Making Pie Crusts

Making Pie Crusts

The ingredient list is simple enough: flour, fat, salt and water. It's the handling of those ingredients that can make a pie crust tough and chewy or tender, flaky and rich with flavor. Don't be confused by terminology here. Pie pastry, pie dough, pie crust, and pie shell are all the same thing. Pastry refers to the uncooked pie dough. When it is formed and baked, it is called a pie crust (or shell).

To make a nicely browned pie crust, choose either a medium-heavy aluminum pan with sloping sides and a dull finish or a heatproof glass pie pan. Both will absorb heat and distribute it quickly, helping to set the crust. Avoid highly polished metal pans, which deflect rather than absorb heat. These pans bake more slowly and can interfere with the setting of the crust.

To roll pie pastry easily, roll the dough between 2 lightly floured sheets of waxed paper, parchment paper, or plastic wrap. The paper or plastic helps prevent adding too much flour, which can make for a tough pie crust. The paper also lets you move the dough more easily to the pie pan with less chances of tearing it. Remove the top sheet before moving the pastry.

When transferring rolled pastry to a pie pan, gently fold the circle into fourths. Center the 90-degree corner of the folded pastry in the pie pan. Unfold the pastry and gently fit it into the pan bottom to press out air bubbles without stretching the dough. You can also loosely roll the dough around the rolling pan, then slowly unfurl the dough over the pie pan, centering the dough as much as possible. Lift the dough gently by one edge to encourage it to conform to the bottom edge of the pan. Once the dough is lining the pan snugly, press across the bottom to make sure that there are no air bubbles trapped under the surface.

Avoid stretching or pulling the pastry as you lay it in the pie pan to prevent shrinking during baking. Pie pastry has a memory: if you stretch it to fit into a pan, it will shrink back to its original size and shape during baking.

When trimming pastry overhang, trim the perimeter of the pastry to extend no more than 1" over the edge of the pan. Fold this overhang under to make a thick pastry rim around the edge of the pan. If making a single-crust pie, crimp the edge before filling or storing. If making a double-crust pie, fill and roll out the top curst in the same way as the bottom, positioning it over the filling. Crimp the top and bottom crusts around their edges to seal.

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