Homemade pie crust can be flakier and tastier than anything you buy pre-made, you just need to keep these simple tips in mind to make sure your favorite pie crust recipe turns out perfectly.
(Ten tips may seem like a lot, but they're really very simple and they take you from which ingredients to use, to how to mix them, to how to roll them out, to how to bake the pie.)
1. Use Very Cold Butter or Fat
Butter, shortening, lard, or suet—whatever fat the recipe calls for should be well-chilled and cut into small pieces to start with for the flakiest crust in the end. The fat in a pie crust must maintain some of its integrity in the dough to make the flakes in the crust truly flaky. Starting with very cold fat makes it easier to keep from over-working the fat into the dough. If it's hot out, you might even want to freeze the fat for 10 to 15 minutes before starting the dough.
2. Chunks Are Okay
Many recipes call for you to work the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles cornmeal. That's fine, but there should still be a few larger chunks of fat within the dough to ensure optimum flakiness. Keeping a few bigger pieces in there will also help keep you from over-mixing the dough.
3. Limit the Water
Start off using the minimum amount of water or other liquid called for in the recipe. Water aids gluten development, which you want to avoid for a tender pie crust. Add just enough water (or other liquid) so the dough holds together when pinched between your fingers. The dough will look quite shaggy.
One way to limit the water? Use vodka instead—it has less water by volume than water does and the alcohol bakes off.
4. Make a Disk
Before you chill or roll-out the dough, take the time to shape it into an even disk less than 1-inch thick and with smooth edges. Well-floured hands and a well-floured work surface will make this easier. This will make the dough much easier to roll out quickly and evenly and will help avoid cracking on the edges.
Note: If you're not using a round pie pan, shape the disk into whatever shape the pan is.
5. Chill the Dough
Chill the dough before you roll it out for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 days. Again, if it is very hot out, think about freezing the dough for 10 minutes just before you start to roll it out.
6. Roll the Dough, Turn the Dough
Roll out the dough on a very well-floured work surface with a well-floured rolling pin. With each pass of the rolling pin, turn the dough a quarter turn (about 90 degrees). This will let you know the dough is not sticking. If it starts to stick at all, lift up one side of the dough and throw a bit of flour underneath.
7. Think Curbs, Not Driveways
Roll out and away from yourself, then pick up the rolling pin to start from the center again. Be careful to keep the pressure on the rolling pin even across the entire circle of dough so the edges of the dough are as thick as the center—you want curbs, not driveways.
8. Let the Dough Fall Into the Pan
When you line the pie pan with the dough, lower the dough into pan and lift up the edges and let the dough fall down into the "corner" rather than pushing or forcing it. Dough that is stretched will simply pull back to its original shape once baked.
9. Chill the Lined Pie Pan
Cover and chill the lined pie pan (and any rolled out top crust) before blind-baking or filling the pie. This will help the pie keep its shape (and size!) when baked.
10. Bake Until Brown
There is an odd trend towards under-baked pie crusts. To get the full tenderness and flakiness of a great pie crust, be sure to bake the pie until the crust is fully browning, not just golden brown.