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Store bought pie dough vs. home-made dough

Can you really tell the difference in taste?
If you buy the dough from the store, is there a brand you recommend?

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  1. Yes, I can tell the difference and homemade is best of course. First of all I can control the type of fat used, the flour (I like a combination of whole wheat & white flour for instance) and how thin it's rolled out. You can also freeze unbaked, rolled out pie dough in pans for later use if you like.

    1 Reply
    1. re: morebubbles

      My fav. part of a homemade pie is the thin crisp edges of the crust. I find that store bought tastes richer (more fat?) & tends to be thicker, which is something I don't like as much.

    2. I can really tell the difference. The store bought stuff tastes like plastic. There is no brand I would buy at all.

      1. I may be more sensitive to this being a baker, but I can taste the difference immediately. Purchased pie dough is usually closer to a short tart dough then a flaky pie pastry.

        I have a very easy pie dough recipe that always works that I will post if you are interested.

        4 Replies
          1. re: Lemonii

            This recipe was my grandmothers recipe. This recipe makes 2 open face pies, or 1 with lattice/closed top.

            3 cups pastry flour (AP will also work)
            1 1/4 cup shortening or lard (I like 50/50)
            1 egg
            1 tsp salt
            1 Tbl white vinegar
            5 Tbl ice water

            Cut shortening into flour, and add the beaten egg, ice water, and vinegar. Blend by hand or in food processor until dough can be handled. If you do this in a FP, work in quick pulses.

            Wrap in plastic and chill for 1 hour.

            1. re: Kelli2006

              Always in a quest for the perfect pie crust, I would even settle for a "good" one if I made it myself. Confused by the 50/50. Is the "50/50" half lard and a shortening like Crisco? Thanks.

              1. re: foodseek

                It can be made with 1/2 lard and 1/2 shortening, or 1/2 butter and 1/2 shortening. I usually chop the butter into approx 1/2" cubes and place back in the freezer to chill before I use it.

                My mom still uses all shortening for her crust when she makes this pastry.

        1. Yes, absolutely. I don't think the brand matters much, frankly.

          1. I can tell between regular store bought and home made but I haven't compared like to like; i.e. store bought w/ the same ingredients as home made. I've read there are quite a few out there now that are pretty good.

            1. I would say try a few of the premade ones and see how you feel. They aren't that expensive really and you might be surpised.

              I predomantly make my own pastry and keep a few in the freezer, but I also know people who have high kitchen standards but no hand for pastry. They are perfectly happy using ready made crusts.

              I think it boils down to your own kitchen philosophy. I am moving away towards transfats and focus on using good quality ingredients when I bake.

              If you are making a pie for a certain event, and you are not used to making your own pie crusts, I would say pick up one from the store and try making your own dough. If your crust doesn't work out (it happens to everyone) try the ready made one.

              Also if you are thinking about entering the wonderous worldf pie baking, check out the cookbook "pie" I borrowed it out of my local library and fell instantly in love. It is a great book to learn the ins and outs of pie making with a lot (like 300) recipes for pie. There is also a lot of good information on how to successfuly make your own pastry dough. My pies improved greatly when I started following the author's advice.

              I think the most important thing to remember is to relax and enjoy what you are doing.

              Good luck!

              1 Reply
              1. re: adventuresinbaking

                Monica, I don't know where you live, but I sometimes buy pre-made pie crusts. I don't however, get them at the supermarket. I've tried several and all were pretty blah or no good at all (the Cabot brand - something with the name "Vermont" in it, was terrible AND expensive. The whole crust melted into a pool of glop with butter oozing out the sides. Yuck.)

                I get crusts at a local "gourmet" shop that makes its own. Depending on where you are, there is likely such a source near you. If you live in the SF Bay Area, you can get them at the Pasta Shop at Market Hall in Oakland.

                Otherwise, make them yourself. It's not that hard. I was scared of them my whole life until a friend said I had to try my hand. After I did, I was very glad.

              2. Pillsbury, red box in the dairy cooler, not the freezer. It's in a box, not in a pie tin.
                It doesn't taste like plastic (check the date and get a fresh one) but it *is* more like a tart dough.

                Of course homemade is better if you're good at it - and of course you can get good at it and get the conditions right and use better ingredients -- but isn't it usually a question of whether or not you are going to bake a pie in the first place? It's a short cut I'm totally willing to use.
                I think it also depends on how much you personally swoon over pie crust.
                I love a good tart dough, and find it dead easy to make...

                7 Replies
                1. re: pitu

                  Hi pitu-Can you explain the difference between pie and tart dough please?

                  1. re: morebubbles

                    denser, more compact crumb on tart dough, for one
                    People usually go for flakey on pie crust -- the balance is between tender and flakey which has to do with the size/type/method of the fat
                    You can make a perfectly lovely tart dough with melted butter, but flakey pie crust requires the butter (or lard, heh heh) be in pieces.

                    1. re: pitu

                      cheers, thanks! I plead ignorance, as I didn't know there was a difference. Makes sense. Which recipe do you use for your tart dough?
                      btw, I am one of those people that swoons over the edge bits of cooked pie dough.

                      1. re: morebubbles

                        depends what I'm doing - and I think it more important to have great butter than any particular recipe.
                        The super easy one I do with melted butter was something I wrote down watching a Molto Mario show. It's from Sicily, and I adjust the vanilla and sugar in the recipe depending if I'm doing a veg tart or a fruit tart. It has eggs...probably on the FN site, I think he did an artichoke/onion tart with it on the show.
                        It's really different from classic pie crust - no vinegar for instance.

                        1. re: pitu

                          Wow, if it's this one (artichoke pie by Mario), the dough certainly is different-uses eggs, baking powder, sugar, vanilla, as you mention. A totally different thing to just regular pie crust dough. Great.

                          1. re: morebubbles

                            yes, that's the one!
                            I've done it without the bechemal btw -- just worked a little something out with ricotta and a hard cheese like parmiganno
                            SUPER easy, which put my tart pan in heavy rotation for awhile. It's really fun to put the finished product on an upended bowl, and knock the ring off . . . leaving a very lovely finished product.
                            It works free-form on a baking sheet, but nothing compares to those neat curving ridges.

                            1. re: morebubbles

                              Funny typo in the name of the recipe, though. Caciofi rather than Carciofi for artichokes. "Caciofi" sounds like the sound you make right before someone says "Gezundheidt!"

                  2. the trader joe's pie crust is excellent. used to be refrigerated, now it's frozen. clumps of butter, just like a good homemade crust has, and few if any preservatives. two crusts to a package, already rolled out, but folded into quarters. when you unfold it, it usually cracks, but it's easy to push it or roll it back together. (in fact--i claim that the act of rolling it makes it "your" crust..so if anyone is rude enough to ask, you can say "yes, i just finished rolling it!" ;->)
                    i know bakers who use this, in a pinch, but i don't know if they would cop to it. i would, and will.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: chez cherie

                      I made a couple of rustic apple tarts (ok I'm lazy - didn't want to deal with a pie tin) using TJ's pie crusts - absolutely delicious crust that didn't have the trademark wierd plastic taste. It's great to keep a box in the freezer. Now if TJ can only keep it in stock...

                    2. I use the Pillsbury refrigerated dough. Not as good as my own homemade, but these days I rarely have the time or patience to make my own. And, better than half my friends are watching their weight and don't eat the crust anyway to avoid the fat calories, so I don't feel guilty about using it (well, not anymore).

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: weezycom

                        I agree completely. I use either Pillsbury refrigerated or Mrs. Smiths frozen (depending on what type of pie). Does it taste like home-made, no (not as flakey), but is home-made worth the time and effort when your in-laws kids only take their heads away from their computer games long enough to stuff their greasy little faces without even a thank you; I don't think so. I also don't like to spend more time on the crust than I do on the pie (my opinion). I used to make my own crust but between the time to make it and the time to clean up, it just wasn't worth it.

                      2. If I don't feel like making pie dough, I turn the pie into a cobbler or crisp or something.

                        I will admit to using store bought pie dough for a weeknight quiche or something, but for pie, it's gotta be homemade. I think it's just so much better - hands down, unmistakably, undeniably, better.
                        There are some really easy recipes out there (Cook's Illustrated just came out with one that uses vodka to make it really fool proof) so look around and experiment - it is so easy to throw it together, just takes a little preplanning to make sure the dough has time to chill.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: laurendlewis

                          So do you DRINK the vodka and then don't realize your pie crust is anything but great?

                        2. Here's a link to a CI testing of store-bought pie crusts and a clear explanation of why it's so easy to tell the difference between store-bought and homemade.


                          This article indicates the test has been updated since, but I don't have a Web site subscription. Perhaps someone who does could paraphrase the update?

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: JoanN

                            The update basically says the dry mixes are nasty, but the Pillsbury Just Unroll isn't bad - not offensive, although homemade is better.

                            1. re: JoanN

                              I made that crust (and the cranberry/apple pie that rode in on it) -- delicious. Though I could really smell the vodka.

                            2. I think the Pillsbury dough is horrible. It lacks flavor and has a weird mouth feel, though that may because of all of the hydrogenated oil (shortening). I whip up dough in my food processor and make extra to freeze. It takes no time at all, especially to make a batch and freeze the lump of dough. then I just defrost in the fridge and roll out when I need it.

                              1. I can tell the difference in the taste, but even more, in the texture. I've never had a store-bought crust turn out remotely light or flaky--it's always dense and crumbly.

                                Personally, if I don't have time or energy to make the crust from scratch, I'll just make something else altogether instead of a pie--but that's at least partly because I'd be afraid my mother's ghost would come back and kick my butt for using a store-bought crust!

                                1. Learn to make your own pie dough. It's not that hard. I've only used a store-bought crust once. It was the Pillsbury stuff folks have mentioned. I had a whale of a time getting it rolled and in the pan without tearing it up. When I use my grandma's recipe, I never have any trouble at all.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: revsharkie

                                    Will you share your Grandma's recipe please?

                                    I have not ever made pie dough & would like to try.

                                    However, I use either Dutch Anne Pie Shells or Mini Pie Shells & everyone says they love them, including me.

                                    Dutch Anne Pie Shells. Made in Natchez, Mississippi. Flaky!

                                    1. re: Isabella

                                      It's almost the same as the one posted above:

                                      3 c. flour
                                      1 1/2 tsp. salt
                                      1 1/4 c. shortening (you can do it with butter, which does nice things to the flavor)
                                      1 egg
                                      1 tsp. vinegar
                                      4-5 Tbsp. cold water

                                      Mix flour and salt; cut in shortening until particles are the size of small peas. Beat egg, vinegar, and water together and sprinkle over flour mixture. Mix together and let stand for 10 minutes. Roll out as needed on floured surface.

                                      (Don't leave out the step of letting it stand for 10 minutes; this relaxes the dough so it can be rolled thinner.)

                                      This makes enough for one double-crust pie, with a little left over for bumblebees:

                                      Roll pie dough out, spread with butter, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, then roll up and slice. Bake 10 minutes at 425 (which coincidentally is the temperature at which a pie is baked).

                                      My grandma said this recipe came from her next-door neighbor when her kids were growing up. It's sort of hard for me to imagine my grandma ever needing cooking advice from anyone...she's the best cook I know. She says this pie crust recipe "never fails," and I've only had it fail on me once, when I was a brand new cook and wasn't paying attention to what I was doing.

                                      1. re: revsharkie

                                        thanks revsharkie! I shall absolutely try it!

                                        1. re: revsharkie

                                          What temperature should it rest at for 10 minutes? I have been shamed into trying pie crusts again-always happens in the fall- and this is the second recipe from this thread I am trying. Thanks so much.

                                    2. I can always tell the difference, and I won't use the frozen, premade stuff. I use a real simple recipe. It's just the one from Better Homes and Gardens, using half butter and half shortening. You have to make sure you incorporate the fat and flour correctly. into pea-sized clumps. Then start adding the water, one tablespoon at a time. I use very cold water in a glass with a few ice cubes in it. I also refrigerate the butter and shortening, to make sure they're very cold. When you add each tablespoon of water, make sure you incorporate each fully before you add more. You don't want your dough to be too dry or too wet, and try not to work it too much. You want it to be pliable and smooth, but not to feel like play-doh. It needs to be more delicate than that. And don't forget to brush the whole thing with melted butter before you bake it. That will cover lots of beginner's mistakes.

                                      I definitely think you should follow the advice of someone here, who says that you should buy one and then make your own. If it goes haywire, you'll have a backup. Try to get crust from a local bakery or a Trader Joe's or Whole Foods. That being said, if you need two crusts, make enough dough for three or four. If things fall apart in transit from board to pie plate, you can use the extra to make gentle patch-ups.

                                      Good luck! If it doesn't happen at first, please keep trying. Once you get it, it's SO worth it - easy and delicious.

                                      1. I make an al butter crust with a bit of baking powder added to it to increase flakiness. If it is a savoury pie then it is a lard crust. I get my lard from a local farmer.No hydorogenation etc. Just pure lard. Even the Pillsbury fold out stuff tastes plasticky to me besides I don't want all of the extras that would never go into my own crust BHA, BHT, etc.

                                        1. I think it depends on whether the home baker makes a good crust.

                                          But generally, yeah, homemade is better.

                                          1. I think the Pillsbury readymade crusts (refrigerated) are outstanding. I've never had disappointing results, especially now that their rolled instead of folded!

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: katydid13

                                              I agree that the rolled crusts are superior to the frozen ones. The frozen ones in disposable tins always seem to be broken, just as a warning to the quality thereof, I suppose.

                                              And I agree that homemade has the potential to be much much better than store-bought. My homemade results have varied, so I save my attempts for special occasions or fillings, at least when I'm not too stressed about the rest of the menu!

                                            2. I have to admit that there are store-bought doughs where I live in England--in some of the posh specialty shops--that are just as good as homemade. The only thing that keeps me from using them all the time is price!

                                              A great tip that I heard from someone here on this board is to grate frozen butter into the flour (for doughs that call for butter, obviously). Ever since I started doing that, my crusts have much better texture.

                                              1. Hey - I have no shame. I make my own filling but always buy the crust. I use good old Tenderflake, the double crust deep dish (9"). I just bring to room temperature, fill, flatten the top crust, crimp and bake! Of course my own would be better but if I'm doing a big dinner, I'm not gonna spend hours making dough, and as long as the filling is mine then I'm happy - I haven't had any complaints either!