Pie Crust – Store Bought or Home Made

November 19, 2009 16 Comments

Pie Crust Recipe

How to Make Pie Crust at Home

My wife makes a fantastic apple pie.  She is really good at it and can put together a perfect apple pie in about fifteen minutes.  She uses commercial pie crust found in the refrigerator section of the supermarket, and feels no guilt about it at all.  Being a full time working mom with very little extra free time for baking on the weekends and staring at a basket of gorgeous apples from the farmer’s co-op, she doesn’t mind a shortcut. But does she really need a shortcut when it comes to pie crust?

Store bought pie crust (which can be frozen by the way)  is certainly convenient, and if my wife can use it to make a great homemade pie, I’m all for it.  Then, I started wondering what’s in commercial pie crust.  Here’s what I found out.

According to the back of the box, Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust contains the following ingredients:

  • Enriched flour, bleached
  • Partially Hydrogenated Lard with BHA and BHT Added to Protect Flavor
  • Wheat starch
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Rice flour
  • Xanthan gum
  • Potassium Sorbate and Potassium Propionate (preservatives)
  • Citric acid
  • Yellow 5 and Red 40

Now, homemade crust only contains three main ingredients – flour, fat and water.  So it makes me wonder what all these extra ingredients are for.

I guess I can understand some preservatives, because they can’t know how long you’ll keep the dough in the freezer.  Citric acid could add a subtle “zing.”  Most home bakers get that with a little vinegar. But partially hydrogenated fats that contain trans fats? BHA and BHT? Xanthan gum? Food coloring?

I’m not suggesting that any of these ingredients are harmful.  After all, they are all FDA approved.  And, if it gives busy people a leg up on making homemade desserts, then that’s great.

But, if you’re interested in making your own crust with just a few ingredients, all of which are pronounceable, here’s how to make your own pie crust.

Pie Crust – Store Bought or Home Made

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 2 crusts

Ingredients

12 oz. all purpose flour

9.5 oz. very cold butter

lard or trans-fat shortening or a combination (try 4 oz. fresh lard and 4 oz. butter)

1½ teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons sugar

3-5 oz. ice water, a glass with ice cubes and then add water

How To Prepare At Home

Whisk together the flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl.

Cut the cold fat into ½" cubes.

Toss the cubes of fat with the flour mixture until all the fat is coated with flour.

Using just the tips of your fingers (the coolest part of your hands), begin breaking the fat into smaller pieces, rubbing some of the fat into the flour between your thumbs and fingers. This is easiest to do with butter, since it is the firmest fat at refrigerator temperatures.

Keep breaking up/rubbing in the fat until the largest pieces are no larger than pea-sized and the rest looks like coarse meal. Be careful not to overwork the fat and flour mixture or you'll end up with paste. Make sure that if the fat begins to get too soft while working with it, put the whole bowl into the freezer for ten minutes or the refrigerator for half an hour.

Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of ice water as evenly as you can over the flour/fat mixture. Toss the water and the flour with your fingertips. Try to go in down the sides of the bowl and then toss the flour up a bit. You don't want to start mixing right on top of the water, or you could end up developing too much gluten, making your crust tough.

Once you've thoroughly tossed the flour/fat and water, sprinkle on another 2 tablespoons of water and toss together as described above.

At this point, take a small handful of dough - it should still look very sandy at this point - and squeeze it gently in your fist. If it holds together and doesn't break apart when you gently press it flat, you have added enough water. You heard right. The dough will still look very sandy. If the dough does not hold together, or it splits apart into sandy chunks when you press on it, sprinkle on another tablespoon of water and toss.

Continue adding a bit of water at a time, tossing, and testing by gently squeezing a bit of dough. If you're not sure, err on the side of a little too dry than a little too wet.

Rather than dumping the sandy/floury dough out on the counter, it's easier to just compact it in the bowl you mixed it in. So press the dough together in a disc at the bottom of the mixing bowl. Cut in half. Take each half out and shape them into ½" thick discs. Roll each disc between two pieces of parchment paper to a thickness of about 1/8".

Put the rolled discs in the refrigerator for an hour. This will let the flour completely hydrate. After the hour, you will notice that if the dough was a little dry before, it is no longer sandy. At this point, you can either use the dough or freeze it for later.

To store in the freezer, remove from the refrigerator until pliable. Then gently roll the dough, parchment and all, into a cylinder. Wrap the cylinder in heavy duty plastic wrap and store in the freezer for up to two months.

Who says you can't make frozen pie crust at home? And for the cost of one box of commercial pie crusts you can make a whole lot of fresh ones yourself. Tomorrow, look for my post on How to Line a Pie Pan.

Last modified on Thu 17 July 2014 8:44 am

Comments (16)

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  1. Barbara: Art and Barb Live in Italy! says:

    I’ve never had a problem making a pie crust, altho many people seem to be intimidated by the very idea. Maybe my mom just did a great job teaching me how to do it, and her 2 secrets were: always use ICE COLD water, and never overwork the dough once you’ve added the water.

    Recently when I complained that my crusts weren’t browning, a friend suggested using MILK instead of water – and it works! I just put a small dish in the freezer for a few minutes before adding it to the flour mixture.

    I hope your post will encourage others to try making their own pie crust at home – you’re right – it’s SOOO much better than a store-bought crist!

  2. RG says:

    Thanks Barbara for your suggestion. Can’t wait to try it myself.

  3. emmet solomon says:

    I do not like dough that is not browned before adding ingredients. Brown the crust for 10-12 minutes before adding ingredients.

  4. Kimberly says:

    Home-made every time! I tried this recipe when I baked tarts for my husband, earlier this year; which was the first time I’d tried to make any pie dough. He loved it.

    I use a fool-proof pie dough recipe that I found online. It is simple, sweet and browned nicely each time I used it. The recipe calls for vodka (which evaporates when baking) – I think that’s what caught my eye when searching.

    Vodka??? Sounds interesting. – RG

  5. Lisa says:

    I’ve just discovered your website and and am so encouraged with every post I read. Thanks for breaking things down and making them so simple and doable! :)

    Blessings, Lisa

    You are welcome and Happy New Years to you. – RG

  6. Barb says:

    My mother always used cold orange juice instead of water in her pie crust. It made it quite flaky. It has no orange taste, so it can be used for savory pies.

    That’s an interesting substitution that I will have to try some time. – RG

  7. Jean says:

    I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the fantastic work Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

  8. Nancy says:

    I use a mixer to make my crust. Do the shortening and flour mix until the size of peas and then add your cold water and mix until it starts to form a ball. Roll out and fill. No refrigeration needed. Makes perfect flaky crust every time will minimal work or mess.

    Thanks Nancy for good tips – RG

  9. Karen-in-WA says:

    Using a pastry blender has always worked for me and there’s no concern for hand warmth turning things to mush. I’ve taught many classes of high-school students, as well as adults, the joys and secrets of simple pie crust making. I believe it’s been a lost art in current generations, but your excellent article is helping it become found again. Thanks for that! Keep up the good work ;o)

    Hi Karen in WA, thanks for your comments and please become a regular. I’m sure my readers would love to hear you thoughts on baking. – RG

  10. Karen W says:

    At what temperature do you bake the pie?

    Hi Karen, this is not a pie recipe, but a pie crust recipe. You would bake a pie using this crust at the temperature recommended for whatever pie you are preparing. – RG

  11. Tina says:

    Hi, I just made a great key lime pie after reading your recipe. This is my first time doing baking. It was so much fun and then I started to follow more of your recipe. I have problem digesting some types of oil and I did a bit research saying that shortening may contain too much trans fats. I’m not sure if that’s the same shortening you mentioned here and I’m wondering if there’s any substitute for it. Thank you very much!

    Hi Tina, Crisco, made by J.M. Smucker Co., is now selling a shortening with zero grams trans fat per serving.
    It “still has a small amount of artificial trans fat but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows any product with less than 0.5 grams trans fat per serving to list zero grams trans fat in its nutrition facts.”

    If you do a google search on “0 trans-fat shortening” you can find out more information and other sources. – RG

  12. Tina says:

    Thank you for the reply. I’ve tried it once with lard and butter only. May I ask at what temperature and for how many minutes should I set for the oven before the pie crust can be used? For this time I used mixer and then I set 325 ℃ for 20 minutes for a banana cream pie. the crust didn’t hold well and I can taste the flour’s flavor. I assumed all the flavors should all blend into one. Is it because I used only one teaspoon sugar? Thank you in advance!

    Hi Tina, 325degrees C! You must meant 325F!

    Assuming that you baked at 325F, the next question is: is the filling baked as well as the crust? If you need a fully baked crust because the filling will not require baking, here’s what I would do:

    1) Line the pie pan with the dough and crimp decoratively (or not). Poke lots of little holes in the bottom of the crust with a thin knife.
    2) Freeze the crust and pan for about 30-45 minutes. Baking from frozen can help minimize shrinkage.
    3) Line the frozen crust with a very large coffee filter or some parchment paper.
    4) Fill the crust with dried beans (I like chick peas). If you have pie weights, you can use those instead.
    5) Bake the crust, beans and all, for about 15 minutes.
    6) Carefully lift out the parchment/filter to remove the weights. Brush the inside of the crust, especially the bottom, with a thin coat of egg wash (1 egg well beaten with 1 teaspoon of water)
    7) Return to the oven and bake until light-to-medium golden brown all over. If the edges start to brown too much, cover them with foil and turn the heat down to 350F. You really want to make sure the bottom of the crust is completely baked, or you will end up with a gummy, under baked crust.
    8. Cool completely on a rack and fill with filling of your choice.

    If you’re making a filling that requires baking, I’d still do the blind-bake (with beans) and follow the above procedure through step 6. The only difference would be to paint the egg wash in the bottom of the crust at the beginning of baking.

    Either way, you’re looking at at least 30 minutes in the oven. Don’t be afraid to let it brown just a bit–the caramelization is where you get the flavor. Otherwise, you end up with a soft, rather taste-less crust.

    I hope this helps. Happy baking

    PS You can forgo the egg wash if you plan on serving the pie–the whole pie–the same day. Otherwise, use the egg wash as a moisture barrier between a wet filling and your crisp pie crust.

  13. Tina says:

    Hi,

    Yes, it’s 325 F/160 ℃ I meant. For banana cream pit, I baked only the crust. I’ll try your suggestion in a few days and will let you know about the outcome. Thank you very much.

  14. Jack in Victoria BC says:

    When pre-baking a pie crust, using pennies instead of beans or other weights has been recommended as copper if a better conductor of heat than legumes or other metals. The liner of parchment or coffee filter paper is still needed. Canada may eliminate the penny from its currency soon, so I bought several rolls to use.

    Thanks Jack, great tip! – RG

  15. Tina says:

    Hi, it’s me again! Just wanna say thank you so much ‘coz I’ve tried the procedure you suggested several times and I got good pie crusts every time! :-)

    Hi Tina, glad it worked out for you. Thanks for letting me know. – RG

  16. Mindy says:

    Hello, i feel that i saw you visited my web site thus i came
    to return the desire?. I’m trying to to find things to enhance my site!I guess its OK to use some of your ideas!!

    Hi Mindy, for the record, all content on this site is protected by copyright so you may not use it on your site. – RG

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