At the age of 12 I was initiated into a family tradition. Over the years I had watched with amazement every holiday season as my Mom and Grandma handcrafted beautiful masterpieces that were even more pleasing to the palate than they were to the eye. Now, it was my turn to take on the role of pie baker. Before learning what to put inside the pies, I first needed to know how to make a pie crust from scratch. To this day I have not gone a full year without baking a homemade pie for my appreciative family. The art of making yummy (and pretty) pie crusts is what I would like to share with you this Thanksgiving season.
Ingredients (per crust):
- 1 cup flour
- 1/3 cup shortening (For ease & taste, I use the butter flavored variety that comes in stick form)
- dash of salt
Step #1: Gather ingredients and supplies. Your hands will get pretty messy, so try to get everything out ahead of time. You will need a rolling pin, two butter knives, a fork, and an extra pie plate (if making a pie with a top crust), in addition to the usual baking equipment.
Step #2: Combine ingredients in a bowl. I will be making two crusts (so double the ingredients above), a bottom crust and a top crust, for an apple pie.
Step #3: Using the two butter knives, cut the shortening into the flour mixture.
Random Personal Fact – The softness of flour makes me shiver. I end up washing the flour off my hands fairly often during the pie making process. Why the recipe passed down in my family had to require so much flour handling, I don’t know!
Step #4: Once the shortening is cut into small pieces, use your finger tips to combine and crumble the mixture further, leaving pieces no larger than about pea-sized.
Step #5: Slowly pour ice cold water into the mixture while stirring with a fork. Be careful not to add too much water that the dough becomes overly sticky but you’ll want to add enough so the dough will hold together as it is rolled out.
Random Personal Fact – When my mom would get to this point in the pie making process, she would ask me to get her a glass of ice water that she intended to use for the dough. I always thought making pies made her really thirsty. I didn’t stick around long enough to see her pour it into the flour mixture instead of drink it.
Step #6: Form the dough into balls according to the number of crusts you are making – in my case I will form two dough balls. If you are making a bottom crust and a top crust, make the dough ball for the top crust slightly larger than the bottom crust.
Step #7: Place dough ball (start with bottom crust, if applicable) on a well floured surface. Flatten dough into a circle, supporting the sides so they don’t crumble apart. Roll dough out to about 1/8 inch thickness.
Step #8: Carefully transfer crust into the pie plate. Push the crust down into the curves of the plate, making sure no air pockets form. Cut around the edge of the pie plate to remove the overhanging dough.
Single Crust Pie Tip – If you are making a pie that only has a bottom crust, you have just one more step to complete, the edging. If you want to do a scalloped edge (see pics and instructions below), I recommend that you keep some extra dough to give more substance for shaping, instead of cutting right up to the pie plate edge. When I make single crust pies, such as for pumpkin pie, I often go the simpler route and decorate the edges with lines by using a fork, as demonstrated to the left. If you are making a pie with a top crust, continue to Step #9.
Step #9: Proceed by rolling out the dough for the top crust. You will want to roll this out to be slightly larger than required for the bottom crust. To know if you have rolled it out enough, take the extra pie plate that you got out in the beginning and place on top of the crust. If you have at least 1 inch of room all around the pie plate then the rolling is sufficient.
Step #10 (Optional): I am not a very artistic person, but for some reason this is my favorite part of apple pie baking. While I have the pie plate sitting on the rolled out dough for measurement, I cut away the extra dough from about 1 inch outside the perimeter of the plate, leaving a nice, round dough “canvas.” I then fold the dough in half and then into quarters and carve out a design, which will appear symmetrically placed when I unfold the crust over the filled pie. (If you prefer to skip this particular step, make sure to add some sort of venting slits to the top of your pie).
Step #11: Once you have placed your top crust on top of your filled pie, fold the overhanging dough from the top crust underneath the lip of the bottom crust to make a seal.
Scalloped Pie Edges – To go with a fancier, more finished look, give your pie scalloped edges.Using the thumb of one hand, push in some dough toward the center of the pie, up against the index finger and thumb of your other hand. Now, move the finger and thumb that were on the inside of the pie edge over slightly so that your thumb is in the previous groove made by your index finger. Repeat pushing the dough in with your oposite thumb. Continue this around the pie until you get back to where you started.
Step #12: Bake your crust! The recipe that you are using should provide the baking temperature, times, and procedure required for that specific type of pie. When I make apple pies, I bake at 400 degrees for 30-35 mins. Watch for your crust to turn golden brown and become flaky.
Now it is time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Wishing you all a Happy (and Tasty) Thanksgiving!