Ladies and Gentlemen, the Incredible Shrinking Pie Crust!
Why is it that, whenever I blind bake a pie crust, the crust that comes out is significantly smaller than the crust that went in? Sometimes so much smaller that there's hardly room to put anything in it. How can I keep this from happening?
Yes, do not stretch the pie dough into the pan. Make sure it is just layed in.
Cooks Illustrated actually recommends putting a pie crust (that is already shaped into the pie pan) in the fridge for 40 minutes and then in the freezer for 20 minutes before baking to prevent shrinking.
It also helps to rest the pie crust in its tin/pan in the freezer for 10-15 minutes before baking.
As todoa mentions, not stretching the dough as you put it in the pan is important, and often overlooked. Make sure it is fully rolled out so you can place it in and tuck in the corners without stretching.
todao is right - you need to let the gluten relax. you can try chilling the crust in the refrigerator for about an hour after you roll it out, before placing it into the pan for baking. also, if, for some reason you don't have dried beans lying around or you plan to bake a lot of pies, you can buy pie weights - made specifically for weighing down the crust during blind baking.
and if all else fails, try the method suggested in "Baking with Jim Dodge":
"For perfect pre-baked pie shells, set another pan of the same size on the top of the pie shell, then turn the two pans upside down and bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees F. Press down on the top pan to keep the shell from shrinking and bake 10 minutes more. Turn the pans right side up, and remove the top pan, and bake the shell 15 minutes longer until golden brown..."
First and foremost, don't over work the dough. When you over work the dough you develop the gluten. Next, after you've rolled out the dough into the final shape, cover it with plastic wrap or a damp towel and allow it to rest about ten minutes before placing it in the pie pan.
When you put it into the pan, avoid stretching the dough as much as possible. Once the dough is in the pan, dock the bottom (table for works fine for this) and pour a layer of dried beans over the bottom before introducing it to the oven. You can't use the beans for any other purpose after that so save them in a jar and use them again the next time you make a pie crust.
You could also try adding 2 - 3 tsp of vinegar to your pie crust recipe to inhibit the development of gluten in the preparation of the dough.