Perfect Pie Crust

Everyone has a theory about making pastry. A landscaper was trimming some bushes for me last week as I was baking a peach pie.  “Smells good” he said. “I like to make pies,” I said, “and I have a secret recipe for the perfect pie crust.”  “Do you chill the butter?” he asked.

Like I said–everyone has a theory about making pastry. (Feel free to share yours in the comment section.)

One of the most prevalent theories is that making pastry is too difficult, and you should just buy one of those things in the grocery store that are called pie crust but actually resemble cardboard more than pastry.  Just as I told you last week that you did not need to let eggs beat you when you want to make a meringue, I’m telling you now that making pastry for pie crust can be simple as—of course–pie.

Note: I have come to the conclusion that the reason that there are so many people claiming to have THE recipe for pie is that they ALL work.  In other words–it isn’t so scary after all.  You need to do what is good for you. The only “secret” is practice-practice-practice.

This recipe for pie crust is like the foremothers of mine who lived on farms. Pretty, but flexible, adaptable, and ready to take on any job you give her.

I have said before that ancestors frequently stand looking over my shoulder as I cook. Memories crowd the kitchen.  Well there’s quite a mob when I bake a pie.  Grandpa (Daddy Guy) Anderson says–“Handle the dough with a light touch and don’t roll back and forth with the rolling pin.”  Grandma (Vera Anderson) says, “Here, use my pastry cloth and rolling pin cover.”

making pastry equipment

Pastry cloth and rolling pin.

So I dutifully unroll the pastry cloth that has seen hundreds and hundreds of pie crusts and biscuits roll by, and I place it on a silicone mat to keep it from slipping, an advantage Grandma did not have.  And I slide the rolling pin into its t-shirt, and scatter flour over everything.

Then when it is time to choose the shortening–both Mother (Harriette Kaser) and Grandmother say, “Crisco is all you need.”  I sometimes rebel and use margarine, because I slightly prefer the effect and the taste.  And I suspect that Grandma used lard back before Upton Sinclair spread some horror stories. If you’re curious, read or listen to the story here.

And as I prepare to measure the tricky 1 3/4 cups of shortening called for in the recipe, mother reminds me that “Crisco displaces the same volume as water, so for 3/4 C of Crisco, put 1/4 cup of water in the cup, and fill it with Crisco until the water is about to spill over. Drain the water off, and you’ll have the proper amount of Crisco.” Of course you could use a 1/4 C measure and then a 1/2 cup measure, in addition to your one cup measure, but then you’d have all those cups to wash, and anyhow, I still kinda like the little trick.

Finally, unless there’ s someone out there who hasn’t spoken up, there’s a non-blood relative–the mother of my sister-in-law, whose pastry blender I inherited when I helped sort out her things after she passed away.

Pastry Blender

Norma (Sr.) Haggberg’s Pastry Blender

And I don’t think it would upset Norma Sr. to know that I don’t always use the pastry blender, since I long ago got in the habit of holding two knives together as pictured below in the recipe.

But with all these people helping, you can see how I could not possible make a bad pie crust. Well, actually, I could until I found this recipe for a Perfect Pie Crust.  Perhaps it should be called the lazy cook’s pie crust because it makes you look good with little effort. And if it has holes or gaps–just patch it. It will never show.

UPDATE

Now (January 2019) I have been experimenting with some additional methods of making pie, and have added some to the recipe.  I recommend using ice water–but still do not think that you need to be as fanatical about the chilling of all ingredients as some people recommend.  I have tried, and like, a method of folding the dough before final rolling it out. And I like the method of rolling out the dough between two sheets of waxed paper (parchment paper will do) instead of on the cloth or wooden surface (sorry Grandma). I do put the pie shell in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes before filling and proceeding with baking.

These adaptations come from having subscribed to a pie baking group on Facebook and reading many, many articles and watching videos.  But as I said earlier, you need to just keep making pie until everything makes sense to you. And then you’ll know what works best for you.

Because this is a sizable recipe, you’re ready to make a double-crust pie plus two single-crust pies, or any combination. And you’ll always have some pastry left over for pie cookies.  Maybe I should talk about pie cookies another day. (And I did–follow the link.)

Let’s talk about

The Perfect Pie Crust

Perfect Pie Crust

Allergy Egg, Wheat
Meal type Dessert
Misc Freezable
This is a tender, flaky pie crust that is hard-working and not too delicate to accept patching and shaping.

Ingredients

  • 4 Cups flour (all purpose)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 3/4 cup shortening (Vegetable shortening or 1/2 butter or margarine (cold))
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 egg (large)
  • 1/2 cup ice water

Directions

1. Blending pie crust pastry
Mix flour, sugar and salt. Cut in shortening with pastry blender or two knives until crumbly. Leave some pieces as large as half a walnut.
2. Mix 1/4 cup water and vinegar. And keep rest of ice water close by.
3. Pie crust pastry ingredients
Beat egg into other liquid.
4. Pie crust dough
Mix 1/4 cup water with rest with fork. Slide the forks down the edge of the bowl, and flip the dough rather than stirring. Be gentle. You will want to add more water, a tablespoon at a time until the dough starts to come together. You do not want a particularly wet dough.
Step 4A--Although this step was not in my original directions, I like the folding technique demonstrated in a video on You Tube produced by King Arthur Flour. Look for Pie Crust 101 if you want to try it. It will make your pastry layered and very light.
Preparing pastry
5. Pie crust dough
Divide pastry into 4 portions for 9" or 10" pans or 5 portions for 8" pans. Wrap and chill in refrigerator at least one hour. If not using in 3 days, put in container or ziplock bag and freeze.
Forming and baking pie crust
6. Pie crust pastryrolled out
After chilling, roll out dough with rolling pin to rough circle about two inches larger than pan. Fold dough and place in pie pan for bottom crust. [Alternatively, roll the pastry out between two pieces of waxed paper. I have begun to use this method, and think I prefer it.]
7. pie crust dough in pan
Trim edge leaving at least 1/2 inch above pan. Trim evenly if there are places where the crust hangs down too far. Tuck abou 1/2 inch under the edge of the pie crust. Put bottom (or single) crust in refrigerator for at least 15 minutes before proceeding.) For 2-crust pie, fill pie and roll out top crust. Dip finger in water and run around the edge of the bottom crust. Place the top crust over the filling and pinch the edges all around.
8. pie crust vents
Cut slits for steam to escape at random spots on top of pie. Brush a very small amount of milk over the pie top for a shiny finish. Sprinkle with a spoonful of sugar for a glaze.
9. Bake according to directions for the pie. If edge starts to brown too much, fold a strip of foil around the edge--not covering the center of the pie. [I have since purchased a silicone edge protector which does a terrific job and is simpler to attach than the foil.]
10.

Note

If you are making a single crust to fill later, roll out the dough a for the bottom crust and fit it into the pan, leaving enough at the top to allow for shrinkage. With a fork, make holes in two or three places on the bottom. Layer beans or pie weights (you can buy these little metal "beans" in a kitchen-supply store.) Refrigerate the dough for 15-30 minutes before baking to decrease shrinkage. Bake at 450 degrees for 12-15 minutes, watching closely so edge does not get too brown. You may find it safer (if not exactly easy) to fold aluminum foil into strips and cover the edges of the crust as it bakes. If you are baking a lot of pies, you can buy a "pie saver" made of silicone that will protect the edge.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

24 thoughts on “Perfect Pie Crust

  1. Becky Masterman

    My dad was a Hungarian baker in Cleveland and no one could beat his pie crust–or even duplicate it. He said the closest someone outside the business could come was to use Swansdown cake flour and shortening–in a ratio of ONE TO ONE. It was so unmanageable you had to put it in the fridge overnight before trying to roll it out. It may sound gross, but it turned out heavenly. Myself, I don’t bake. It would be like becoming a mathematician after your dad has won the Nobel Prize in it.

    Reply
    1. Vera Marie BadertscherVera Marie Badertscher Post author

      That’s really interesting, Becky. I, too, hung back from making pies fro a long time, because my mother had such a reputation as a great pie baker. But once I found this recipe, mother asked ME to bake the holiday pies. And the thing I love about it is that it is eminently manageable, although this one also goes in the fridge before rolling. Yes, one to one does sound a bit over the top, but I can’t argue with Hungarian pastries! Did he leave you any recipes for those pastries?

      Reply
    2. donna

      Do you possibly have a recipe for peach cobbler that calls for vinegar??? I will be 60 next month & my grandmother use to make it when I was real young…it was the best ever (in my child mind). I would love to have the recipe….

      Reply
  2. Christine

    Love that this has such history behind it, and love the addition of the vinegar, too. I will have to try this.

    Reply
  3. Kerry Dexter


    Twitter:
    if you have a perfect crust recipe already, why would you experiment ,but — have you tried using oil instead of shortening? it’s not a handed on family recipe, something I learned to try as an adult — and it works, with, also, no need to refrig the dough before using.

    I’m looking forward to hearing about thsoe pie cookies. we make tarts or dipping sticks with leftover bits — might be relatives of pie cookies — and who could resist something with a name like that?
    Kerry Dexter would like you to read..Celtic and classical: Tony McManusMy Profile

    Reply
  4. Pingback: Pie Crust From Scratch

  5. Alexandra

    I have never seen vinegar in a pie crust recipe. Very intriguing. I have heard Crisco is the best for shortening, but hesitate to use it due to health reasons.

    Reply
  6. Maria Rineer

    This is the exact recipe that my mom used to make pie crusts! My sister wrote down the recipe before my mom died so that we’d have it. I was curious if others use it because I know it’s unique in that it takes vinegar. I did a Pinterest search of pie crusts and vinegar and found your recipe and blog. My mom made pies frequently and they were one of my favorite things ever. I make pies much less frequently than my mom does but I always use this recipe when I do. Also, regarding Crisco, my mom always bought Crisco and used that instead of the store brand. She bought generic brands for many items but not for shortening; it was always Crisco.

    Reply
  7. Rosemary Lewis

    Thank you for this recipe and the story behind it! I love the pictures and the step by step recipe. I remember years ago using a recipe that included vinegar when I lived in Texas. I had forgotten about using vinegar, which I thought was odd. I am going to try this pastry recipe next time I bake a pie. I’m also going to compare your recipe with the old one. Yours just seems so yummy!

    Thanks, again.

    Reply
    1. Vera Marie BadertscherVera Marie Badertscher Post author

      I hope your pie crust turns out just great. Let us know if there is a problem. I have been meaning to edit the recipe to say that dividing the dough into 4ths is not only easier, but works better if you have a pie pan larger than 8 inches. Leftovers can always be made into pie cookies.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.