Secrets of Making Perfect Piecrust Pastry

Updated on March 19, 2020
Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

Scientist and author, Beth is also a keen home cook. She enjoys trying new recipes.

Homemade blueberry pie with lattice piecrust.
Homemade blueberry pie with lattice piecrust. | Source

How Do You Make Piecrust From Scratch?

It’s easy to make pastry piecrust once you know the secrets listed below.You probably already have all the necessary ingredients in your kitchen cupboards.

Here are some tips and simple instructions to help you make piecrust from scratch. Master the skill of making homemade pastry, and you’ll never need to buy ready-made again.

4 Secrets of Making a Perfect Piecrust

  • Work in a cool environment. Keep your hands and equipment cold.

  • Don’t overwork the dough. Handle the dough as little as possible or it loses its “stretch” and becomes tough.
  • Don’t stretch the dough to fit a dish. During baking, the dough will shrink in size.
  • Piecrust can be baked “blind” (with no filling). This is useful for summer desserts; e.g., fruit and Jell-O.

Work in a Cool Kitchen With Cold Hands

To make good pastry you need to keep everything cool; cool hands, a chilled pastry board or working surface, and a cool kitchen. I recommend you use a marble pastry board to keep your piecrust cold as it is being worked. Warm room temperatures, or hot hands can give poor results, so cool things down if you want to become a successful piecrust maker.

3 Tips for Perfect Pastry

  1. Working under pressure can make a cook hot and bothered. Try not to start making pastry when you feel stressed or tired. Look on it as an activity that is a form of relaxation or mindfulness.
  2. Before you start getting equipment and ingredients together, wash your hands and wrists in cold water. If it’s a hot day, splash your face with cold water too. Throughout the process, if you feel your hands are getting warm again, rinse them in cold water once more. Make sure your hands are completely dry before you re-handle the dough; dust them in a little flour to be absolutely sure.
  3. You’ll get the best results if you use a glass or marble pastry board, and similar rolling pin. You can save money and use a glass wine bottle, or one of the old-fashioned glass milk bottles as a rolling pin.

The thrifty way to roll out dough; use a clean, dry wine bottle.
The thrifty way to roll out dough; use a clean, dry wine bottle. | Source

Cooking and Preparation Time

  • Cooking temp: 350°F or 180°C
  • Prep time: 10 min
  • Cook time: 30 min
  • Yield: Makes enough crust for an 8-inch pie dish

Ingredients

  • 300g or 2 cups all-purpose flour (sieved)

  • 225g or 1 cup cubed butter (straight from the fridge) or other fat
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 to 8 tablespoonfuls cold water

Butter, Oil, or Vegetable Shortening?

You can use any fat to make piecrust. This makes it a flexible option for vegan and vegetarian dishes. The taste will be slightly different, but the overall quality of the finished pastry is similar whether you use butter, oil, or vegetable shortening. Shortening tends to give a more flakey texture, and can be used in combination with butter or oil.

I like to use all butter for my piecrust as I prefer the taste. I also like the attractive golden finish that using butter gives to the pie cover.

Dust your hands, board, and rolling pin with flour to stop the piecrust sticking.
Dust your hands, board, and rolling pin with flour to stop the piecrust sticking. | Source

Method

  1. Put the sieved flour, salt and cubed butter into a large mixing bowl. Using the rubbing-in method, use your fingertips to mix the fat into the flour until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. It is important that the butter is cold and hard when you are making pastry. Soft or melting butter will give a poor result and make the piecrust heavy and difficult to work.
  2. Make a well in the center of your bowl and add the cold water one tablespoonful at a time. Using a palette knife or metal spoon, fold the water into the dry ingredients. Be careful not to add too much water or the mixture will become sticky. (You can remedy this mistake by adding a little more flour.)
  3. As soon as the mixture is damp enough, form it into one large lump of dough. Then with floured hands, scoop out the pastry and place it on your cool floured pastry board ready to be rolled out.
  4. The trick to making good pie short-crust is not to overwork the pastry. The fewer times you need to roll out your pastry, the better. Use plenty of flour on your hands, rolling pin and board to prevent the pastry from sticking.
  5. With a chilled rolling pin roll out the pastry to a thickness of about a quarter of an inch. Use a palette knife under the pastry to support it, then drape it over the pie dish and trim and pattern the edges.

What Is the Rubbing-In Method?

Rubbing-in is a technique where flour is rubbed into fat to resemble fine breadcrumbs. It is used to make shortcrust pastry, dessert crumbles and scones.

Using your fingertips, rub the flour and butter together, lifting your fingertips are you do so. This adds air to the mixture, and after a few moments, the fat and flour will combine into tiny granules, so that they look like fine breadcrumbs.

Mix Dough by Hand or Use a Food Processor?

This is a matter of personal preference. Once you have mastered the “breadcrumb" or "rubbing-in" method of combining the dry ingredients, making piecrust by hand is as quick as using a food processor. And there’s less washing-up to do.

The video below shows how to make shortcrust pastry using either a food processor or mixing by hand. The video chef has replaced some of the cold water in the recipe with vodka, and says that this makes for a lighter piecrust. It’s not for everyone but is a novel alternative for a special occasion bake.

Piecrust Recipe Using a Food Processor or by Hand

Should You Chill Piecrust Before Baking?

The key to successful home-baked piecrust is to keep your kitchen, your hands, and your utensils cool. Many homes are well-insulated and centrally heated. For most domestic activities this is ideal, but piecrust and pastry-making are exceptions. Ideally, piecrust should be made in the kind of temperature in which you need to wear a light sweater.

If you know your kitchen tends to get very warm, then use your fridge or freezer to help you. Chill the ingredients and equipment for half an hour before you start baking, then follow the recipe, and with practice you’ll achieve a perfect result.

Comments

Submit a Comment
  • lizmalay profile image

    Liza 

    6 weeks ago from USA

    This is something that I'd like to do in the next few weeks. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  • Eurofile profile image

    Liz Westwood 

    7 weeks ago from UK

    You make some great tips. I had read before about not over handling for best results. I will try to remember your advice next time I make pastry.

  • Coffeequeeen profile image

    Louise Powles 

    7 weeks ago from Norfolk, England

    Thanks for this. Pastry is something I've never been very good at making, so this was useful.

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