Never made a pie crust? We’ll walk you through it. This method is for making a pie crust, adding filling and baking. If you’re looking for how to make and pre-bake pie crust, check out How to Pre-Bake a Pie Crust.
Pictured above: Butter Flaky Pie Crust
1. There are four ingredients in a standard piecrust: flour, fat, liquid, and salt. Flour forms the structure and bulk of the crust, fat adds flavor and creates a flaky texture, liquid binds the dough and keeps it pliable, and salt enhances the flavor and helps brown the crust.
- We used the Best-Ever Pie Crust recipe.
2. Always chill the fat (butter, margarine, shortening, or lard) and liquid before you begin. This prevents the fat pieces from getting creamed into the flour.
- Stir the flour, salt, and sugar (if using) together in a large bowl.
- Cut the chilled butter or shortening into the dry mixture using a pastry cutter or by pinching the fat into the mixture with your hands.
- You can also use a food processor: pulse the flour with half the shortening until it’s the texture of cornmeal. Add the remaining shortening or butter and pulse until it’s the size of small peas.
- Turn the mixture into a bowl.
3. Add the chilled water one tablespoon at a time, mixing gently with a fork after each addition. You should be able to gently press the dough into a ball. Handle the dough as little as possible; overworking will make it tough.
4. Split the dough in half. Pat the dough into balls, flattening them slightly, and wrap them in plastic wrap.
- The dough needs to rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. This allows the flour to absorb all of the liquid, lets the dough relax and become more elastic, and keeps the fat in discrete pieces which will give the crust a lighter texture when it’s baked.
5. Generously dust a clean, dry surface with flour; remove and unwrap one of the discs of dough from the refrigerator.
- Flatten the dough slightly with your hands and dust the dough lightly with flour before rolling the dough out with a rolling pin.
- Start rolling at the center of the dough and work outwards. If you’re a beginning pie-maker–or prefer easier cleanup–you can roll out the dough between sheets of waxed paper.
6. Working quickly, roll the dough into a circle ¼-inch thick or thinner.
- As you roll it out, lift up an edge or move the dough to ensure it’s not sticking to the counter. Add flour as needed.
- The dough round should be two to four inches wider in diameter than your pie pan. Use a dry pastry brush to sweep away any excess flour.
7. Gently fold the dough in half, and then into quarters.
- If it seems too brittle to fold, try another bakers’ trick: roll up the pie crust around the rolling pin and unroll it over the pie plate.
8. Carefully pick it up and place it into the pie plate so the center point of dough is in the center of the pan.
9. Unfold the dough, letting the weight of the dough settle it in the bottom and edges of the pan. Without stretching the dough, press the pastry into the pan with your fingertips.
10. Use kitchen shears or a paring knife to trim the dough to about a half-inch overhang. Save the scraps; you can use those to bulk up thin areas of the crust when you’re fluting the edges.
11. If you’re making a single-crust pie, fold the dough under itself onto the flat rim of the pie plate. Flute the edges of the crust, loosely cover it with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before baking.
- For a double-crust or lattice-top pie, refrigerate the bottom crust while you roll out the top crust. Transfer the top crust (it doesn’t have to be a perfect circle) to a parchment- or wax paper-lined sheet pan. Cover loosely with plastic, and refrigerate while you prepare the filling.
12. Once the pie is loaded with filling, lay the top crust over the top.
- Trim it to leave a half-inch overhang. Fold the dough under itself and crimp to form a seal.
- Cut vents with a sharp paring knife, or use a fork to prick a decorative pattern on the top crust. Small cookie cutters are especially nice when baking apple pies: these need to be well vented so that the crust doesn’t end up as a solid dome over the cooked-down fruit.
- Baking Fruit Pies
- Making Apple Pie Filling
- How to Make Pie
Want to get fancy? Lattice tops, decorative top crusts made with cut-out shapes, braided edges, and other artistic touches all make a pie stand out. Use mini cookie cutters to make cut-outs from extra dough; brush the cutouts with water to help them stick.
Top Tips for Baking
- To keep the crust’s edges from getting too dark, cover them with strips of foil or a pie shield during the first half of the baking time.
- Use a pie pan that absorbs, rather than reflects, heat: use glass, ceramic, or dull-finished metal pans.
- If you own a baking stone or pizza stone, use it. Bake the pie on a cookie sheet to prevent spillovers on the stone. Baking on a stone ensures that the bottom crust on even the juiciest fruit pie will be done when the top is brown.
- Double-crust pies need steam vents: it’s especially nice if the holes are cut or poked in a decorative pattern.
- To add a richer color to a double-crust or lattice-topped pie, brush the top crust with milk or egg wash before baking.
- For shine and sparkle, thin a quarter cup of light corn syrup with very hot water. When the pie is done, brush the thinned syrup over the top of the crust. Sprinkle with granulated sugar or decorative sugar. Return the pie to the oven for two to three minutes to let the glaze dry and set.
- Before pouring the filling into the unbaked pie crust, you can brush the bottom and sides of the unbaked pie crust with lightly beaten egg white or melted jelly. This will help create a seal to keep the crust crisp.
- To ensure that the crust stays even crisper, par-bake the pie crust before adding the filling. (This is, of course, only an option for crumb-topped pies, not latticed or double-crust pies, in which the top and bottom crusts need to be sealed.)
Top Tips for Ingredients
Flour: For a tender crust, choose a low-protein flour. Pastry flour, with a protein content of about 8-10%, ranks between all-purpose flour and cake flour. All-purpose flour works just fine for pie crusts, while cake flour might lack enough protein to form a workable, elastic dough.
- Depending upon your tastes and the recipe, you can substitute nut flours (almond flour or hazelnut flour) or whole wheat pastry flour for part of the mixture.
- If you’re a novice crust-maker, start with a plain all-purpose or pastry flour dough.
Fat: Flaky crusts can be made from a variety of fats: butter, lard, shortening, duck fat, vegetable oil, or nut oils.
- Crusts made with all butter are very flavorful, though they are generally not quite as flaky as crusts made with shortening or lard.
- Vegetable shortening pie doughs are easier to work with and hold their shape better than all-butter crusts, but the flavor won’t be as rich.
- Lard produces the flakiest crust, but processed lard can have a chemical aftertaste. Some butchers or farmers’ market stands might sell fresh rendered lard.
- Some of the best pie crusts are made with a combination of fats: half butter, for flavor, and half shortening or lard, for flakiness.
- Fans of crispier crusts use melted butter or oil for the fat, resulting in a mealier dough that bakes up as a fine-textured, crisp crust.
Liquid: Ice water, fruit juices, egg yolks, sour cream, milk or cream add different flavors and textures to your pie crust.
- When adding liquid to the flour and fat mixture, it should be ice-cold in order to keep the pieces of fat cool and separate.
- Always add liquid a tablespoon at a time, tossing with the flour mixture.
- Humidity can affect dough performance, so you might need less liquid than the recipe calls for.
- If your dough becomes too wet, you’ll need to add more flour to roll out the crust, throwing off your ratio and resulting in a tough crust.
- A little bit of acid–vinegar or lemon juice–helps tenderize the dough and prevents it from oxidizing.
Salt: don’t forget to add a pinch of salt to enhance the flavor of your crust.
- For a sweeter crust, add a tablespoon or two of confectioners’ sugar. Granulated sugar can make the dough sticky and harder to work with.
- Other additions: Wheat germ, a pinch of spice, a dash of flavorful liqueur or cold brewed coffee are all good additions to pie crusts.