10 Tips For The Perfect Pie Crust
Getting pie crust right every time can be a struggle, even for the most experienced bakers. Perhaps you are asking yourself: what could be so hard about this? Why must I struggle? Well, pie crust can be tricky, that's all. Baking is a science, and you can't deviate too far from the formulas. Here are the most common problems:
Your dough is too crumbly.
It breaks when you press it in the pan.
It shrinks when it bakes.
It's pale and underbaked.
It's too tough.
The bottom is soggy.
Avoiding these problems is easier than you think. Here are 10 pro tips for creating the perfect pie crust (almost) every time:
Keep it cold. Gluten is the enemy of tender flakiness, and cold is the enemy of gluten. Keep ingredients cold before using to inhibit the development of gluten in the flour. Store butter, eggs and even vegetable shortening in the fridge for several hours to chill them thoroughly. Use ice water instead of room temperature.
Limit the water Too much water will encourage gluten development. Most recipes call for a range with respect to the amount of water. Start out with the least amount--just enough to bind the dough--and only add more if needed.
Add an egg If your crust is too delicate and hard to handle, try adding an egg. Eggs contain fat and lecithin, a natural emulsifier that reduces tackiness while kneading and promotes a uniform consistency.
Add an acid Still having trouble? Here's a little-known secret: adding a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to your dough (usually mixed with the ice water) may be the answer. The acid interferes with gluten to create a more tender crust.
Don't overwork As with biscuits, or any recipe that requires a tender, flaky dough, over-handling pie dough is a no-no. This means that you must keep kneading to a minimum. Use your fingertips instead of your palms, and don't worry if you can still see bits of butter or egg when you're done.
Avoid breakage Pie dough sticks to everything, and sticky dough breaks. Prevent this by lightly flouring your rolling surface and perfecting your rolling technique.
Start by flattening your ball of dough with your hands,. Then position your rolling pin at the center of the disk. Imagine your dough as a clock and roll toward the 12, 3, 6 and 9 o'clock positions respectively until the desired diameter is achieved.
Use the right pan Assuming you're not bringing this pie to the neighbor's (in which case a disposable aluminum pan would make more sense), the best option is glass. Glass conducts heat more quickly and evenly than ceramic, stone or metal, giving you better and more consistent results.
Let it rest Like many people, pie dough sometimes just needs to chill out (see first tip). "Resting the dough" is a step that many yeast dough recipes can benefit from, and the same goes for your pie crust. This is optional but if you're still not happy with your dough, try this: wrap it in plastic wrap and let it sit at room temp, or chill in the fridge for 30 minutes before rolling out. Chilling will help make it easier to work with.
Bake it properly It is generally recommended that you bake your pie in the lower third of the oven. Unlike cookies and other baked goods, pies need more heat on the bottom to promote browning and prevent sogginess. This especially applies to fruit pies, wherein fruit juices conspire to ruin your crust.
Preheat the oven and start out at 425 degrees for a short time (15-20 minutes), then reduce to 350 degrees for the time designated in the recipe. A higher initial temp helps to set the shape of the crust, browns it at the right pace and prevents shrinkage.
Prevent overbrowning The edges of the crust will always brown the fastest, and considering the fact that your crust will be in the oven for a while, you need to keep the edges from burning to a crisp. Just cover them with 2-3 inch strips of aluminum foil until the last 20 minutes of baking.
There is nothing like a delicious, flaky homemade crust--it always makes your delicious homemade pie look and taste even better. So, don't be afraid to fail! Try these tips, and you'll soon be whipping up perfect crusts every time.