. In fact, ingredients such as cream cheese and sour cream enrich gluten free pie crust dough to the point that no one would ever guess the crust was made with a gluten free flour blend. Cream Cheese Pastry doughs are some of the tastiest doughs and are ideal when making hand pies. Sour cream, on the other hand, is sometimes used to make pastry doughs incorporating yeast—such as old-fashioned Butter Horn Cookies, a rolled pastry-cookie filled with a nut and cinnamon filling, or mini tarts.
Sugar: Sugar enhances both flavor and browning when added to pie crust dough. Not only does it sweeten the pie crust dough, it also impedes gluten strand formation creating a pastry with an especially tender crumb that breaks up easily in the mouth. When sprinkled atop the pie crust, following a pastry wash prior to baking, sugar offers a bit of sparkle and crunch after baking.
Baking Powder: An eighth of a teaspoon (.6 grams) of baking powder per cup of flour (120 grams) not only provides lift and tenderizes it as well as adds a perceived mellowness of flavor, it also serves to help counteract the tendency for pie crust dough to shrink. When using baking powder in an established recipe not calling for it, use only half the amount of salt called for.
*Be sure not to use SAS baking powders as they contain sodium aluminum sulfate or the pie crust will have a bitter aftertaste. Use only aluminum free baking powder as it is free of sodium aluminum sulfate (SAS) and made with monocalcium phosphate. Aluminum free baking powder can be found in both grocery stores and health food stores.
Yeast: Yeast is sometimes used along with sour cream to make pastry doughs such as making old-fashioned Butter Horn Cookies, a rolled pastry-cookie filled with a nut and cinnamon filling, or mini tarts. Just as with baking powder mentioned above, yeast provides lift and tenderizes pastry doughs.
Types of Pie Dough
All-Butter (Including Classic Pâte Brisée, Pâte Sucrée and Pâte Sucrée Extra.)
Butter & Shortening
Cream Cheese Pastry
Sour Cream Pastry
Types of French Shortcrust Pastry
Pâte Brisée: A French shortcrust pastry often used as a base for tarts, quiche or pie. This shortcrust pastry can be used to make both sweet and savory pies. The texture is light and delicate due to its high ratio of butter in the recipe—up to three fifths the quantity of flour. This pastry is often made with no sugar and is used as a savory crust for pies.
Pâte Sucrée: A French shortcrust pastry (sweet crust pastry, sweet dough or sweet paste) often used as a base for pies and tarts. This shortcrust pastry is made with the addition of sugar which sweetens the dough yet also impedes gluten strand formation creating a pastry that breaks up easily in the mouth. This pastry is made for sweet applications.
Pâte Sucrée Extra: A French shortcrust pastry often used as a base for pies and tarts. This shortcrust pastry is made with extra sugar which sweetens the dough yet also impedes gluten strand formation creating a pastry that breaks up easily in the mouth. This pastry is made for sweet applications. It is an extra-sweet version of Pâte Sucrée made with more sugar.
Of course, the best way to measure ingredients is by weight using a kitchen scale versus by volume using measuring cups and spoons. This includes not only the flour, but also fats other than butter that are pre-measured in their packaging. However, when it comes to flour, Wicked Good Kitchen has put together a helpful guide to ensure the proper measurement of flour when measuring by volume using measuring cups.
Flour Measuring Tips by Volume
These tips are provided for bakers who do not own a kitchen scale and will be measuring flour by volume rather than by weight. There are actually three (3) ways to measure flour by volume successfully to use in recipes specifying a certain weight in grams.
Dip and Sweep Method: First, aerate flour by stirring it in the container or bag. Then, simply use the dip and sweep method by dipping a dry measuring cup into the flour and level off the top with a straight edge of a metal icing spatula. (The straight edge of a knife from a flatware set can be used as well.) This should yield about 125 grams per 1 cup of flour. Use a sheet of wax paper as a liner on your work surface to measure flour so that the excess can easily be funneled back into flour bag or container.
Spoon Flour Into Measuring Cup Method: First, aerate flour by stirring it in the container or bag. Then, simply spoon flour into measuring cup and level off the top with the straight edge of a metal icing spatula. (The straight edge of a knife from a flatware set can be used as well.) This should yield about 120 grams per 1 cup of flour. Use a sheet of wax paper as a liner on your work surface to measure flour so that the excess can easily be funneled back into flour bag or container.
Sift Flour Into Measuring Cup Method: First, aerate flour by stirring it in the container or bag. Then, simply sift flour into measuring cup and level off the top with the straight edge of a metal icing spatula. (The straight edge of a knife from a flatware set can be used as well.) This should yield about 112 grams per 1 cup of flour. Use a sheet of wax paper as a liner on your work surface to measure flour so that the excess can easily be funneled back into flour bag or container.
- Start with Chilled Ingredients
- Make the Pastry
- Chill and Rest the Dough
- Roll Out the Dough
- Transfer Pastry to Pie Plate and Trim the Edge
- Docking: Prick the Crust with a Fork
- Fill the Unbaked Pie Crust
- Roll Out Top Crust or Cut Lattice Strips
- Flute the Edge or Border Decoratively
- Vent the Top Crust
Directions for The Steps are for a 9-inch (23 cm) single or double-crust pie.
1. Start with Chilled Ingredients
Actually, all ingredients should be chilled—not just the butter or other fats and liquids. Start with cold ingredients and keep them cold. Often, I just tuck my work bowl into the freezer for a quick 5-minute chill. In addition, in between steps, I like to pop the pie pastry dough in the refrigerator for a quick chill—especially when baking pies and tarts in the summertime or on especially warm days. At any time during the process of making pie dough, if the fats begin to get too soft and melt, stop and immediately place the dough into the freezer for a quick chill until it firms up. According to Rose Levy Beranbaum, “The way to achieve flaky layers of dough in a pie crust is to keep the pieces of fat large, flat, and solid.” The reason is because when fats start to soften, the oils are readily absorbed into the flour and the layering effect is essentially lost. Therefore, it is essential to keep all ingredients cold and to work very quickly in the kitchen. In fact, Rose often freezes the flour before making her pie crust pastry doughs.
2. Make the Pastry
Wicked Good Kitchen highly recommends making pie crust pastry by hand using a pastry blender versus a food processor as the hand method allows for better control and thus makes the flakiest crust. When using a food processor, we have the tendency to over-process or over-mix the dough. One blitz too many and we have effectively over-mixed our dough. If in a hurry, the food processor works wonders against time. However, I much prefer working by hand, specifically with a pastry blender over a pastry cutter, to achieve an incredibly flaky pie crust. When kneading inside the bowl or on the work surface, after adding liquids, use a rubber spatula (as hands are warm) and work quickly yet gently so as not to over-mix the dough and develop the gluten.
3. Chill and Rest the Dough
Chilling and resting the dough are truly essential for a tender and flaky pie crust. The purpose of chilling and resting the dough, after forming into a disk, about 5- to 6-inch (12.5 to 15 cm) in diameter, is to relax the gluten and make the dough less elastic and, therefore, much easier to roll without cracking. It is important to note that dough cannot relax in the freezer because freezing sets the dough too quickly. However, freezing for a brief 15 minutes before baking is of great help to set decorative fluting along the edge as well as ensure flakiness by freezing the fat being used.
Chilling will also firm up the butter thus preventing it from softening and getting absorbed into the flour causing a loss of flakiness. Homemade pie crust dough that has had a chance to chill and rest overnight shrinks less and holds its shape much better to create a more beautiful pie.
According to Rose Levy Beranbaum, it is fine to roll out the dough, slip it onto a parchment or plastic wrap-lined baking sheet, cover it with plastic wrap, and then refrigerate it until ready to use. The chilled dough will then need to soften for about 10 minutes at room temperature in order to be flexible enough to line the pie or tart pan. However, it then needs only brief chilling “15 minutes in the freezer” to set the edges and ensure flakiness, as opposed to the usual hour in the refrigerator required to prevent distortion after rolling and thereby activating the gluten.
4. Roll Out the Dough
Before rolling dough, allow chilled and wrapped dough to sit out at room temperature on work surface to soften slightly and become malleable, about 3 to 5 minutes. When ready to roll, unwrap the dough. On lightly floured surface, with lightly floured rolling pin (or between two sheets of plastic food wrap or wax paper), roll dough out to a 13-inch (33 cm) diameter circle and 1/8-inch (.32 cm) thickness. Roll dough away from yourself, always from the center and outward applying even pressure for a smooth and even crust. While rolling dough, flour underneath it and turn the dough often to prevent sticking. Use dough scraper to loosen before turning the dough. Use soft pastry brush to whisk away any excess flour. After rolling, transfer to large baking sheet and return to the refrigerator to chill and rest until firm, about 10 to 15 minutes.
5. Transfer Pastry to Pie Plate and Trim the Edge
Gently and carefully transfer chilled rolled out dough to 9-inch (23 cm) pie plate or pan (so that it drapes across the pie pan loosely). Allow it to fall in and set into place without forcing it. Holding the excess or outer edge of the dough, ease it in with freehand until it falls down into the center. With kitchen shears or sharp paring knife, carefully trim the dough to create an overhang of 1½ inches (about 4 cm) that extends beyond the outer edge of the rim of the pie plate or pan. Fold overhang of dough under itself so that the folded edge is flush with the rim of the pie plate or pan. Crimp or flute edge decoratively as desired.
6. Docking: Prick the Crust with a Fork
For pie pastry that is to be blind baked (pre-baked) it is important to dock the pie crust to allow steam to escape during the baking process. Using a standard table fork, poke the bottom and sides of the crust about 20 times. Be sure to avoid poking too many holes in the pie crust. The goal is to have enough holes evenly distributed to prevent the bottom and sides of the crust from creating air bubbles or pockets that will puff up when the crust is baked. Using pie weights in combination with docking gives you much better protection against the formation of air bubbles in the crust during baking. Remember, you should only dock pie pastry that is to be blind baked (pre-baked) and filled later. Pies that are filled at the time of baking, especially those with fruit fillings, do not require docking.
7. Fill the Unbaked Pie Crust
Once the pastry is in place, the pie is ready to receive the filling. To avoid spilling the pie filling and messing up the pie edges, especially decorative edges on single-crust pies, we recommend carefully spooning the filling into the pastry-lined pie plate or pan. Using a spatula, distribute the pie filling evenly within the unbaked pie crust. This will help the pie bake evenly and also create a flat surface for the placement of lattice strips or a top crust.
8. Roll Out Top Crust or Cut Lattice Strips
Roll out top crust from second chilled disk of dough as directed above in item number 4, Roll Out the Dough. Chill dough round on parchment-lined baking sheet to use as top crust or cut into lattice strips.
Prepare Lattice Top or Lid: If preparing a lattice top or lid for a double-crusted pie, skip the step of crimping and fluting a decorative edge for a single pie crust by leaving the pastry overhanging and carefully place pastry-lined pie plate in the refrigerator to keep chilled until ready to add lattice top or lid over pie filling. Use a sharp knife or pastry wheel with fluted edge to cut ten ¾-inch-wide (2 cm) long strips from dough round from remaining dough. Especially if working in a warm kitchen, gently place each strip onto a cookie sheet as each is cut and transfer to refrigerator to chill slightly, about 10 minutes, before assembling over filling and crimping edges to seal with decorative fluting before baking. (For more, see Flute the Edge or Border Decoratively below.) Bake pie according to pie recipe directions.
9. Flute the Edge or Border Decoratively
Whether you are making a single-crust, double-crust or lattice-topped pie, a finished edge is necessary to help hold the crust in place and hold in the pie filling thus preventing it from bubbling over as well as make your pie look beautiful. My Grandma Gigi’s easy method of fluting pie crusts is pure genius. Soon after I learned this decorative technique, we coined it the “Grand Royal Flute” or “Grand Royal Fluting” and I have used this simple, foolproof pastry crimping method or fluting technique ever since. When used for pies with a lattice crust, this especially pretty crimped edge resembles a crown. Therefore, the name is rather fitting. Your homemade pies will look stunningly beautiful.
To Create “Grand Royal Fluting” for a Decorative Edge or Border: Working with both of your index fingers, pinch the dough between fingers and up against sides of pie plate or pan along the top edge. Continue working around the perimeter in equal increments. With one index finger, move around perimeter and gently press down in each “valley” of the fluting to ensure each valley and ridge is smooth and even. Easy as pie.
10. Vent the Top Crust: Creating vents in a top pie crust is essential to allow steam to escape during the baking process. Venting also helps to maintain a crispy top crust. The main purpose of venting is that the vents help to prevent fillings from boiling over, from causing the edges of the pie to burst open and some of the filling to spill out or from creating bubbles in the top crust as they expand from the pressure of the steam. For most pies with top crusts, five simple slashes using a sharp paring knife are enough to solve this problem. For fruits that release a lot of juice, such as cherries or grapes, simple slashes reseal during baking. Therefore, it is best to use a lattice top or a top crust with large decorative openings that cannot reseal during baking.
To Make a Top Crust with Decorative Openings: After rolling and cutting the dough round, use a small decorative cutter (small cookie cutters, pastry cutters or pie crust cutters) to stamp out the dough. Remove the pieces of dough with the tip of a small paring knife or toothpick and reserve them to apply as appliqués (using a little cold water to act as a “glue” to adhere), or wrap them well and freeze for future use. Slip the top crust onto a cookie sheet and freeze it for about 5 minutes so that when you are transferring it to the pie, the cutouts keep their shape. Before baking a pie, be sure to use a soft pastry brush to whisk away any remaining flour from the top surface of the dough or it will give the dough a bitter taste after baking.
Using a Pie Bird as a Vent: Some bakers still use the classic Pie Bird inserted in the center of the pie to allow steam to escape. Classic Pie Birds, also known as pie chimneys, pie whistles or pie vents, are ceramic and these are the type that we recommend. Should you elect to use a Pie Bird, simply place it on top of the bottom crust and then spoon the filling around the Pie Bird to keep it in place. Next, cut a hole in the center of the top crust and slip it snugly over the top of the Pie Bird. Once the pie is baked, allow it to cool and then remove the Pie Bird before slicing and serving the first piece of pie. The use of a Pie Bird is not a requirement. However, experience has shown that a crispier baked pie crust can be achieved by using one. As always, the choice is up to the baker.
Although the focus of this article is on the actual making of the pie crust dough itself, we thought it would be a good idea to include Wicked Good Kitchen’s Top 20 Pie Crust Making Tips below.
- Use very cold butter or other fats such as shortening or lard. Fat pieces should be large, flattened, and solid for the ultimate in flakiness.
- Use pastry flour such as our recipe for Best Homemade Pastry Flour to lessen the protein (gluten) for a tender, flaky crust.
- Use ice water (with ice cubes) to keep dough cold. In fact, all ingredients should be ice cold.
- Add an acid, such as apple cider vinegar or lemon juice, or even buttermilk, for a tender pie crust.
- Use a pastry blender to prepare dough by hand as the hand method allows for better control (versus using the food processor method) and thus makes the flakiest crust.
- Do not over-mix the dough as this develops the gluten. Overworked dough will make it tough. In fact, leaving large pieces of butter or other fat intact is a very good thing for tender, flaky crusts.
- Shape dough into a disk to make rolling out into a round shape easier.
- Chill dough between steps and allow the dough to rest before rolling and baking per recipe directions.
- Flour work surface, rolling pin and hands well to prevent sticking while rolling.
- Roll dough away from yourself, always from the center and with even pressure for smooth even pie crust.
- While rolling dough, flour underneath it and turn the dough often to prevent sticking.
- Use soft pastry brush to whisk away excess flour to prevent a tough crust.
- Gently transfer rolled dough into pie plate—either by using hands, rolling pin or folding in half or in quarters before centering in pie plate and unfolding. Allow pastry to fall in place without forcing it. The same methods can be used for placing top crust over filling before trimming and crimping or fluting edge decoratively to seal.
- Use kitchen shears or a sharp paring knife to trim dough overhang and then tuck dough under.
- Flute or crimp edge decoratively. The fluted edge not only looks beautiful, it keeps fillings from bubbling over during baking and holds whipped cream or meringue toppings in place for single-crust pies.
- Dock the dough by using the tines of a fork to prick the bottom, about 10 to 20 times.
- Use favorite pastry washes (egg, milk, cream, etc.) for desired effect—matte, shiny, light golden or dark brown, glazed, etc.
- Bake until golden brown and do not over-brown. To prevent over-browning of crust, cover pie edge circumference with connected strips of aluminum foil, a cut sheet of aluminum foil over top of pie or use a pie crust shield.
- Brush egg white on warm blind baked (pre-baked) pie crust from the oven. Residual heat will cook the egg white which will create a protective barrier to prevent soggy crusts from happening such as with fresh berry pie fillings or custard fillings.
- Prepare pie crust dough in advance and keep stored in the refrigerator for up to two (2) days or in the freezer for up to two (2) months, if well sealed and wrapped. This step is a major benefit and time-saver on baking days.
Proceed with our tutorial on How To Blind Bake (Pre-Bake) A Pie Crust to learn how to prepare the pastry-lined pie plate most effectively before baking to prevent crust from sliding down as well as to bake evenly.
Tip For Beginner Bakers for Pie Baking Success
Of course, when it comes to both baking and cooking, it is always recommended to read the recipe thoroughly first. Then reread the recipe before shopping for ingredients, special equipment or supplies and take note of the bake times, chill times and general preparation times as well as variations and/or ingredient substitutions. Then, read the recipe once more just before preparing it.
There are a couple tricks or pro tips that prevent a soggy crust from forming when very moist pie fillings are used in a pre-baked or blind baked pie crust or shell. Depending on whether you wish to add a layer of chocolate flavor or not will have you deciding on which glaze to use.
Egg White Glaze: One effective way to moisture-proof or seal a baked bottom pie crust is to brush it with a thin coating of lightly beaten egg white. (Using an egg yolk would toughen the dough.) The residual heat of the baked pie crust is what causes the egg white to dry to a crisp and slightly shiny finish. After removing the baked pie crust from the oven, allow it to cool on a wire rack for about 3 minutes before brushing on the egg white so it isn’t so hot that it causes the egg white layer to crack and flake off. Should the baked pie shell no longer be hot enough to set or cook the egg white, return it to the oven, at the same temperature it was baked at, for 2 to 3 minutes until the egg white layer sets and is dry and slightly opaque. Half an egg white (1 tablespoon or 15 ml) is enough to moisture-proof a 9-inch (23 cm) tart shell and an entire egg white (2 tablespoons or 30 ml) is enough to moisture-proof a 9-inch (23 cm) pie shell.
Chocolate Glaze: When chocolate is desired and compatible with the pie filling being used, chocolate creates the most effective moisture-proof glaze of all. Melt (or quick-temper) the chocolate and, using a soft pastry brush, apply it onto the bottom and along sides of the baked pie or tart shell. Very little chocolate is needed as just a very thin coating is best. Couverture chocolate, with its higher amount of cocoa butter, is ideal as it creates the thinnest coating. Only 2 ounces (about 60 grams) of chocolate is needed for a 9-inch (23 cm) pie shell or 10- by 2-inch-high (25.5- by 5 cm) tart shell. Allow chocolate to sit until fully set (its shine will become dull) or refrigerate it briefly to set.
White Chocolate Glaze: White chocolate also works as an ideal moisture-proof glaze. However, it does add sweetness. Melted cocoa butter, which is the same as white chocolate minus the milk solids and sugar, is the most neutral of chocolate glazes. Apply in the same manner as above for Chocolate Glaze.
Glazes can also be brushed onto baked pie crusts and hand pies for added glisten and sheen as well as added flavor and sweetness.
Glaze for Baked Pie Crust: In a small bowl, stir together ½ cup (60 grams) confectioners’ sugar and 2 to 3 teaspoons (10 ml to 15 ml) milk, lemon juice or orange juice. If desired, add 2 teaspoons (4 grams) freshly grated lemon zest or orange zest. Using a pastry brush, brush or drizzle glaze over warm freshly baked pie crust up to the edge of the pie.
Popular Tricks That Don’t Really Work or Don’t Work Very Well At All
What About the Grating of Frozen Butter Trick?
Frozen butter is a very good thing when preparing homemade pie crust dough. However, here at Wicked Good Kitchen, we prefer NOT to grate the sticks of butter. (Why waste butter on the grater?) Instead, we like to cube the sticks of butter with a sharp knife then place the cubes on a plate and then refrigerate. This way, the chilled pieces of butter remain large enough, yet still soft enough, to either flatten between fingers or with a rolling pin, or cut into the flour with a pastry blender, leaving large enough pieces intact within the flour to create an especially flaky pie crust. Then, we simply place our work bowl in the freezer for a quick chill to harden the flour-coated butter before we add the liquid and gently knead with a rubber spatula rather than with our warm hands. After gathering the dough into a disk, it is then wrapped in preparation to chill and rest in the fridge before rolling.
What About the Vodka Trick?
You may have heard about substituting vodka for water to make an extra-tender crust. Since vodka is alcohol, the theory is it won’t toughen your crust like water can. In our experience, vodka makes pie dough slightly easier to roll out but simply does not result in any appreciable difference in the flakiness or tenderness of the baked pie crust. Our thoughts? Gimmick.
An Important Question: How Long Does Pie Dough Last?
You may have read that pie dough lasts up to four (4) or five (5) days when wrapped well and kept refrigerated. Honestly, going beyond two (2) days is really not ideal in our humble opinion. The sooner the better, we say, when it comes to assembling and baking pies when the pastry is prepared in advance. The reason is simple, the dough dries out and becomes difficult to roll. If you wish to store prepared pie dough, your best bet is to just freeze it and then thaw when needed, while wrapped, overnight in the refrigerator. To freeze pie dough, wrap it tightly and then place into a heavy duty freezer bag expelling as much air as possible. Don’t forget to label and date the bag before freezing.
Now, for our Top 25 Tools of the Trade for Making Homemade Pie Crust Dough—besides your own hands, of course. Some of these tools are entirely optional. However, they do come in handy.
1. Mixing Bowl
2. Pie Plate, 9-inch (23 cm)
3. Baking Sheet
4. Dry Measuring Cups
5. Liquid Measuring Cup with Pour Spout
6. Measuring Spoons
7. Rubber Spatula
8. Pastry Blender
9. Pastry Brush, Soft
10. Pastry Wheel, Fluted
11. Dough Scraper
12. Rolling Pin
13. Cookie Cutters (small) or Pie Crust Cutters, for decorative borders, appliqué or vents
14. Paring Knife
15. Kitchen Shears
16. Fork (used for docking)
17. Dried Beans or Pie Weights
18. Pie Crust Shield
19. Wire Cooling Rack
20. Kitchen Scale, optional
21. Pastry Cloth, optional
22. Marble Pastry Board, optional
23. Food Processor, optional
24. Cream Whipper, optional, for serving pie slices with fresh whipped cream
25. Ice Cream Scoop, optional, for serving pie slices à la mode
Other Helpful Tools & Supplies
Plastic Food Wrap, to wrap pastry for chilling
Wax Paper, to roll pie crust pastry between two (2) sheets
Natural Baking Parchment, to line baking sheet to prevent overflow of filling during baking or to blind bake crust
Aluminum Foil, to create foil ring to prevent over-browning of pie crust border or edge
Pie Bird, for venting pie during baking allowing steam to escape
Pie Server, for cutting and serving pie slices
Our sincere hope, here at Wicked Good Kitchen, is that after reading this helpful and comprehensive article, How To Make Pie Crust Dough & Flute a Decorative Edge, you are now armed with information and have the knowledge as well as the confidence to forge ahead making your own homemade pie crusts successfully.
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