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Dec 4, 2009 01:17 AM

Foolproof Pie Crust?

I have not been successful with pie crust and would like to try again. What recipe would you suggest?

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  1. Rather than suggesting a recipe, I suggest an ingredient:

    Unbleached pastry flour.

    Purchase some from a local bakery.

    You still have to treat the dough with kid gloves to avoid gluten development, but pastry flour gives you a little wiggle room.

    1 Reply
    1. re: scott123

      I 'd like to weigh in on technique too. Wholeheartedly agree with the WW Pastry Flour suggestion. It is from a 'softer' (lower gluten) wheat variety and will not toughen like an "All-Purpose" flour will. Especially if you might be somewhat of a novice and tend to work the dough more than it likes. Keeping the flour and water cold, and the butter ice-cold, helps create a flakier crust.

      A "light hand" is best with pie pastry. Mix quickly and gently to moisten the flour with the liquid. If it won't come together at all, add ice-cold liquid by tablespoons, but do not over stir or beat . Turn it out of the mixing bowl onto a floured work surface while it is still somewhat "crumbly", and press it together into a ball. Flatten it into a disk and wrap it in plastic, chill and rest for at least an hour. Bring it out to a lightly but thoroughly flour-dusted board, unwrap and let sit for a few minutes. Then flouring the rolling pin, starting in the center, roll away from you to the edge. Turn the disk 1/2 turn, flour the pin and repeat, rolling from center out only. Switch the turns to 1/4 turns and you should be getting a round shape. Lift the dough, using a spatula if necessary, every few turns and toss some flour under the dough. keep the pin lightly foured. (Don't use great hunks of flour, just light siftings)

      When you get the dough to the right diameter ( 4" larger than the pan) hold the pin over the center of the dough circle, lift one edge of the dough and drape it back over the top of the pin. Have your pie pan right there, and shift the pin to hover over the pan, letting the free edge of the dough circle drape itself into the pan, with 2" of the dough still overhanging the edge; continue moving the pin, letting the dough slide off and drop into the pan.

      Here's where its easy to overwork the dough again. Don't pull or stretch the dough to fit, or It will shrink back down the inside of the pan while it bakes. Big oops. To get good contact betweent he dough and the pan (no draping gaps bottom) simply lift one edge of the dough straight up, and holding it, let it drop back down, to come in contact with the pan where the sides join the bottom. Do this all around. Gently press the sides to make contact with the pan but do not push the dough around. (this is why you want ot make the circle very generous in size)

      Use the excess dough hanging off the edges to form a nice trim. I trim away any great jags of dough then double the edge back under itself and then pinch it between my thumb and side of my forefinger, at a diagonal, all the way around. You can make a nice Grammy edge using a wetted fork to press down the two layers of dough trim, which looks really homey.

      Usually cookbooks like Betty Crocker or Better Homes and Gardens have good discussions and illustrations of these techniques. They were the most popular cookbooks during the time when all cooks had to make pie dough from scratch, so they were copius with directions. Nowdays, an awful lot of cookbooks either assume a level of experience that doesn't require but a list of ingredients, or they skimp on basic skills development. Watching someone experienced will also help a great deal.

      Don't let yourself get discouraged from practice--do it often and you'll get better results quicker. Everybody likes pie! You don't have to make fancy fruit pies--make turnovers of meat or cheese or leftover veggies. Make nibbles for game days or Scout troop meetings. All make great practice.

    2. The one that America's Test Kitchen has been touting with vodka in it.

      I think it's still free on their website. I'm not sure I'm allowed to post it on here.


      1. I think it's more about technique than recipe. Any pie crust that you overwork will be tough and rolling properly is so important. But, the one Davwud suggested replaces some of the water with vodka and reduces gluten formation which is what causes toughness. You can find it here:

        I prefer an all butter crust.

        4 Replies
          1. re: Davwud

            I've had it bookmarked because I want to try it. I have to persuade my husband that it's worth giving up some of his absolut for it, after my disastrous attempt at making vanilla where I wasted a good part of his bottle.

            1. re: chowser

              Don't waste good vodka on pie crust because you only need the alcohol as a water replacement. I wouldn't buy the cheapest but I wouldn't spend more then $20.00 on vodka that you will bake with. You could probably get by on the low proof vodka that is sold at groceries.

              I personally use hard apple cider because it too has the necessary alcohol in addition to the apple flavor. Gold rum will also suffice.

              1. re: Kelli2006

                That's one thing I was wondering, too. It's not something I've planned ahead for and either have to use what I have at home or go w/ the reliable recipe I have so I've always used the recipe I have (which is why I haven't tried the vodka crust yet).

        1. what's up with all the pie crust threads these days? TG fallout?

          for tips, suggestions, recipes, see these very recent threads:


          2 Replies
          1. re: missmasala

            If I try the CI vodka recipe, do you know if they mentioned a brand of vodka. Or, what would you suggest?

          2. Repeating what I posted in a recent thread:

            "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 that includes a proven pie crust recipe: