10 Tips for Best-Ever Pie Crusts from Professional Bakers
Have no fear, the pro bakers are here! Get the inside scoop from the bakers and bloggers who make pie almost every day.
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Keep It Cold
Joy Wilson, the pro baker behind Joy the Baker and The Bakehouse, credits icy cold butter and water for her flaky pie crusts. On her blog, Joy says she pops her butter in the freezer “about 30 minutes before making the pie crust and use[s] the wide side of a box grater to grate the butter.” This process, she says, results in a pie crust that has more layers of flakiness than butter that’s been chopped.
Be careful, though, shredding is one of our methods for softening butter quickly. To keep it cold, grate quickly!
You don’t have to use your hand to make pie dough. Culinary Institute of America graduate and former owner of Gretchen’s Bakery, Gretchen Price turns to her food processor to make pie crust. Gretchen adds her butter and dry ingredients to a food processor and pluses it until it has a kinetic sand-like quality. Then, she slowly adds a splash of water at a time while continuing to pulse, until the dough reaches her desired consistency.
If you’re in need of a food processor, be sure to check out our Test Kitchen’s preferred brands.
Add in Batches
An astroparticle physicist grad student, turned full-time professional baker, turned science teacher/baking blogger, Kristin Rosenau likes to get down to the details on her blog, Pastry Affair, and pie crust is no exception. Kristin shares that she likes to add only half her butter to the dough at a time. The first half results in tiny butter balls that whole the dough together while the second is for big butter balls that give you that irresistible flaky texture that everyone wants in a pie crust.
By the way, have you picked up these 10 must-have pie tools yet?
Give Your Crust Some R&R
Tawny and Merle Tully, owners and bakers of the Fredericksburg Pie Company in Texas, cite their extended mixing process at the key to their oh-so-tender crusts in their secret family recipe. The pair first mix dry ingredients with the fat to form a thick dough, and let it rest overnight. The next day, they incorporate their wet ingredients and let the dough rest overnight, again. On the third day, the Tullys gently roll out the dough and bake it into some of the best pies in Texas.
In a time crunch? Take a peek at our lazy day pie recipes that are filled with convenient shortcuts.
Bake Without the Shrink
As a three-time James Beard Award-winner and author of the must-have The Pie and Pastry Bible, Rose Levy Beranbaum knows a thing or two about baking. One of her best insights is to lift the dough while you’re rolling it out. This allows the dough to shrink back a bit before it’s put into the pan, keeping it from really shrinking up during blind baking.
Turn to Your Coffee Maker
There’s no need for pricey pie weights when blind baking a crust. Rose’s favorite way to keep pie dough from puffing up is a large coffee filter. She likes them because they easily conform to the shape of the pie plate, they don’t stick to the dough and they can be cut down to size. Not to mention, they’re also inexpensive. Pick up a pack here.
Get Your Hands Dirty
Your rolling pin might not be your pie crust’s best friend. Fanny Zanotti is a French pastry chef and occasional blogger out of Sweden who swears by gently hand-flattening her pie pastry until it’s almost the size she needs before rolling it out. This technique, Fanny says, prevents the dough from being overworked and makes it much easier to roll the dough to an even thickness.
To make hand-flattening pie crust a bit quicker, Fanny waits to chill her pastry until after it’s been rolled out, as she explains on her website. Fanny prefers this order because this way it’s pliable and you won’t have to whack it with a rolling pin to soften the chilled pastry (admit it, we’ve all been there).
After it’s to the thickness Fanny likes, she pops it in her pie pan or tart tin then lets it chill in the fridge for four hours to overnight. Not letting your pie crust chill is one of the most common pie crust mistakes almost everyone makes.
Avoid Soggy Bottoms
As co-host of The Great British Bake Off and The Great American Baking Show, Paul Hollywood has seen a soggy bottom or two. The most common culprits, he says on his website, are that the oven isn’t hot enough, the dough hasn’t cooked long enough or there was too much water added to the dough. Combat these problems by recalibrating your oven (it’s easy, we promise), double-checking your cook time and adding only enough water to get your dough to stick.
Next, take a look at some baking tips from Mary Berry, Hollywood’s former co-host.
Bigger Is Better
When it comes to creating an Instagram-worthy pie crust, blogger Michelle of Hummingbird High rolls her crusts out to about three inches larger than her pie plates. This oversized pastry, she says, allows her to make big, beautiful crimps, folds and flutes that make her pies stand out. Learn how to make a show-stopping crust with our decorative pie crust how-to.