Oh my gosh, pie! I have eaten a lot of my pie in my life and I would have to say, the most disappointing part of eating pie is bland, dry or hard crusts. Store bought pie crusts tend to lack a lot of flavor, and tend to be not nearly as flaky as homemade. Believe me, I’m not against store bought because sometimes we simply don’t have the time or the energy; but homemade is definitely tastier!
I’ve compiled some of the best hints I have looked up and figured out over time. If you really want to impress your in-laws this holiday season, try out these different hints to really get your pie crust baked to perfection!
Sometimes we find a great pie crust recipe, but there is a little something missing. Maybe the crust just isn’t flaky enough, maybe you need your crust to be a bit lighter? Whatever the case, there are a ton of little tips that can help perfect your pie crust (and your pie!)
Let’s start with the pie crust:
- All Your Ingredients Need to Be Cold: A pie crust will be easier to make and easier to work with if you use and maintain cold ingredients. This includes your butter and your water. I also use a stone rolling pin because it stays cold all year long. I get better cookies and better pie crusts because of it.
- Bake Your Pies in Glass or Non-Shiny Pans: If you want to enhance the brownies and the flakiness of your pans, bake in a non-shiny or glass pan
- To Prevent Puckering: Puckering of your pie crust happens when air gets under your pie crust and it raises when baked. To prevent this, simply take a scrap piece of any pie crust you have left and press the crust against the sides of the pan so that no aire can get under the crust.
- Use A Minimum Amount of Liquid: Pie crust thrives on great, simple ingredients. The more liquid used in the pie crust mixture, the tougher your crust is going to be. If your crust seems a bit dry, add more butter, lard or shortening to the mixture.
- For a Perfect Bake: If you are using a single pie crust, place gently in the pan and prick the pastry thoroughly. Check your pie crust again after about 5 minutes of baking and prick again any areas that have puffed up.
- To Prevent Soggy Pie Crusts: brush and coat the bottom of your pie crust with egg white before adding in fruit filling. You can also coat it with flour and sugar for the same result.
- For a Shiny Pie Crust: brush and coat your pie crust with a mixture of 1 egg and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Bake as usual and it should come out looking fabulous.
What if you follow the recipe exactly, and you have also followed all the hints above, but your crust still isn’t exactly right? It might just be a bad recipe, or, you may need to use one of the simple tips below to perfect that recipe.
Tips and Tricks for Perfecting Your Pie Crust:
- For a Flaky Crust: Add a teaspoon of vinegar to the pie dough when mixing, this will help it turn out nice and flaky.
- For a light and tender Crust: Add a little bit of baking powder (start with 1/4 teaspoon) to keep the crust light and tender
- For Absolute Perfection, Use Lard: This one may seem a little odd to those in urban and suburban areas, but lard really does yield the very best pie crust you will ever eat. If you are looking for flaky, tender and light, this is what you will get using lard. Rendering your own lard does take some work, but perfection does not come without sacrifice!
And now for the pie.
Once you have the amazing pie crust down, it’s time to look into some helpful pie hints! Since this post is mostly about pie crusts, I’m only going to touch on a few pie baking hacks.
- For a fluffier Pumpkin Pie: when mixing your pumpkin pie, separate the eggs and reserve the egg whites. Mix all ingredients as directed leaving the whites to the side. Beat the egg white alone, until stiff. Then add the egg whites, stiffly beaten, to your pumpkin pie mix and you will end up with a fluffier pumpkin pie!
- For Higher Meringue: If you want mile high meringue to impress your in-laws, add a pinch of cream of tartar to your meringue while beating.
- For Fuller and Smoother Meringue: If you want a full, smooth meringue atop your pie crust, mix 1 teaspoon of cornstarch for each egg-white added to the meringue.
- For Perfect Custard-Type Pie Crusts: bake at a high temperature for about ten minutes to prevent a soggy crust, then finish baking at a low temperature.
- For Perfect Cream Pie Crusts: To prevent the crust from becoming soggy, sprinkle the crust with powdered sugar before adding the filling.
- To Keep the Juices in the Pie: Fold the top crust over the lower crust before crimping and this should keep the juices in.
- Helpful Hints on Fruit Pies: Add one tablespoon of lemon jello over an apple pie, or raspberry jello over a cherry pie, before adding the top crust. This will prevent run over and add flavor. Try out what flavors work for you and your favorite pies. If you don’t want flavor added, just use non-flavored gelatin and that will work to prevent run over.
One of the best ways to ensure you have an amazing pie crust (and an amazing pie) is to use flavorful, fresh, high quality ingredients. The better your flour and butter, or lard, or shortening, the better the crust!