How to Make the Perfect Pie Crust via lifeingrace

Well.  It’s Monday and despite the fact that I always have grand plans for my Thanksgiving preparations, I’m way behind.  As in, I’m on Saturday’s list behind.  My first round of company arrives tomorrow and I can tell one thing for sure—my guest room is ready and I’m thinking of moving in there myself.  It’s the best room in the house, as well it should be!

The blueberry muffins, the toffee chocolate chip cookies, and the clean living room are all figments of my imagination at present.

But I’m in to win it, so don’t you worry about a thing.

Now, on to pie crust.  Here’s why I think you should make yourself a student of the pie making arts—because there’s a dangerous shortage of pie makers in America.  People don’t make pies anymore and we are worse people for it.  Do you know anyone that still makes pies?  My point exactly.  Pies are hard and take time to perfect.  But, I can tell you without a doubt, that there is almost nothing as rewarding as making a beautiful pie and serving it to the people you love.  And eating it.  So, I’m now a pie evangelist, hoping to start a pie revival.

I learned a few tricks from Martha Stewart years ago, but when I met my mother in law, I soon discovered that her pie making skills could not be topped.  She is the pie whisperer.   She makes better pies than any I’ve EVER had anywhere.  Which means that my husband has had some pretty amazing pies.  I’m more of a cake girl, myself, but if pie is his love language, I shall learn to speak it.  Amen.   His mom been making pies for 50 years, I bet, and she still thinks it’s worth it to labor over it, to do something for the people she loves that has her handprint and her heart all over it.  I’ve been lucky enough to watch her work her magic and though I’ll never be the pie maker she is, it’s one of my favorite things to make now.

I’ve been making pies for maybe 10 years and I’m getting better, but I’m not an expert. I’m still learning and tweeking and enjoying the process .  Some things— like pie making and kid raising and book learning  and are good reminders that nearly all the good things in life are hard and take time..  As well they should. I’ve deconstructed the process for you and given the tips I’ve learned over the years.  Hope you’ll give it a try.  Put on your apron and some good music and get out that rolling pin.

Let’s do this.  Eye of the tiger man, eye of the tiger.

How to Make the Perfect Pie Crust via lifeingrace

For a 9 inch double crust pie, you’ll need:

(I use a combination of lard and butter, which I highly recommend.  You could use all lard, all butter, or all shortening, but I like the taste and texture of the combination best.)

  • 2 ½ cups all purpose or pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (for a fruit pie. Omit sugar for a savory pie.)
  • 6 T cold butter, cut into chunks
  • 1/4 cup cold Leaf lard, cut into chunks
  • ¼ cup cold water (it doesn’t always take all the water—just add slowly until the dough comes together)

You can mix the dough in a food processor and then slowly add the water.  I use a pastry blender, because I’m lazy and don’t like to clean the processor.  Whatever you do, keep everything cold. Mix the flour and fat with a pastry blender, until the chunks are about pea-sized.  The, add the water slowly, just until the dough comes together.  Divide the dough into two equal pieces and don’t over handle it.

Flour your surface and roll out the first disc as evenly as possible, until your circle shape is larger than the pie plate.  Roll from the center to the edges, rotating the pie crust a little as you roll, so that you get a fairly even circle.   You’ll trim the edges soon, so don’t worry if it’s perfect.  Also, don’t incorporate too much flour into the dough or it will be dry and tear easily.  You can use parchment paper to roll it out on, too, but I find I like working straight on the counter tops.  Put the rolled out dough into the pie pan and then take a sharp knife and trim the edges until they’re even all around, leaving the edge flush with the pie pan. Add the filling (cherry filling recipe below) and dot with butter.

How to Make the Perfect Pie Crust via lifeingrace

 Since this will be a double crust pie, after we put the filling in, we’ll layer the top crust and then fold the top crust over the bottom one, tucking the edges under.

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Then crimp the edges however you like.  I just use my fingers and make a fluted edge, usually. And this pie wasn’t my best work.  The crust was a little dry and tore a couple of times.  It looks a little sad, but it turned out beautifully in the end.

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Make an egg wash, mixing one egg with a little water, and then brush the top of the pie with the egg wash.  Sprinkle with sugar and cook according to directions.  If you’re going to freeze the pie, lessen the cooking time by 15 minutes, let it cool completely, wrap in plastic wrap and tin foil and then freeze.  Thaw it out overnight and put it back in the oven the next day to finish cooking.

Perfect Cherry Pie!

What you’ll need:

  • 2 cans tart cherries, drained, but save the liquid (I use the Oregon brand, found with canned fruit)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch, mixed in about 2 T. of the cherry juice
  • 1/8 tablespoon almond extract (optional)(I use it, but just a drop or two!)
  • Perfect pie crust, enough for double crust
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter, to dot
  • Egg wash and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, to sprinkle on top
  • Can add a little red food coloring, to get that beautiful red color

I will often mix the filling and then precook it in the microwave for a 2-3 minutes.

Bake at 375 for about 50-55 minutes, until top is slightly browned.

 

How to Make the Perfect Pie Crust via lifeingrace

Serve with a big scoop of ice cream and ENJOY!

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34 comments on “How to Make the Perfect Pie Crust”

  1. Oh my gosh, Edie. I. Just. Love. You! And yum. Seriously. My mom used to own a pie shop. I am still trying to learn her pie making skills. She uses a combination of lard and butter too. Here! Here! Cheers, love!

  2. That sounds amazing, and I love cherry pie. I have a question, though- what is ‘leaf lard’? I have usually used Crisco style shortening in my pie crust.
    Thanks!

  3. I am just learning about leaf lard too! Leaf lard is the highest grade of lard (lard is pork fat, the term is usually used to refer to rendered pork fat suitable for cooking). It comes from the visceral – or “soft” – fat from around the kidneys and loin of the pig. For us in California it is fairly hard to get. And I think when I do get my hands on it I will have to render it myself. Hopefully, we can get it in the Ferry Building in San Francisco I have sent my husband on a mission to find it!! My biggest challenge is the “work dough until it resembles peas” that always gets me every time I make pie. Does the whole dough have to look like peas or just the butter bits? Thank you for a great post, I agree Pie Making along with making quilts is fast becoming a lost art form!

  4. THANK YOU! My 17 year old daughter makes THE best cranberry-apple pie, but the crust is always the part that gives her trouble. We have tried a number of crust recipes, but none have been “great”. I will have her try your crust recipe this year. I have never bought lard, and I’m thinkin’ I may feel a little weird putting it in my shopping cart… but I’m sure it will be well worth my discomfort! I have great memories of eating cherry pie with my dad when I was little. Might just have to make a special cherry pie for him with your recipe, too.

  5. I’m behind on my list too if it makes you feel any better. And here I sit scrolling through the Internet. 😛 I work better under pressure. 😉 I love pies! I grew up with my Mom making chocolate and lemon meringue. My signature pie is pecan. My favorite pie is cushaw! I can not wait to eat it Thanksgiving day!! 🙂 I haven’t ever made my own crust though. :/ I really want to try one at Christmas this year though!

  6. I am a pie maker as well. I use vodka in my crust because it is the only one I can be consistent with. Your pie is beautiful, I can almost smell its greatness. I hope you have a lovely holiday and you will get all caught up probably Wednesday night. Thanks for sharing. I am going to make the cherry filling this year.

  7. Edie,
    I live in CA. I was blessed to have a Grandma who could cook/bake like a boss! She loved Jesus, grew up on a farm in Missouri & had 14 children… I got the pie baking genes as all my aunts many of my cousins did. Grandma Jewell used an everyday teaspoon to make pie!! Her advice was about the same as yours (except no food processor). She told me to put an ice cube in the water so its really cold. Add no more water than the recipe calls, less if possible. And lastly, do not mess with your dough. Just get in there and get it done.
    Isn’t it true that nobody will complain if you bake them a pie? We have great family pie memories. Thanks for sharing this. Now get back to work on that list of stuff to do. xo

  8. I can’t help but think that your husband has lived a charmed life – a pie baking mama, and an all around amazing wife! And I couldn’t agree with you more, we are worse people without the love and aroma of a homemade pie! Happy Thanksgiving to your family. Thanks for the helpful tips!

  9. oh. my. goodness, edie! thank you for the laugh 🙂 i love buttermilk pie… i’ve never attempted to make a pie crust. don’t pass out, but i have only used frozen premade crusts. this is the year that i will get my hands dirty with leaf lard and get my pie crust making on. thanks for the motivation! hope you and your family have a wonderful thanksgiving.

  10. Bless you… thank you so much for sharing your crust recipe. I’ve made a lot of pies but never feel confident that the crust will turn out well. I’ll be using your recipe as I bake the next couple days:)

  11. You are so funny – ‘eye of the tiger, man’ – cracking up here! I love to make pies and I agree, it’s a lost art. My mom, sister and I have pie-making marathons together and stock our freezers so they’re ready to go for whenever company pops by!

  12. Well that pie looks delicious, Edie! I have to ask, why don’t you vent your pies? Is there a reason behind this?

    Anyway, I definitely have pies on the mind these days, as today’s episode of Cook’s Country featured Moravian Chicken pie and now with your sweet cherry pie recipe I have a complete meal–so I’ll have to try it!

    Cheers,
    Heather

  13. well, edie, i shoulda read this yesterday, before my piecrust debacle. I’d decided after dropping my older 2 off at preschool for a few hours that this was the year I’d finally put my pies in homemade crust. I make very good pie fillings you see. All manner of pecans and praline variations in my pumpkin pies, and salted caramel… but the crusts … storebought. and lacking. it’s almost like new wine in old wineskins, or vice-versa. either way, I was going to conquer the piecrust issue.

    the morning involved alton brown’s instructions from their website for the butter crust. i was bent on this being a butter crust, you see. all the lard talk has scared my coronaries, which are already probably not in the best shape given my decades in the south. Anyway, the piecrust: there were ziploc bags involved, and a spray bottle for the ice-water, and dried beans for something called a ‘blind crust’ (?), and a cranky 2-month old strapped to my chest the whole time. It finally ended that afternoon, the “big” kids all back at home “helping” mash the sweet potatoes for my casseroles while I watched my precious butter crust fall in a heap into the bottom of the pie pan.

    I don’t know what to say except your comments that this will take me some years to learn and perfect are what I needed to hear. I’ll try again before Christmas. Something about the lost nature of this art make me want to perfect it all the more. I did teach myself to quilt so this can’t any worse….right?

  14. Edie, what in the heck fire is leaf lard? I live in Callyfornia and I’m not sure we have it in these parts. Would Crisco suffice?

  15. My mom and I were just talking about this yesterday. As a Lutheran lady, I have met many a great pie maker in my day through potlucks and they are a dying breed. But us younger girls are doing our best to carry on. Check out the oh-so-talented efforts of this young woman making a pie a week this year!
    http://1canoe2.com/blog/

  16. Leaf lard comes from pigs. Crisco and lard you see on the grocery shelves is actually derived from plants. Weird, I know. So no, they aren’t the same. I’d suggest making friends with a local butcher or ask around at farmer’s markets etc… I’ve tried lard from the grocery store and I’ve gone back to all butter crusts. Even if they tend to have more of a “sturdy” and less of a tender, flaky structure…they always taste good and that’s what matters.

  17. Hi Edie & All!

    Great post, Edie, and your pics really make it. 🙂 I’m a journeyman chef, and I totally agree with you on the lard/butter thing. Crisco makes a fun crust that shatters when you break it. Some folks might like that texture, but give me the taste of real butter and the superior structural performance of lard any day! Vinegar is another great ingredient in a crust (perhaps vodka works much the same way?).You only need a tsp mixed with your ice-water: The acid in it keeps the gluten from developing long strands, which is especially important if you are using AP flour (do-able) instead of pastry flour (much preferred). Long strands are great for giving strength to bread etc, but we don’t want our pastry muscular! (chuckles).

    You are also bang on about keeping everything cool. The flakes in pastry are formed when the butter melts and lets off steam. Melted fat = tough, flat ,chewy pastry. Kitchens with ovens can get pretty warm, and it doesn’t take much to soften the fat lumps, causing them to blend with the flour. I refrigerate all my tools beforehand (pie plate, bowls, rolling pin – you name it), and even run my hands under cold water if I’m handling dough. This is why folks like marble pins and rolling boards – they are always colder than the room. Budding pie makers don’t always work as quickly as experienced ones, which is often why their pastry is not as good as it might (will!) be.

    One nice trick is to divide your dough, wrap each piece and place them and the pie plate in the ‘fridge while you clean the kitchen or do something else magical. 😉 By cooling the pastry you ensure hard fat and allow any gluten that might have developed to relax.

    Your cherry pie is gorgeous. Be kind to yourself about the bumps and flaws – it looks even more delicious for its handmade good looks. 🙂 I might, however, cool the filling to at least room temp before hitting the pastry with it.

    Love your blog. Nicely done!

    Cheers,
    Charlie

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