Pie Crust Primer
One of the great pleasures of pie baking is, hands down, working with such smooth, pliable dough. Keep two things in mind: Well-chilled dough will outperform anything else, so make the dough a day ahead for best results. Secondly, flour is your friend. You'll want to be generous in dusting at the outset and the process will go that much more smoothly. Let your creativity be your guide in crimping or making other decorative flourishes according to your whim.
Pie Crust: From Start to Finish (ta-da!)
Now that your pie dough is sufficiently chilled (preferably overnight), it's time to get rolling. If you have used the Basic Short Crust (with egg), this will be a cinch, since that dough is a dream to work with. But even the All-Purpose Pie Dough (no egg) can be rolled out with ease so long as you adopt some time-tested rules. And lest you face the next hurdle (transferring the rolled-out dough to the pie plate) with trepidation, we've got that covered, too. After that it's up to your imagination (sparked by some inspirational how-tos) to make your pie a standout.
Rolling out the dough
Once you get the hang of rolling out pie dough, you'll wonder what you were ever afraid of. Test-drive these tips to help you get near-flawless results every time--or at least learn how to make it look like you do (hint: that's what patching is for).
- Cold, colder, coldest: Always start with well-chilled dough--at least an hour in the refrigerator, preferably longer.
- Wake up the dough: Begin by whacking the dough with the rolling pin a few times to soften it up a bit, then pressing the pin over the dough to help flatten it some more before rolling.
- Dust generously, and often: Start with a floured surface (to do this, imagine you are rolling dice, only tossing flour instead), and dust with flour as needed throughout rolling; flour the top of the dough and the rolling pin, too, at the start and as you go.
- Roll, turn, repeat: Follow this pattern as you go, always rolling the pin towards 12 o'clock, then rotating the dough clockwise a quarter-turn and repeating. This is designed to get even results as well as to keep the dough from sticking (by rotating).
- One direction: Always roll from the center out, releasing pressure as you reach the edge; avoid rolling over the edges themselves.
- Loosen up: Run a bench scraper under dough every now and then to prevent sticking, and to help in turning the dough.
- Chill as needed: Return the dough to the refrigerator or freezer if it begins to stick or tear. Rolling on parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat makes it easy to transport.
Lining the pie plate
- Method 1: Gently roll up dough around the rolling pin, brushing off excess flour from bottom of dough as you go; then unroll dough over the pie plate, allowing it to gently drape into the dish.
- Method 2: Fold the dough loosely into quarters, brushing off excess dough from the bottom, then unfold over the pie plate.
- Press the dough into bottom and side of the dish, smoothing out any air pockets and making sure to press it into the corners.
- Trim edge of dough flush with rim of pie plate or leave an overhang to form a thicker edge, as desired.
- Crimp edge as desired, or try one of these techniques: 20 Creative Crimps in 120 Seconds. See also Pumpkin Pie with Hazelnut Crust.
- Dock the bottom of the dough all over with the tines of a fork; this will help prevent the dough from puffing up from the steam during baking.
- Chill for at least 30 minutes and up to a day.
Making a double-crust pie
- When fitting the bottom dough into the pie plate, leave an overhang. Dock and chill for at least 30 minutes before filling.
- Roll out top dough as above into a round and trim edge to make even.
- Cut out steam vents with a paring knife or use cutters to make decorative patterns, saving cut-outs to attach to the top dough if desired.
- Chill top dough (and any cut-outs) for at least 30 minutes.
- Drape dough over filled pie, tucking the edge of top dough under the bottom dough and press to seal; crimp as desired.
- Chill for 30 minutes before baking.
Other decorative topping ideas: Try arranging cut-out dough shapes over the edge of the crust or over the entire filling, or cut the dough into strips and weave them into a lattice or a braid, among many other options. Use water to adhere decorative elements to the dough. You could also opt for a simple crumble or streusel topping.
Check out this excellent tutorial on forming a lattice crust, from Gimme Some Oven.
Click here for more pie-topper tips from Style Me Pretty.
For even more inspiration, Craftsy has a round-up of classic and not-so-classic topping ideas.
And check out these recipes from EatSmarter!
Sidebar: Why you should always "wash" your dough before baking
It's a surefire way to get a [fill-in-the-blank] surface. Which type of wash you choose depends on your idea of the perfect pie. Always apply the wash lightly with a pastry brush, without any pooling or puddles. Sprinkle with sugar, if desired, while the wash is still wet. Some bakers prefer to wash the dough before the final chilling, others wait until just before the pie goes into the oven (and a few others brush the crust again during baking). Note: When using an egg yolk or egg white as the wash, you may find it easier to brush over the dough when it is lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water.
- Whole egg plus milk or cream: slight sheen and a rich golden brown color (the traditional choice is 1 egg whisked with 1 tablespoon milk)
- Whole egg: shiny with a pronounced golden-yellow color
- Egg yolk: shiny and deep golden brown
- Egg white: super glossy but no color; ideal when also sprinkling with sugar
- Heavy cream (or half and half): slightly matte finish with a reddish brown color
- Whole milk: matte finish and similar color to cream
- No wash: the most matte finish and an even brown hue
Click here for a visual chart from Epicurious.
Single-crust pies that will hold a loose filling (think pumpkin pie), or a no-bake filling (such as cream or yogurt pies), are blind-baked before the filling is added. This will help set the shape while also allowing the crust to form those delectable flaky layers.
- Brush dough with wash of choice (see above)
- Line the shell with parchment paper, leaving plenty of overhang, and fill to the top with pie weights (or dried beans).
- Bake in an oven preheated to 180°C (approximately 350°F) until dough is dry to the touch and lightly golden, about 20 minutes.
- If pie filling will be baked, remove from oven and remove parchment and weights.
- For cream pies and no-bake fillings, remove parchment and weights and continue to bake until crust is golden brown and set, about 10 minutes more.
- Let cool completely before filling.
Baking and cooling
When baking filled pies (single- or double-crust), the goal is to have the filling and crust reach the desired doneness at the same time. That can take some interference, but it's easy enough to pull off. You'll also need patience when letting the pie cool before serving, lest you end up with runny slices.
- Put a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil on a lower oven rack in case of spills.
- Bake until filling is bubbling and crust is desired color; the biggest mistake is when people pull pies from the oven too soon, and there's nothing good about undercooked fillings and dough.
- If the exposed crust is browning before the rest of the pie is ready, cover it with foil; there are also silicone rings you can buy for a single-crust pie.
- Otherwise, tent a double-crust pie with foil (meaning there should be air between the foil and crust in the middle).
- When finished baking, transfer pies from the oven to a wire rack, which allows for quicker and more even cooling.
- Most pies need some time to let the fillings settle, so plan accordingly; better to make them a day ahead and let cool overnight before slicing and serving.
- If you want to a warm slice of apple pie (or other pies), reheat the pie briefly in a low-heat oven before serving.
- Store leftovers in the refrigerator and either allow to come to room temperature or reheat in the oven.