It's pie season and here is the perfect recipe, and all the tips and tricks you need to know to create the best pie crust for all your pie needs!
If you're intimidated by pie doughs and struggling to make pies, I've listed for you the 7 best tips and tricks for a perfect flakey pie crust every time, with a bonus tip and recipe at the bottom!
I can't deny that I've had a lot of trouble with pie doughs in the past. I've had ones that are too soft, or ones that were too hard from overworking.
I've had ones that are too crumbly and fell apart as soon as you cut into them, not making for a clean removal from the dish, and ones that were undercooked and soggy even. I've experimented and tested a few from trusted sources, made my own tweaks here and there until finally, after much trial and error, I've made my favourite dough for all my pies - my No-Fail Pie Crust recipe which you'll find below.
But before making the dough, you'll need some helpful tips so you can no longer feel intimidated by making pies, and you can have a successful outcome every time. It's fool proof , and delicious!
7 Tips and Tricks for a perfect pie crust:
1. Flour - fat - water ratio.
Although most pie doughs only use 4 main ingredients which are flour, fat, water and salt, you'll need a good ratio of the ingredients to be able to make a good one. In most cases, its 3 parts flour, 2 parts fat, 1 part water. Though you'll need to be careful with adding the water, and start with less, then add more if your dough is too dry. Add just enough so its malleable, but not wet.
2. Pick your fats.
I've learned a lot about the different fats for pie doughs and how best to work with each kind. Almost all recipes use butter, with good reason - it has the most flavour. Other recipes use a combination of butter and lard or shortening.
Though it doesn't have as much flavour as butter, lard can be used because it chills nicely, is easy to work with, and it doesn't break down as fast as the butter when baked.
The butter and lard combination has enough moisture that when baked, evaporates, then leaves pockets of air which then gives you those flakey layers, yet not making it too crumbly.
Shortening can also be used, which is usually the choice fat when making pie crust. It's easy to work with, and works similarly to lard, though it has little to no flavour. All of these are great choices to work with.
3. Keep ingredients COLD.
Regardless of what kind of fat you use, the main trick is that your ingredients need to be COLD. This ensures that when rolled out, you still have those pockets of fat that evaporate when baked and creates layers.
4. Do NOT use your hands.
In keeping with tip #3, use a food processor or pastry cutter to incorporate the fat. The warmth from your hands can melt the fats into the dough. When incorporating the fat, you want a crumbly texture, but not too fine that its mealy, and you'll want some slightly larger pieces (about the size of a pea) as well. These pieces when baked, melt and their moisture evaporates which makes those flakey layers.
5. Add some vinegar or vodka!
An unusual ingredient, but essential. Both the vinegar and vodka have elements in them that adds moisture, without the addition of water (water encourages gluten development through binding the proteins in the flour, and you don't want that!).
Vodka evaporates, while vinegar is distilled and doesn't encourage gluten development. Either one of them helps with tenderizing the dough, making it much easier to work with. When baked, they lead to a flakier (and tastier) crust.
Use them interchangeably, and no, you will not taste it.
6. Don't overwork your dough.
Combine the dough just enough until it comes together, is malleable, but doesn't fall apart. The more you work it encourages the gluten development and will result in a tough dough. You will be breaking down the fats further thus not getting the flakey layers. So work quickly and don't overwork it!
7. Egg wash the bottom!
What?! Yep. This may be one of the more important tips I can ever give you. Once you've placed your rolled out dough into your dish, egg wash the bottom and sides then refrigerate while you prepare your filling. Not only does the dough chill once more, but the egg wash dries and forms a barrier from your filling. This helps so the juices don't seep into the bottom crust, and you'll never have a soggy bottom crust ever again! Instructions for blind baking can also be found in the recipe.
Bonus: Sweet or savoury?
Most pie doughs use only 4 main ingredients, but if you want, you can add flavour to your pie crust as well. I've added 1 tablespoon of sugar to add a bit of sweetness, but you can omit the sugar or use a combination of herbs and spices to make a savoury pie dough! Sometimes I like to add a teaspoon of garlic powder to my dough when I want to make a savoury quiche or meat pie.
All in all, my recipe below is quite easy to make, and with the tips and learnings I've listed above, I'm sure you'll be able to get that flakey pastry that will be perfect for whatever flavour pie you'll be making!