For years, I was intimidated as all get out at even the mention of the words “pie crust.”
Why? What on earth for? Wasn’t it just a few simple ingredients thrown together at the bottom of a pan?
Technically, yes, but there seems to be a stigma attached to piemaking that has long taunted and tortured beginning pastry chefs and homemakers alike: They just look scary as all hell.
Maybe it’s that decorative fluted edging. (Which, you should know, I still am not great at.) But why let that stop us? Must we endure a lifetime of yucky, frozen, preservative-laden crusts under the auspices of not “having the knack” to make ours look pretty?
Bring on the ugly crusts, I say! No matter how weird it comes out looking around the edges the first time, your guests will be ever-grateful you spent those extra few minutes making sure your delightful pie filling doesn’t soak into a soggy, pre-formed wad of dough underneath.
Easy Homemade Pie Crust
(Note that the following recipe yields one double crust or two singles.)
Before you begin, take a small amount of water (1/2 cup water or less — you won’t need it all) and drop an ice cube down into it so it’ll start getting cold right away. Never use warm water in pie crust. Just don’t. Promise me.
Chef’s Reminder: If you’re using Crisco sticks, remember that unlike butter, shortening sticks = 1 cup apiece. That’s important.
Find your roomiest mixing bowl and dump 1 cup of vegetable shortening in the bottom of it.
To the shortening, add 2 cups all-purpose flour. Blend well. (I don’t have room for a pastry cutter in my cabinet drawer, so I just use a wooden spoon and it works fine.)
Once mixture has a crumbly texture, add 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon baking powder.
(The baking powder part always makes me think of Beverly Cleary’s hilarious custard chapter from the children’s book, Emily’s Runaway Imagination, which you can read online here. You’re welcome.)
If you’re preparing this crust as a dessert pie shell (as opposed to a meat or pot pie), you can also mix in 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon. It’s just a nice special touch.
I leave sugar entirely out of my pie crusts because I want to prevent them from browning too early in the oven, and sugar is never the answer in that equation. Plus, I just think sweet pie crusts taste weird. Call me crazy.
Start adding the water one tablespoon at a time to the dough. After 2 or 3 spoonfuls, start kneading the crust by hand, using additional water only sparingly. 1/4 cup is probably more water than you’ll ever need for a crust.
Once you can get the dough into one big lump that won’t fall apart easily on you, lay it on a floured surface. If you’re afraid of that whole wacky transfer-dough-to-pan-by-wrapping-it-around-the-pin trick the first few times around, you can use this super easy trick, instead:
Flour a piece of waxed paper, secure the edges to your countertop in a place or two, and place the chunk of dough on the new (floured) surface.
Sprinkle hands/dough with small additional amounts of flour until it’s a consistency you feel confident rolling out.
Divide the dough into two balls, as equal as you can get them easily. Place one of the lumps back in the bowl with a damp paper towel covering it until you’re ready for it.
Flour up the dough ball and rolling pin (have I mentioned lately how much I love this weighted, nonstick KitchenAid pin?) and begin rolling out the crust.
It’s helpful to continually use your fingertips to seal up cracks on the outside perimeter of the dough as you roll it out uniformly.
Chef’s Note: Never roll pie crust from one end to the other; always begin in the center of the ball and make short, quick movements outward, then lift pin to return it to the center “starting point” for the next stroke.
Once crust is rolled to a uniform thickness and is large enough to clear the outsides of the pie pan, transfer the crust to the (greased and floured) pie pan.
If you’re using the waxed paper method and your pie pan is lightweight, you can just invert the pan over the crust and then “flip” it over. Ta-dah! No one will ever know you cheated. 🙂
Repeat method with the second lump of dough. Fill and bake as needed according to pie recipe.
And then, my friend, pat yourself on the back. You did it!