1. There are four ingredients in a standard piecrust: flour, fat, liquid, and salt. Flour forms the structure and bulk of the crust, fat adds flavor and creates a flaky texture, liquid binds the dough and keeps it pliable, and salt enhances the flavor and helps brown the crust.
We used the Best-Ever Pie Crust recipe.
2. Always chill the fat (butter, margarine, shortening, or lard) and liquid before you begin. This prevents the fat pieces from getting creamed into the flour.
- Stir the flour, salt, and sugar (if using) together in a large bowl.
- Cut the chilled butter or shortening into the dry mixture using a pastry cutter or by pinching the fat into the mixture with your hands.
- You can also use a food processor: pulse the flour with half the shortening until it's the texture of cornmeal. Add the remaining shortening or butter and pulse until it's the size of small peas. Turn the mixture into a bowl.
3. Add the chilled water one tablespoon at a time, mixing gently with a fork after each addition. You should be able to gently press the dough into a ball. Handle the dough as little as possible; overworking will make it tough.
4. Split the dough in half. Pat the dough into balls, flattening them slightly, and wrap them in plastic wrap.
- The dough needs to rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. This allows the flour to absorb all of the liquid, lets the dough relax and become more elastic, and keeps the fat in discrete pieces which will give the crust a lighter texture when it's baked.
5. Generously dust a clean, dry surface with flour; remove and unwrap one of the discs of dough from the refrigerator.
- Flatten the dough slightly with your hands and dust the dough lightly with flour before rolling the dough out with a rolling pin.
- Start rolling at the center of the dough and work outwards. If you're a beginning pie-maker--or prefer easier cleanup--you can roll out the dough between sheets of waxed paper.
6. Working quickly, roll the dough into a circle ¼-inch thick or smaller.
- As you roll it out, lift up an edge or move the dough to ensure it's not sticking to the counter. Add flour as needed.
- The dough round should be two to four inches wider in diameter than your pie pan. Use a dry pastry brush to sweep away any excess flour.
7. Gently fold the dough in half, and then into quarters.
If it seems too brittle to fold, try another bakers' trick: roll up the pie crust around the rolling pin and unroll it over the pie plate.
8. Carefully pick it up and place it into the pie plate so the center point of dough is in the center of the pan.
9. Unfold the dough, letting the weight of the dough settle it in the bottom and edges of the pan. Without stretching the dough, press the pastry into the pan with your fingertips.
10. Use kitchen shears or a paring knife to trim the dough to about a half-inch overhang. Save the scraps; you can use those to bulk up thin areas of the crust when you're fluting the edges.
11. If you're making a single-crust pie, fold the dough under itself onto the flat rim of the pie plate. Flute the edges of the crust, loosely cover it with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before baking.
For a double-crust or lattice-top pie, refrigerate the bottom crust while you roll out the top crust. Transfer the top crust (it doesn't have to be a perfect circle) to a parchment- or wax paper-lined sheet pan. Cover loosely with plastic, and refrigerate while you prepare the filling.
12. Once the pie is loaded with filling, lay the top crust over the top.
- Trim it to leave a half-inch overhang. Fold the dough under itself and crimp to form a seal.
- Cut vents with a sharp paring knife, or use a fork to prick a decorative pattern on the top crust. Small cookie cutters are especially nice when baking apple pies: these need to be well vented so that the crust doesn't end up as a solid dome over the cooked-down fruit.
13. Want to get fancy? Lattice tops, decorative top crusts made with cut-out shapes, braided edges, and other artistic touches all make a pie stand out. Use mini cookie cutters to make cut-outs from extra dough; brush the cutouts with water to help them stick.