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Perfect Pie Crust Tutorial

Perfect Pie Crust Tutorial

My Mom learned to bake her pie crusts 40 years ago.  Her mother had passed away and my Mom needed to step up and take over the tradition of hosting Thanksgiving dinner for her family of 7 brothers.

My Mom was lucky enough to have a neighbor who was kind of like a local Julia Child.  She generously invited my Mom to her home and taught her to make rolls, pie crusts… and how to put on a Thanksgiving dinner.

Over the years my Mom has made hundreds of pies.  Some years she has hosted as many as 60 people for Thanksgiving dinner.  And every year she makes all the pies from scratch, fresh on Thanksgiving morning.  She loves Thanksgiving and takes genuine pleasure in baking all those pies.  I have fond childhood memories of helping my Mom flute the edges of the pie crust, gathering the scraps to make cinnamon crusts, and stirring the many fillings.  Every year she makes pumpkin, pecan, chocolate pecan, apple, lemon and banana cream pies.

Yesterday I spent a few hours with my Mom learning her secrets to her perfect, delicious, flaky pie crust.

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Measure 2 cups of flour and sift onto a piece of parchment or wax paper.

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Remeasure two cups of the sifted flour.  I loved how my Mom simply lifted the parchment paper and used it like a funnel.  She also remeasured right over the surface where she would be rolling out the dough, so any over spill of flour is used to powder the surface.

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Using the back side of a knife, tap across the measuring cup to make sure it is full,  then level.  Again the over spill goes right onto the surface where she will be rolling out the dough.  My Mom is all about economy of action.

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4.  Spread out the flour over your work surface.  My Mom loves and uses a Pastry Frame to roll out her crusts.  You can do it on a large cutting board or directly on a clean counter if you don’t have a pastry frame.

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5.  Sift the 2 cups of flour again with between 1/2  teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of salt, depending on how salty you like your pie crust.  My mom always uses 1 teaspoon.  I use a little less.

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Now add 2/3 cup cold lard.  My mom measures out the lard before starting and puts it into the freezer to make it extra cold.

Now before you go and get squirmy on me about the use of lard… just remember that you’ll never think about it for a second when you are eating your scrumptious pie.  Two of the best pie makers I know (my Mom and my husband’s late Grandmother Eva) would never dream of making a pie with anything but lard…. and the results are in the crust.  Totally delicious.  That’s good enough for me.

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Cut the lard into the flour mixture using a pastry cutter.  My Mom has tried making this step faster by using a Cuisinart and I am sorry to say there is no substitute for good old fashioned hard work.  She didn’t like the results of the crust in the Cuisinart… not as flaky.  I’ve shown the next picture to illustrate the motion of using the pastry cutter.  You press down as in the picture above…

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And twist the cutter, like so.  Continue with this motion until the lard is well incorporated into the flour.

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The mixture should look like this.

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Next add very cold milk, one tablespoon at a time…

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Work the mixture with a fork until it all pulls together.  (Usually 3- 4 tablespoons of milk.)

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Turn the dough out onto that handy piece of parchment you used before.

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Pull the sides of the parchment up and squeeze the dough into a nice ball.

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Just like so.  Then cut your ball in half.  You can either make one pie crust with a top.  Or two pie crusts.

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Lightly form the two smaller balls into a round disk.

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And roll out.  My mom prefers a thin pie crust… as do I.  Instead of rolling in different directions, my Mom turns the whole crust as she rolls in the beginning, so that she was mainly rolling front to back.  This keeps the crust from sticking to the board.  Add flour if it starts sticking.  Once it’s big enough, she doesn’t turn the dough any longer but continues to roll till it reaches desired size and thickness.

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Roll the dough over the rolling pin, and gently lift it into the pie plate.  My Mom prefers a glass Pyrex pie plate, or a good old metal pie tin.  She splurged once on an expensive Le Creuset pie plate, but didn’t like it as well.  The crusts didn’t brown as nicely.

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Fit the crust nicely into the pie plate.

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Using kitchen scissors or a knife, cut off the excess crust, leaving a little less than an inch overhanging the edge of the pie tin.

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Now work your way around, pinching the edge of the crust up and a fold around the pie, fluting as you see.

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Voile, this crust is done.  My Mom’s advice is practice makes perfect.  The more pies you make, the better and prettier your crusts will be… until it becomes easy.

For a cream pie: pierce crust all over with a fork, and pre-bake at 400 degrees for 12- 15 minutes until golden. (She does not bother with pie weights, and has never seen the need.

Or fill with your favorite filling and bake.

Tomorrow I will be sharing the recipe for one of my favorite pies of all time, a Chocolate Pecan Pie.  My mom and I made it yesterday and oh my, I might eat the whole pie myself!

Here’s her recipe for perfect pie crust:

  • 2 cup sifted flour
  • 2/3 cup lard
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3-4 Tablespoons cold milk
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34 Responses to “Perfect Pie Crust Tutorial”

  • Julia:

    Thank you and your mom for the lovely tutorial. I haven’t had much success with pie crusts, so am looking forward to giving this a try – only will use butter because I don’t eat meat, so lard is just not an option for me. Can’t wait for the chocolate pecan pie recipe – just the words made my mouth water!

    • Sam:

      Julia, use Crisco vegetable shortening instead. It will flake better than butter, and is easier to work with. Since you can get it cold and still have it malleable, unlike butter, it won’t be as difficult to handle.

  • The problem I have is that the crust usually slips back down the inside of the pie plate while cooking. Any clues?

    • I deferred to the expert on this one, and called my Mom. She said two things. When you place the crust into the pan, make sure to lift the crust around the edges until the crust is well seated against the bottom and sides of the pan. She said don’t be afraid to push the crust up against the sides of the pan a bit. Most importantly, when she flutes the edges, she makes sure the fluting is seated on the lip of the pan. She thinks that helps to hold it up. She pre-bakes crusts all the time, and never has them sink. (But I have.) This Thanksgiving, I will be trying those tips myself! I hope they help.

  • Cari:

    Thanks for making my Holidays so much easier. Your blog is my one stop shop now. I recently found you and I am quickly becoming addicted.

  • Jamie, Minneapolis:

    I see that your mom has some kind of sleeve on her rolling pin. I have not seen this before? What is it? And how does it help?

    • Hi Jamie, The sleeve came with her pastry frame. It is designed for rolling out pastries, so the dough doesn’t stick to the rolling pin. But more importantly, the cover absorbs most of the flour, so the flour doesn’t get absorbed into the crust. Less flour mean more tender, flaky pie crusts.

  • I love the yellow TupperWare measuring cup! My mom still uses hers, for over 30 years now.

  • Chrisi:

    Great tutorial. I made lard crusts for my pies for the first time last year, they turned out great! I did have a problem with the crust sinking on the pie shells I baked, so I’m glad to have a solution to this also. Thank you for the work you put into sharing this precious knowledge and tradition with us.

  • wow,its very difficult for me,.huh,but i will try

  • Pie Eyed:

    Before you put the dough in the glass pie pan, does the pie pan have to be floured or prepared in any way?

  • Julia:

    Thank you for making such a easy to follow tutorial. I am brand new to making pies, but the recipes I’ve read say to allow the dough to chill for at least 30 minutes before rolling it. Did your mom ever do this?
    Julia

    • Julia, we talked about this, but my Mom doesn’t ever worry about putting in the refrigerator before rolling. She does put whatever dough she’s not working n the refrigerator until she is ready for it. She also keeps the rolled out pie crust in the pie plate in the refrigerator until she is ready for it. And one other tip, since I made 8 pies yesterday with only one oven, my mom said not to let a filling sit in the crust unbaked for a long time. So I made my fillings and placed my already rolled out crusts in the refrigerator, and poured the filling in just before baking. Good luck, Calli

  • [...] a perfect pie tutorial click here.  I used Eva’s recipe for crust for this pie, but I used the same techniques shown in the [...]

  • [...] first step yesterday was making my mom’s Perfect Pie Crust.  Prebake the crust in a 400 degrees oven for 12 – 15 minutes, until golden [...]

  • Carol Kisnics:

    Thank you for the wonderful tutorial. Can this pie crust be made with Crisco Golden. It’s suppose to have a buttery taste but it’s still shortening.
    Thank you
    Carol :-)

    • Calli:

      Carol, I’m sure it could be done. I’ve only ever used lard for pies… but most people do use Crisco these days. You can always add a little more milk if the dough doesn’t hold together. cheers, Calli

  • Lisa:

    Thank you so much for adding this. I will use it soon. I made my first “from scratch” pie crust two weeks ago and it would have been helpful to have the pictures and extra tips at that time.

  • [...] first step yesterday was making my mom’s Perfect Pie Crust.  Prebake the crust in a 400 degrees oven for 12 – 15 minutes, until golden [...]

  • [...] a perfect pie tutorial click here.  I used Eva’s recipe for crust for this pie, but I used the same techniques shown in the [...]

  • Although I know this post is from a year ago, I hope you can answer my question. I cannot eat lard due to the fact that I’m vegetarian. Do you think butter would work just as well? Thanks!!

    • Calli:

      Yes, butter works really well too. The texture of the crust is different.. and I am used to and love the flaky texture of a crust made with lard. But both are great pie fats.

  • My mom always makes pie crust by hand as well. When I moved out on my own, I tried the food processor method – blech. It was awful. Such a great tutorial! It gives me hope that someday my crusts will come out as perfect as those. :)

  • Amy:

    I’ve used a very similar recipe for years (from a Betty Crocker cookbook from the 80s… the new ones don’t have the same recipe), but since I’ve moved to Florida, I’ve never had a crust work out well. I’ve tried using ice cold water, I keep my crisco (its what they call for) in the fridge, and let it set up before rolling. Even after all that, the crust gets too soft during rolling to transfer into the pie pan. Any ideas?

  • Rachel:

    Amy, try less liquid. Florida has allot of humidity and that will effect your dough. I made pies today, rain was in the forecast so I omitted 1 tablespoon out of my usual 5 that I normally use and the dough turned out perfect.

  • [...] shared a tutorial on Perfect Pie Crust here and here.  The tutorials are one way to make pie, but there are many ways to make a great pie crust.  [...]

  • Linda Koonts:

    I just found your tutorial. I love it and will be trying it today. My mama died a few months back and the holidays are difficult for me. My mama and I shared many good times together with her teaching me what she knew. Cherish your times together and thanks again.

  • Dory:

    Can I use butter instead of lard for the pie crust? I don’t tend to buy lard and I always have plenty of butter in the fridge.

    • Calli:

      I’ve never used butter in my pie crust, but it’s my understanding that pie fats are pretty interchangeable. Butter has wonderful flavor and yes is much more likely to be in your refrigerator. Good luck!

  • Hot dang, this is a gift if I ever saw one. I make my pie crusts a little differently but really want to try your lard and milk recipe —- pie pie pie!

  • Rosemarie:

    I use my Kitchen Aid to mix dough. It always turns out well. I use butter but will try Crisco. My last two pie crusts have stuck to bottom of glass pan Never happened before. What can I do to fix ?

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