HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >

Need Pie Crust Help

jboeke Nov 29, 2009 03:54 PM

I've been cooking for many years now, but only in the last 2-3 started trying my hand at baking. One thing that frustrates me to no end is pie crust. I've followed recipes with butter, with shortening, with a combo of the two, and still it's really hit or miss. I've read just about every trick there is: using vodka, using vinegar, put flour in the freezer, etc. But about every second or third time, regardless of what recipe or technique I'm using, I end up with a crust that essentially liquifies in the oven. I get drips of goopy crust falling over the sides of the pie pan and the final product is a gloppy mess, not even solid. This time I took a picture of tonight's pumpkin pie results to hope that one of you will have an idea what I'm doing wrong to cause this liquified crust issue. I made the same recipe Weds. with no problem, but tonight (made it again for work tomorrow) I have an inedible mess to scrape out of the pan. Any thoughts as to what is causing this??

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. i
    Ideefixed RE: jboeke Nov 29, 2009 04:06 PM

    Does your oven heat evenly? Oven thermometer? I swear by Rose Levy Beranbaum's Cream Cheese recipe and it works the same every time. Do you chill your crust before baking?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Ideefixed
      jboeke RE: Ideefixed Nov 30, 2009 03:59 AM

      Brand new oven - just remodeled the whole kitchen in August. But I've had this problem both before and after the remodel, so I think it must be something I'm doing and not the oven.

    2. t
      TDEL RE: jboeke Nov 29, 2009 04:09 PM

      Can you let us know your recipe so we can see what is wrong?

      3 Replies
      1. re: TDEL
        jboeke RE: TDEL Nov 30, 2009 04:01 AM

        This week's recipe is:
        1 cup sifted flour
        1 tsp. salt
        1/3 cup +1Tbsp shortening
        1 Tbsp. ice water

        But I've had this exact same result using Martha Stewart's butter-based crust recipe, and I've used this current recipe many times with no problem. That's why i don't think it's the recipe and it's really something I'm doing.

        1. re: jboeke
          jen kalb RE: jboeke Nov 30, 2009 02:12 PM

          What method are you using for cutting in your flour/adding liquid, etc?
          Are you using a pastry blender? processor? hand?

          1. re: jen kalb
            jboeke RE: jen kalb Dec 1, 2009 03:52 AM

            I use a pastry blender to cut in shortening, but have had the same issue using butter in a food processor.

      2. missmasala RE: jboeke Nov 29, 2009 04:10 PM

        Wow, never seen that before! The only thing I can think is--did you accidentally use self-rising flour?

        there's another thread going about pie crust at the moment that might help you, though it doesn't address your problem specifically:


        1 Reply
        1. re: missmasala
          jboeke RE: missmasala Nov 30, 2009 04:01 AM

          No self-rising flour - don't have any in the pantry, and I usually buy a new bag of flour at the holidays anyway for baking so that everything is relatively fresh.

        2. TrishUntrapped RE: jboeke Nov 30, 2009 04:53 AM

          Wow. I don't believe oven temperature would do that to your pie crust. If your crust was perfectly made, the temperature would just over or under cook it if it were off. So I agree with you jboeke that it is not your oven temp.

          That said, in my opinion it is one of two things - the measurement of ingredients (wrong proportions), or more likely, the way you are mixing your crust.

          It seems you are careful with measurements so it would be more likely the mixing technique.

          To get a flaky pie crust requires a very delicate and quick hand. It should nover be kneaded or overmixed. When the fat is cut in it should be very chunky, NOT like fine evenly sized crumbs as is often recommended. Roll the dough on a highly floured board and do it very quickly.

          Since pictures say a thousand words, here is a slideshow I created about making an apple pie. You may find it helpful with crust techniques. Click on slideshow on the list on the right to view it that way.


          Here is a link to a recent thread I started:


          1. BernalKC RE: jboeke Nov 30, 2009 11:30 AM

            Did you really use just 1Tbs of water to moisten? For me there is always tension between wanting to use as little water as possible to get a crisper, lighter crust versus adding enough moisture to make the dough workable. From the picture I'm guessing you went a bit too far on the dry side.

            FWIW, I have much better luck with metal pie pans than with pyrex. The crust cooks better, presumably because the heat transfer is better.

            4 Replies
            1. re: BernalKC
              jboeke RE: BernalKC Dec 1, 2009 03:55 AM

              Truly I don't even use a full Tbsp. of water. I scoop with my Tbsp. measurer out of a bowl of ice water and just sprinkle it on, so it's a little less than 1 Tbsp.

              1. re: jboeke
                jen kalb RE: jboeke Dec 1, 2009 05:38 AM

                I had some problems Wednesday - I was making my pastry in a hot room and I think the shortening was too warm and soft. Anyway, by the time it ws all cut in the mix was greasy and LOOKED moist after adding fluid it was positively wet. While after chilling (a necessary step) I was able, barely, to form a crust it was much too soft and greasy seeming and looked somewhat like yours-

                .I think you need to be very careful to start with cold ingredients and not work the pastry too much -following the common "coarse meal" probably gets you to too much working of the pastry. - even the pea sized pieces instruction can lead you astray - the pieces need to be pieces of actual unintegrated solid fat (sometimes if you overwork it will look like you have pea-sized pieces but when you break the pieces open you will see that they are mixed fat and flour - not good. there should be some look of dry flour in the bottom of the bowl and no stickiness. Carol Walter suggests to pull the pastry blender straight across the bowl surface and not to twist it since that results in too much mixing - a good point.

                Making my new batch, I carefully chilled all the ingredients before starting and consciously reduced my mixing and changed my mixing style - it worked.
                You shouldnt have to reduce your water - the dough needs water to create stea,m for flakiness so it would be counterproductive to omit or reduce too much. Do make sure to refrigerate before forming - it helps a great deal.

                1. re: jboeke
                  BernalKC RE: jboeke Dec 1, 2009 07:14 AM

                  So was the dough workable? Or too crumbly, unstable, and hard to roll out? I find that I need to add more moisture than any recipe calls for to make the dough pliable and formable. If your dough was pliable with that little moisture, the recipe may be too heavy on the grease. I think moisture balance and dough consistency is more likely to be your problem than the texture/temperature of the grease+flour.

                  1. re: BernalKC
                    jen kalb RE: BernalKC Dec 1, 2009 08:21 AM

                    These recipes are fairly consistent in the amount of fat. I had used my recipe many times before. Pie pastry recipes are high fat and technique is critical in getting it right. In my case the dough was very soft and came together in a mass BEFORE the water was even added. To me thats indicative that the grease was melted - the thing should not cohere fully until the water is added, its a very gentle process of sprinkling in the water, gradually, tossing the dry ingredients so they are lightly coated and then, when they start to be able to cohere in lumps, gently pressed together and formed into disks and refrigerated. the process is light and gentle, without stirring.

              2. s
                susan1353 RE: jboeke Nov 30, 2009 12:26 PM

                Here's the recipe I always use, from Carole Walter's "Great Pies and Tarts." It calls for half butter, half shortening, and you can make it in the food processor. http://www.chefscatalog.com/recipe/de...

                I suspect your problem might be that your fats are not cold enough. If they're room temperature by the time you put your crust in the oven, it's going to turn into a goopy mess. And don't forget the pie weights if you're blind baking.

                1. roxlet RE: jboeke Nov 30, 2009 09:36 PM

                  I'm thinking too much shortening, maybe? My basic recipe is 3c flour, 1 stick of butter, 8 tablespoons shortening, pinch of salt, tbsp sugar. Make sure the butter and shortening are very cold. I cut them into small pieces and then put them in the freezer while I collect the other ingredients. If you have a food processor, pulse until the shortening/butter is cut finely. Don't over process -- you want to see occasional bits of butter. You can do this with a pastry cutter or even with knives. Have some ice water at hand, and start sprinkling. Depending on the day, maybe even 1/4 cup. Make sure it is well-combined by dumping it all on a board, and using the heel of your hand, pushing the dough away from you. Gather the dough into two discs, wrap in saran, and flatten slightly. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, overnight or even freeze for a while.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: roxlet
                    sfmiller RE: roxlet Dec 1, 2009 08:15 AM

                    I also think too much fat might be the culprit. Most pie dough recipes use about 1/2 cup of fat to 1 1/4 or 1 1/2 cup of flour--ratios of .4 and .33 respectively. The fat/flour ratio in jboeke's recipe is .46, which is significantly higher. Inaccurate measuring might make the ratio higher still, which would account for why the crust only fails every few tries, not every time.

                    Of course, the advice about keeping the fats cold is well-taken.

                  2. Becca Porter RE: jboeke Dec 1, 2009 04:04 AM

                    I would suggest getting a copy of Ken Haedrich's book PIE. It is fantastic. It has great pie crust recipes as well as amazing pies.

                    I also love RLB's cream cheese pie crust: http://www.realbakingwithrose.com/rec...
                    Though I usually need to add a bit more liquid.

                    1. C. Hamster RE: jboeke Dec 1, 2009 08:00 AM

                      Your fat and water need to be ice cold. And the dough needs to rest.

                      Show Hidden Posts