Pie Crust 101

Quick and Easy Recipes

Siri Stafford/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Remember Grandma's pie crust? It was flaky, tender, crisp, and golden with the perfect melting texture. You can make a crust like that too! There are some rules to pastry making - and some I break constantly. For instance, most pie crust recipes use the cold water method. But in an old cookbook I found a recipe for a hot water pastry that is very easy and really foolproof. And I have an Oil Pie Crust Recipe that doesn't use solid shortening, and another that is a Cream Cheese Pie Crust Recipe.

And don't forget to study the Step by Step pictures to learn more about Hot Water Pastry.

Here's the recipe for the famous Hot Water Pie Crust Recipe with very detailed instructions.

Hot Water Pie Crust Recipe

Make the dough, then chill it for an hour or two. Then roll it out using the waxed paper rolling method.

Waxed Paper Rolling Method

Tear off two square sheets of waxed paper. Lightly moisten the countertop and place on sheet of paper on it. Place one dough ball on the waxed paper and cover it with the other sheet. Using a rolling pin, press on the dough, rolling it from the center out to the edges. Keep rolling until the pastry is larger than an upside down pie pan. Be careful to keep the dough as even as you can.

Then peel off the top paper. Use the bottom sheet of paper to flip the dough into the pie pan. Carefully peel off the second sheet of waxed paper, holding the paper close to the pie crust so you don't tear it.

Then ease the pastry into the pan, pushing down to the bottom and sides of the pan. Fill the pie crust, then repeat the procedure with the top crust. Seal the edges by folding the top crust under the bottom one at the edge, then press to seal and flute.

To blind bake the crust, line the pie crust with foil and add dried beans or pie weights (once you use the beans for this, they're no good for cooking.

Keep them on hand for this purpose.) Bake at 375 degrees F for 15 minutes. Then carefully remove the foil with the beans (or weights) inside and continue baking for another 7-13 minutes or until the crust is light golden brown in spots. You can also omit the foil and beans; then just prick the crust to allow steam to escape, and prick the crust again halfway through the baking time, which should be about 20 minutes.

On the next page you'll find a traditional Pie Crust Recipe with very detailed instructions. Here are some basic traditional recipe pie crust tips.

All ingredients should really be ice cold. It doesn’t matter if you use lard, solid vegetable shortening, or butter - just follow your taste. (Incidentally, did you know scientists have discovered that lard isn’t as bad for you as once thought?) Keep a few ice cubes in the water you sprinkle over the pastry. Have patience while you cut the shortening in to the dry ingredients. It will all come together. And don’t handle it too much. Working the dough causes gluten to form - that flour protein that is so desirable in bread, but makes pastries tough.

Follow the recipe carefully. Spoon the flour lightly into the measuring cup - don’t scoop it out with the measuring cup, and don’t pack it.

Cut in means to work the shortening into the dry ingredients by pulling two knives or a pastry blender across the shortening in different directions, breaking it up into smaller and smaller pieces. As you sprinkle the cold water over the shortening-flour mixture, toss quickly and lightly with a fork, until the particles stick together when gently pressed. Then gather up the pieces of dough and form into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate. After about an hour, roll out using the waxed paper method described in the Hot Water Pastry recipe, or the traditional flour and stockinette rolling method described in the Traditional Pie Crust recipe on the next page.

Go to the next page to learn how to make a Traditional Pie Crust Recipe.

This was probably how your grandmother made her pie crust. It takes a little more practice, but you can do it! Keep the ingredients cold, chill the pie crust, and use a light hand when working with it. Then enjoy the delicious results.

Traditional Pie Crust Recipe

Make the dough, cover and chill it for an hour or two. Then use the flour method for rolling out this dough.

Flour Method for Rolling Pie Crust Dough

For the flour method of rolling out the dough, sprinkle your work surface lightly with flour.

A stocking (or stockinette) for your rolling pin will aid this process. Flatten the dough gently, then sprinkle the top with flour too. Rub some flour into the stockinette covered rolling pin. Roll from center to edge, in all directions, forming a circle about 2" wider than an inverted pie crust. You can pinch cracks together. Turn the pie crust dough frequently while rolling to make sure it isn’t sticking to your work surface, dusting with flour occasionally. Then fold the pastry in half, then in half again to form a 1/4 circle, and lift into pie plate. Unfold and ease into the pan.

Gently press into the bottom of the pan, easing the dough down. Don’t pull or stretch the dough. Then fill it, and repeat the process with the top crust. Fold the edge of the top crust under the bottom crust and pinch to seal. Then pinch the edges together between your thumb and forefinger, or use a fork to press the edge down.

Use your imagination to make a pattern! You can use your thumb and forefinger of one hand and forefinger of the other to make a scallop, or attach dough cutouts with an egg wash.

When making a single pie crust (no top crust), I use a tip I learned at a food styling session at Pillsbury and pop the crust into the freezer for 10 minutes before it is baked.

That firms up the fat and when the pie crust is placed in the hot oven the fluted edge holds its pattern better. To bake a one crust pie to be filled with a chilled filling, line the crust with foil and pour unbaked dried beans into the crust. Remove the foil and beans for the last 3 minutes of baking time so the crust can brown.

For some super easy press-in-the-pan pie crust recipes, check out Nut Cookie Pie Crust Recipe and Cookie Pie Crust Recipe where you bake cookie dough crumbs and then press them into the pan.

For more information and pictures, see Step by Step: How to Make Pie Crust. And practice! Every time you make a pie crust from scratch, it will get easier. Soon it will take only a few minutes - less time than letting a refrigerated crust soften at room temperature. And the cost savings are really tremendous. Have fun experimenting!