Everything You Need to Know About Pie Crust
We should all have a solid command of the ABCs of baking. Thankfully, Food52's Test Kitchen Manager Erin McDowell — alongside photographer Sarah Stone, who both blog at The Shutter Oven — is here, with tips and tricks to help you master the most essential desserts and the simplest breads.
I’ve managed to get myself a little bit of a reputation when it comes to pie — so much so that I’ve baked 34 pies in the last 14 days. This reputation started with one simple fact: I love pie, and I am not afraid to sing it from the rooftops.
While there are plenty of details to consider when making a pie, it is, at its core, one of the simplest desserts ever. My crust has only four ingredients: all-purpose flour, a pinch of salt, butter, and ice water. I like to keep things simple because I often find myself making pies at the last minute. This ratio is easy to remember, and easy to pull off.
The trick is learning to manipulate these four ingredients properly to achieve the perfect (or even just pretty darn good) result. That’s the thing about pie — even an imperfect one is still amazing.
More: Once you have a handle on your crust, fill it with fresh blueberries.
Of course, you can always experiment with different fats or added flavors (it’s great with rosemary, vanilla sugar, or even flaky salt for a savory pie). But today we’re just talking about the basics, so let’s dig in.
- Start with cold ingredients. I don’t usually chill my flour, but in the heat of the summer, it can only help. Definitely start with ice water and well-chilled butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes. I like to chill all of my ingredients in the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes before I get started — you can even throw in the mixing bowl, too.
- Mixing by hand gives you the most control, which makes you less likely to overmix your dough. To do this, toss the cubed butter into the flour to coat each piece. After it’s well coated, begin to “cut in” or “rub in” the flour: Shingle the butter between the heels of your hands, pressing them against the butter in opposite directions. (This melts it less quickly than using your fingers does.) The idea is to flatten the butter into big shards. Continue to toss the butter in with the flour as you work to re-coat the shingled pieces.