How To Make The Perfect Pie Crust

July 1, 2013

Baking extraordinaire, Cristina Valencia, from Jordan Winery shows us her tips and techniques for creating the perfect flaky pie crust. Learn her 3-2-1 method and how to choose the right ingredients to get those perfect flaky layers. She also shows how to create different pie crust designs for a beautiful presentation.

Watch the video and get the perfect pie crust recipe (and filling!) below. Video transcription is also provided below.

Wine Country Apple Pie with Flaky Crust
This simple, flavorful recipe will make it easy for you to create a delicious apple pie with a golden, flaky crust that would make your grandmother proud.

For the pie dough:
3 cups all purpose flour
8 ounces cold butter, cut into cubes
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup ice water

For the filling:
8 Granny Smith apples
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
juice of one lemon
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon sugar

Click here for the instructions.

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Get recipes, cooking tips and more from Jordan Winery Blog and here:

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Pie Crust Recipe Tutorial Demonstration: How to Make Tender, Flaky Pie Crust

So today I’m going to join you in the kitchen. I’m going to show you another recipe that people all have problems with, which is flaky pie crust. And it’s actually very simple. So I’m going to show you the recipe that I have used for years and then explain how you can change some of the ingredients to end up with the product that you want. It’s very basic, actually there are three main ingredients: flour, water and your fat. And then I also have some sugar and salt that I add for flavor and also for the browning of the crust.

First of all the flour, you’ll find that most recipes call for pastry flour. Pastry flour is different than bread and all-purpose in that it has less protein. So it’s going to give you a softer product.  You’ll end up with a flakier more tender crust. Bread flour would give you a really tough thick crust which you don’t really want for a pie. Cake flour has less protein than pastry, it’ll give you … it’ll just be too flaky and too tender and crumble. I usually use all-purpose because it is very similar and it’s what I always have at home. And if you handle it right you can still get a really flaky product. Some recipes will recommend you use bleach flour because the bleaching process takes out some protein, so it’s again a little bit softer and it’ll give you a little bit more tender crust. But because of what it does to the flavor I still prefer to use unbleached, flow more natural, gives you a little bit of a better flavor. You could also do a combination of half pastry flour, half all-purpose, whatever you want. But that’s the first thing that goes. And so along with the dry ingredients I’ll add my sugar and salt.  So the recipe I go with, I call it three, two, one, that’s three cups of flour, two cups or two cubes of butter, four ounces, one cup of water, with your dry, with your three cups of flour I’ll add a tablespoon of sugar, and then just about a teaspoon of salt.

Your next ingredient would be your fat. So there’re different fats, you can use. A lot of recipes will call for either lard, shortening or butter. Lard has a really rich flavor, probably not what you want to use for a sweet piecrust, maybe for a savory that would be fine. So then your two options here would be shortening or butter. Shortening has 100% fat, butter has 80%. So it has some more solids and water and liquid in there. But I still prefer to use butter because it’s more natural, the flavor is better. Shortening can also be inconsistent in the quality and the flavor. And I never have it at home, so I just kind of prefer to stay away from it. But if it’s what you prefer because it’s 100% fat you’ll have more flakiness in your crust. You can also do half butter and half shortening because it’s pretty neutral, it’ll take on the flavor of your butter. So what do I have here? I have here just regular butter, that’s eight ounces and I cut it up and about hazelnut size pieces. And one of the most important things is that you keep it very cold, the same with your flour. Some people will actually keep their flour in the freezer for recipes like this. And the butter should be refrigerated until you’re ready to use it.

So this eight ounces of butter goes in with the dry ingredients. And about right here where you would turn on your mixer. I use a Stand mixer on very low speeder. You can start right here just for about a minute or two, to break up some of your butter.  he reason why you want your ingredients cold is because if they’re warm they’re going to all kind of come together really quickly. You want them to stay separate. You want to still have some butter chunks in there when you’re done so that that’s going to create a lot of the layering that you’re looking for.  Let’s go for like about two minutes.  So this is a commercial mixer, we also use Kitchen Aid, that’s what I always use at home, works really good. If you don’t have that you can also do it by hand. But the mixer’s just much quicker.

This is about what you’re looking for in your dry before you add the liquid. You can see that the flour looks like it’s taken on some moisture because some of the pieces have worked itself in. But there’s still a good amount of large chunks of butter. So you want to try and keep a lot of those in there, and I’ll show you why in a little while. So this goes back into the mixer and in the three, two, one recipe, the one is your ice water. And it’s about a cup. You don’t want to add all of it at once, because depending on the temperature of your flour and the humidity in the room, may take more, may take less. So I add the majority of it right now while the mixer’s off. And then one tip that other people will tell you to do is they’ll recommend about a teaspoon of cider vinegar. And what that does is it weakens the gluten which is what makes your dough stretchy and hold together. It weakens that so you’ll actually end up with a really soft dough that’s really easy to roll out and it gives you just a little bit of an acidic flavor. I usually don’t do that, only because it’s just one extra step and one extra ingredient. And it really doesn’t make a huge difference, unless you have a lot of trouble with rolling. So at this point I’ll just give it a few turns in the mixer. You want to be really careful not to over-mix your dough. So if it’s looking a little dry, add about a teaspoon of water at a time.

This is about what you’re looking for. It’s not going to be completely mixed and incorporated. The reason why I didn’t want to do that by hand, if you mix it completely in the mixer, you’re going to tend to over-mix it, and so you finish everything by hand, you want to just lightly flour your working area, turn out your dough and you will have a lot of dry pieces there, that’s fine. And what you want to do, to finish mixing, rather than kneading your dough and squishing it together, you’re going to flatten it, get all your pieces, just flatten them and then fold it on itself. And what that does is the layers of butter kind of layer on top of each other and it’ll give you a really flaky crust. You don’t need it to be totally put together or one big mass, it’s going to feel a little loose still.  This is about what you’re looking for. It’s still kind of loose, mostly put together and you’re going to still see some good sized pieces of butter, that’s what you want, because when it bakes, the liquid in the butter is going to evaporate and create layers between your dough. So at this point is when you would cover it and refrigerate it, probably for about an hour. And what that does is it rests the dough so that it’s easier to roll out and also helps it to keep its shape once you are ready to bake.

Now I’ll show you with a dough that I made earlier how to roll it. You want to flour your surface again.  This is the dough that’s been resting for a couple of hours, so it’s ready. You’ll see, this one was cut so you can see how there’re layers of butter and you can see how you can … or you’ll be able to tell how flaky it will be.  So you flour this and flour the top, and one tip I learned with rolling is you never want to move your body to roll things in a circle, always roll straight ahead of you and then if this needs to be turned, you turn the actual dough. That way you always guarantee that it’s not sticking on your surface.  If you were to just leave it in one spot and keep rolling, you wouldn’t know if it was sticking and then by the time you were to lift it, it could be stuck and you could tear your dough.  If you need more flour, you can put more flour on.  So this is how the dough is going to look.  You’re still going to see pretty good sized pieces of butter in there, which is good, that’s what you want.

At this point this is when you would add it or start using it.  I have one that’s already been rolled out here for your bottom.  It’s not important for it to look perfect on the bottom layer.  You’re going to end up cutting and trimming.  Right here is just a glass pan, the glass … a lot of people like because you can see if the bottom crust is cooked evenly or not, that’s the problem that a lot of people have is that their crust bakes on top but not on the bottom.  One way to help that is to cook your pie towards the bottom of your oven or even directly on the bottom of the oven.  You can also use ceramic, it really conducts heat really well so you get a nice even crust, it’s just harder to see when it’s done, or metal is really durable although the same problem, you can’t see when it’s done.

In the filling you can use whatever you want. I use a cooked apple filling. I use Granny Smith because they’re nice and tart.  You can always find them and because I cook it, they hold their shape really well.  So this is what I like to use, and then I just cook it on the stove top with sugar, some lemon juice, vanilla, cinnamon and ginger.  And I’ll include the recipe for you.
So at this point you would just layer your top on.  If it’s giving you some trouble and it’s gotten soft, another thing you can do is roll it onto your rolling pin and then just roll it back over.  So you just want to kind of attach the top and the bottom to each other.  And then all this extra, you just want to cut it off, probably about an inch away from your pie.  And then with what I have left, I like to try and flip the top; tuck it in under the bottom layer.  And that way you won’t see any bursting after the pie is baked.  You’ll get some points where there’s more dough than others, if you feel that there’s a spot where there’s not much dough, you can get a piece of your scrap and tuck it in so that the trim looks pretty consistent all the way around, that’s one thing I try and do sometimes.  And once you’ve got it folded you just press it together and make sure it’s together and you’ve got kind of a base to work with for your shape.  You can see now you have kind of a lip there.  So to finish you can really do whatever you want.  A lot of people press a fork, use a crimper, crimp it themselves.  I always crimp it myself, it’s really simple, I just put index finger and then these two fingers around it, and you just do that all the way around your pie.  Of course I have big hands, so my crimp always seems to be a lot bigger than other peoples’.  It’s whatever you want it to look like, it really doesn’t matter.

And once you have this done you can go ahead and actually refrigerate this before you bake it, for about a half hour, or if you want to freeze it for about 15 minutes, what that does is it keeps all the ingredients really cold, so that when it actually goes in the oven it’s going to hold its shape much better.  But at this point you would freeze it.  We’ll just pretend that it is frozen.

Now what you would want to do, an egg wash, it’s basically just egg that’s beaten up and you just brush it over your pie.  This is going to give you a really nice shiny pie when you’re finished.  And brush over the crust.  And then one thing you want to do with every pie, especially fruit, when it bakes a lot of liquid is going to come out.  If you don’t have any vents for the air to escape from it’s going to try and come out, burst out of your sides.  Your sides will get ruined, fruit will be falling out of the side.  So you just create some vents for the air to escape from.  And you can play around and make any design you want.  I’ll just kind of open then up, make sure that they’re well ventilated.  And then one thing I always do, you don’t have to, it’s optional, I just sprinkle about two tablespoons of sugar over the top just for the look and because it’s crusty and sweet.

At this point you would put it in your oven.  And most ovens in general you bake it about 375, I would check it after 40 minutes, it could take up to an hour depending on your oven.  Also keep an eye on it.  You may want to rotate it if one side’s browning more than the other.  If you’re using convection, you would start at about 350.  And again check it after about 40 minutes, make sure it’s cooking right.  So after about an hour this is what your pie will look like.  I did have to rotate it a few times, as you can see it got darker on some edges.  And just move it in the oven so that you can make sure that if your oven’s not consistent, you’ll get a nice even browning on that.

If you don’t want to do something so traditional, another option you can do is a lattice pie.  And I’ll show you real quickly how you can do that.  You would be using the exact same recipe as this traditional pie.  When you go to roll it out, rather than trying to get a circle, I try and make more of a rectangular shape.  And then you just cut strips out of your pie dough.  This is just also half the recipe, the recipe, the recipe I showed you, the three, two, one, you would cut that in half, one would be for your bottom, one would be for your top.  So this is just half of that recipe.  And I usually get a plate and kind of put it upside down with a piece of parchment on there.  And you can start building your lattice on this.  You don’t want to build it directly on the pie because with the fruit, if you’re moving this around it’s going to get messy and discolored.  So you can start with one strip sort of towards the center, and then just kind of crisscross, your second strip will go over just like that.  And then when you get to several pieces, you just start moving them around so that you want to create that lattice shape.  You just cut them with a knife, you can eyeball it, if you want them to be perfect you can use a ruler.  Then you can flip these over, add another piece, put it back, the same here, you want that under.

And then when you have your basic lattice shape, you can do them thinner if you want more detail or you can do them much thicker if you want a different look, it really doesn’t matter, it’s up to you.  The nice thing about this is it naturally has vents in there for your pie.  And at this point I would stick it in the freezer probably for about 10 or 15 minutes.  That way these pieces aren’t soft, they’re not going to shift on you when you go to slide it onto your pie.  And they’ll keep their shape.  And that’s also the nice thing about using a plate is it gives you a little bit of a dome and about this shape that you’re looking for on your pie.  And then after you’ve pulled it out of the freezer, you would just kind of easily slide it over your pie, make the readjustments you need to make.  And then I just kind of pinch off the ends.  What you’re going to see when you’re done, again you want to egg wash it before it goes in the oven.  This is a traditional lattice pie.  What’s nice is you can see the layers that you’ve created with your pie dough.  So, and that’s why handling it carefully, not over-mixing, and then when I showed you mixing by hand all that layering, creates these nice layers and gives you a really flaky tender crust.  And if you do a lattice pie, the baking is basically exactly the same as a traditional pie.  The baking time, temperature is all the same.

So I hope these tips have helped you.  Again, it’s really simple, easy to remember, three, two, one, your basic ingredients.  And if you have any questions or comments about baking, please feel free to post that for us and we’ll be happy to answer those questions.

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