Have you ever wondered why your version of grandma's famous apple pie never turns out quite as tasty? Knowing how to make the perfect pie crust can make or break a recipe. Whether you're baking a fruit pie or one filled with veggies or meat, you'll want a crust that's tender and flaky with a mellow, buttery flavor. It's no wonder that some people shy away from attempting such a feat and buy their crusts premade.
The secret to making the perfect pie crust might just surprise you. Basically, it's about tools, temperature and technique. And of course, you've got to know the recipe backward and forward. Before pulling out the flour and rolling pin, take a few minutes to study the recipe in its entirety, from the ingredients to each step of the instructions.
Next, prepare your tools. Pie crusts turn out better when you blend the ingredients with a food processor or pastry blender. It also helps to have a quality pie plate; use a glass or dull metal one. Make sure you've got a wide pastry brush -- 3 to 4 inches (7.6 to 10 centimeters) is ideal. Here's a list of all the tools you'll need:
- food processor or pastry blender
- glass or dull metal pie plate
- wide pastry brush
- rolling pin
- parchment paper
- butter knife
Temperature has a major effect on your pie crust. When you're making the dough, be aware that all ingredients combine better when they're cold, especially the fats (whether you're using shortening, butter or lard) and the water (which should be ice cold). These oily ingredients suspend nicely in the flour-and-water mixture to produce thin layers that make a classic flaky pie crust. Also, if your tools, work surface and pie plate are cool to the touch, working with the dough will be much easier.
The world's tastiest pie recipe can fall flat if you don't use the proper techniques to assemble it. Once you've prepared your pie crust according to the recipe and have rolled it out, fold it in half and place it in the baking dish. Or, you can loosely wrap the rolled dough around your rolling pin to lift it from the countertop and place it in the pie plate. Then, brush the entire surface of the dough with beaten egg white before filling and baking it.
For pies that will have a bottom crust only, precook the crust for a few minutes in the oven, then brush it with some beaten egg white and proceed with pouring in the filling. If your pie has a top crust, use a butter knife to make make deep slits in it; this will keep your pie from getting soggy. If your recipe calls for a prebaked pie crust, freeze it for 30 minutes after it's been cooked, then add filling and cook the whole thing. Lastly, cool your pie on a wire rack.
Using these tips, you can make a pie crust that will have people raving about it for years to come.