Pie Susan's Pie Crust Primer
I wrote this for another foodie forum when I was trying to teach folks how to make a proper pie crust. I wrote it out as I was making a pie and figured out all the little tricks that I have learned over the years and thought that I would post them here. Some of these tips, were passed down to me by my grandmother and mother.
For your typical pie dough crust:
flour, butter, shortening, salt and water--this is what I do:
1. I keep all purpose flour in the freezer for my pie doughs. I do not use pastry flour.
2. I also ensure that any fat (be in butter or shortening or a combo) is frozen or chilled hard in the fridge. Sometimes I use butter and sometimes I use half butter and half shortening (even butter flavored Crisco). The butter has a better flavor but the shortening will make a flakier crust. I cut the butter and shortening into dice before I sift the flour and put it back in the fridge until I need it.
3. I always sift my flour before I measure by spooning the flour into measuring cups and leveling off with a butter knife.
4. I use a scant amount of salt--I almost always cut down the amount of salt when baking. (especially if baking powder and baking soda are also used) If you don't use any, your pie dough will taste flat.
5. I use the food processor to mix the dough and turn the machine off and on. I do not let it just keep running.
6. I always use ice water. Sometimes, depending upon your flour, you may need a tad more water than your recipe calls for.
7. I never make a double crust at once. I prefer to make one crust at a time. It means that I touch and work the dough less.
8. I turn out a sorta crumbly dough with chunks of fat still visible onto plastic wrap and use the plastic wrap to get the dough into a ball and then I flatten it--that way, my warm hands don't touch the dough. If it seems too crumbly to gather into a ball after trying, you can put it back into the work bowl and add a little bit more water at a time. Caution: you don't want to add too much water. Sometimes a tablespoon more can be too much. Whenever you make a dough, try to ensure that before you chill it, it is in the shape that you are going to roll it in.
9. Then, I let the dough chill in the fridge over night or for several hours.
10. When I take the dough out, I will lightly flour my surface and pound the dough a little with my pin. Then, I will roll it out and put it on a baking sheet covered with saran and put it back in the fridge while I am fixing the filling.
11. The rolling and crimping can be done in many styles.
12. For an apple pie: I brush the top crust with milk (don't allow the milk to puddle) and I sprinkle sugar on top after I cut in the vents.
13. I always cover my pie edges after 15-20 minute with a pie shield made out of tin foil. If the middle of my pie gets too brown, I put foil over the entire top.
14. I almost always use pyrex to bake my pies in--I get a properly done bottom crust when I do.
15. I always roll out my pie in a cool room.
16. After I roll out the top crust, I place it in the fridge while I am fixing the pie filling. I will have to let it warm a bit before I can put it on the pie and crimp it, but if I don't do this and my room is too warm, it makes it harder to get on top of the pie.