Pie Crust Tips & Tricks for Flaky, Foolproof Crust
I absolutely love making pie dough from scratch. I find it to be so therapeutic! Especially making it by hand, with a pastry cutter. But part of the reason I love it so much is I’ve finally got the recipe right and learned these tips below for making a flaky, tender crust with a dough that’s easy to work with. If you’ve ever struggled with pie dough that doesn’t seem to want to come together, then you know what I mean! I would begin by watching this video (where I make a shortcut take on apple pie – it’s insanely delicious!) so that you can understand the process visually and then read through these tips below.
Your mental state, yes – but also your ingredients! Pop the butter in the freezer before you use it, and while you’re at it, you can even throw the pastry cutter in there. Some people even like to chill their flour! Not only does this make the dough easier to work with (if you’ve ever had dough melting/sticking to your counter, you know what I’m talking about!), it actually makes it more tender, as warm ingredients bind too quickly with the gluten in the flour, and the formation of gluten is what makes for a tough crust.
The butter gives you the flavor, and the shortening gives you the flakiness.
A little apple cider vinegar helps tenderize the dough, and while it may add a very slight tang, it’s not noticeable and maybe even enjoyable if you do taste it.
You don’t want to add too much water to make the dough come together – this will result in a tough crust because it creates more gluten. Patience is key, keep working it and only add more water if you absolutely need it.
I like using a pastry cutter to mix my dough. It helps me feel connected to my food, and I think it results in a better dough. You can use a food processor but then I find it’s easy to over-process the dough. And what you want is to see those chunks of butter – that’s where the flakiness is.
The dough needs to hit the fridge again for 45 minutes or up to 2 days. This again helps prevent the formation of gluten.
French rolling pins are the way to go for pie dough as they offer more control and are easier to handle. I like to allow my refrigerated disk of dough to sit out for a couple minutes so it’s just a little more pliable, and then whack it a few times to it starts to flatten. From here, I start with the rolling pin in the center of the circle and gently, evenly roll from center to outer edge, in a clockwise pattern.
Especially in a hot or humid environment, the dough can get messy if it gets too warm. If this happens, just pop it back into the fridge at any point. A helpful tip is to clear space so you know you can pop a half-rolled out crust in there if you need to.
It’s easy to underbake a pie. You want it to really start to brown, rather than taking it out when it just starts to become golden. This results in a better flavor and more flakiness.