How to make the perfect Pie Crust

1 Pie Crust
All Purpose Flour 1 ½ C
Cold Butter 1 Stick
Salt ¼ t
Cold Water 4T
Mix together flour, salt and butter till butter becomes
as small as a pea. Add all the cold water in at once.
Mix till just combined.

With the seasons changing at home baking shifts to heartier and warm served desserts like pies. But baking pies at home can be stressful, “Is the filling cooked all the way?” “Is the pie crust on the bottom still raw?” “My crust is not flakey enough.” Questions that don’t tend to get answered until its done and time for the first bite. I have a few tips and tricks to make the process of pie baking much easier and less stressful. As
a Pastry Chef, I am here to share what I have learned throughout my career, on how to accomplish professional level pie crusts. The first of many tips I give on achieving the best pies is understanding the textures of each
component. The crust should be flakey and buttery. The filling, if fruits like apple or pies, should have a tenderness to it. The fruit should still hold shape but be able to have softness in the bite. A custard filling, like pumpkin should have a richness, creaminess and body. But the crust is the
hardest to achieve for many home bakers. Starting with the ingredients of the crust, how can you create a flaky crust after its been baked? One tip is to start with cold butter mixed into the flour and salt, I usually cut it into the size of a pea. Leaving enough chunks that are visible in the dough after cold water. Keeping everything cold really helps! I also roll my dough into a quick rectangle and give the dough “folds”. That’s a
term we use in the Pastry World, meaning to layer the dough on top of itself. Simply fold half of the right side to the middle and fold the left side on top. The pockets of butter are going to release steam as it melts in the oven. The steam in between the layers of dough is going to create the flakey texture.

Letting the dough rest is another way of achieving a great crust. A few critical things are happening right after its mixed. The water in the crust will hydrate the flour, the gluten strands are developed and the butter has increased in temperature. With letting the dough rest for at least 30 minutes will allow you control the crust a lot better. You will be able to roll it much thinner and easier since the gluten has time to relax and butter has rechilled. Once the crust has rested and is able to be rolled, I suggest lining your pie pan for your bottom crust, crimping if desired and placing it in the freezer. Once again allowing it to rest and fully set up. This can be done a full day or night before baking. Pie making is ALL about patience, but it will all be worth it.

My last tip with the crusts of pies, whether it’s just a bottom crust or a lattice top pie, is to par bake or fully bake the bottom crust. My go to way is to place parchment inside and fill it to the top with a baking weight, dried beans or even granulated sugar. (The kitchen smells wonderful as it toasts!) Each style of weight can be reused as well. Place it in a 400 degrees Fahrenheit oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the crust top begins to get color. What this does is give that bottom crust a jump start at baking all the way through. When raw filling in poured into an unbaked pie crust, it never bakes all the way through. For two reasons, one is because the crust
and filling usually do not take the same time to bake fully and the second is the filling is usually juicy so it never really gets flakey, rather it gets soggy as it bakes inside. No one likes a soggy bottom.

When I bake a lattice pie, I par bake my bottom crust and place a par baked filling inside. Then I proceed to lattice with raw pie dough. Using my egg was to glue it together. If the ends begin to get darker, aluminum foil helps to control that. This lattice pie was baked in this style and stayed crispy for 4+ days!

Pie shell weighed down with parchment paper and granulated sugar. Flakey pie crust is the goal. You can see the layers after its been baked. The water in the butter has evaporated leaving a flaky dough.

In professional kitchens and bakeries, we bake unfilled pie crust shells a day or two in advance. It can be an option when you don’t have a full day to dedicate to a pie. It also extends the completed pies flakiness for an extra day or two. Achieving the perfect pie crust takes a lot of practice and patience. Hopefully these few tricks will have you baking the flakiest pies all
season long!

Article and Photos By Denise Spooner (@njpastrychef)

Denise, born and raised in Northern New Jersey. Started her
culinary career at Johnson and Wales University in Providence,
Rhode Island. She completed her studies by graduating a
Bachelor’s in Baking and Pastry Arts and Food Service
Management, while also minoring in Contemporary Pastry, Beverage Management and Psychology.

After graduation she worked in various kitchens in NYC. She landed a job at Jams by Jonathan Waxman within the boutique and ecofriendly 1 Hotel Central Park. This is where Denise learned seasonality and sophisticated homestyle desserts and never looked back. Working at Jams she discovered her passion for a farm to table style. As she would say “Living in the Northeast with such an abundance of fruits and vegetables available, baking with anything different than locally sourced and seasonal products would just feel wrong now” After putting in the work and years under her favorite Chef, Heather Miller, Denise was able to take the reins and move up to Head Pastry Chef at Jams.

As the Pandemic hit she is also teaching Virtual Baking class
through Fēst cooking. Follow her class and recipe updates
@NJpastrychef on Instagram.

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