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How to Make Pie

Perfect Apple Pie
Our best recipes and techniques to master the perfect pie.

Introduction

Pie is life. The rest is just details.

The next time you’re putting a pie in your face, thank the Ancient Egyptians, who started baking earthy, easy-to-store chicken pies to take on long journeys thousands of years ago. Then thank the Ancient Greeks, who developed modern pie pastry dough by adding fat to the crust (genius!). And then thank the Ancient Romans, who continued pie recipe testing and even offered up sweet pies to the gods (they were that good).

Though the recipes have changed a little along the way, pies are still an integral part of food culture in many parts of the world. And even though we clearly borrowed the recipe from Europe, there’s nothing more American than apple pie!

Perfect Apple Pie

How to Make Pie Crust

Making a pie crust from scratch can be intimidating (which is why we make it easy for you with our ready-to-bake crusts, of course!), but it can also be so satisfying to slice into a golden-brown crust that you made all by yourself.

The following tutorial will deliver a flaky, buttery double-crust pie (one crust for the bottom, one for the top). If you’re only making a single-crust pie or a pie crust shell for no-bake fillings, simply cut the recipe in half.

Flour, butter, ice water, salt

What you need:

  • Medium mixing bowl
  • Rolling pin
  • Pastry blender (or a fork, if you don’t have one)
  • Plastic wrap or waxed paper
  • 9-inch glass pie plate

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter, shortening or lard, very cold
  • 5-7 tablespoons ice water

Step 1: Mix the Dough
In a medium bowl, combine flour and salt. Mix well. With a pastry blender or fork, cut in the butter (or the chilled fat of your choice) until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with a few pea-sized morsels remaining.

With a pastry blender or fork, cut in the butter.

Sprinkle with ice water (1 tablespoon at a time), while mixing and tossing lightly with a fork. Add water until dough is just moist enough to form a ball when lightly pressed together. Too much water causes the dough to become sticky and tough, too little causes the edges to crack and the pastry to tear when rolling.

Tip: Pie pastry gains its characteristic flakiness from careful handling. The ingredients should be mixed well enough to hold together, but not so much as to melt or break down the fat entirely. Visible bits of fat are a good thing!

Step 2: Shape the Dough
Shape dough into 2 balls. Flatten each gently into a disc shape, wrap in plastic wrap or waxed paper and refrigerate. After at least 30 minutes, remove the dough and let it stand outside the fridge for 5 minutes before rolling. (You don’t need to chill the dough if you’re in a rush, but it does help maintain the quality of the crust.)

Shape dough into 2 balls. Flatten each gently into a disc shape, wrap in plastic wrap.

Step 3: Roll Out the Pie Crust
Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin, without using too much as extra flour toughens the dough. Roll 1 ball of dough lightly from center to edge into an 11-inch circle. Fold gently and place into pie plate. Unfold crust and press gently in the bottom and up the sides of the plate without stretching the dough. Roll out the second ball of dough using the same method once you are ready to top your pie with the second crust.

Roll 1 ball of dough lightly from center to edge into an 11-inch circle.

What kind of fat is best? The Butter vs. Shortening vs. Lard Pie Crust Debate

It’s all about personal preference, guys! But there’s a bit of science to it as well.

Butter makes a lighter, flakier crust because butter has more water in it. In the oven, the water in the crust turns to steam, pushing up the floury dough and creating tender flaky layers. The downside to butter is that it melts quickly when handled, so you have to be quick!

Oftentimes, you’ll want a sturdier crust for cream pies or pumpkin pies that would otherwise become soggy-bottomed. Shortening has a higher melting point, so it’s a little easier to work with than butter — and a shortening crust will also maintain it’s pretty fluted edges and lattice better than an all-butter crust.

You can make a nice, tender crust with lard as well. It has a little more flavor than shortening does, but won’t melt as quickly as butter so it’s easy to work with. It’s kind of a middle-ground between the two, but not as easy to find as butter or shortening.

And still others swear by a combination of fats like half-butter and half-shortening, as pictured at the beginning of this tutorial.

Pie Crust Variations:

Cheese Pastry: Omit the salt and add ½-1 cup of cheddar cheese. This is a great tip for quiches and apple pies!

Extra Flaky Pastry: Add 2 teaspoons of sugar (mixed with the flour) and 2 teaspoons of vinegar (mixed with the ice water).

Whole-Wheat Pastry: Substitute half of the total flour for whole-wheat flour (1 cup all-purpose and 1 cup whole wheat). You may need to add extra ice water when mixing the dough.

Vodka Pastry: Instead of using only ice water, use a mixture of chilled vodka and ice water. The vodka doesn’t leave any trace of flavor, the alcohol cooks away and you’re left with a super tender, flaky crust. This dough may require a little more flour when rolling it out.

Graham Cracker Crust: Made with crushed graham crackers, this type of crust is often used for cheesecakes or cream pies like our Creamy No-Bake Strawberry Pie.

Cookie Crust: Nobody is going to argue with a crust made out of cookie dough. Our Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Pie has the five-star reviews to prove it.

How to Make Pie Filling

From chicken pot pies to creamy French silk, and fluffy brunch quiches to blueberry pies, there’s no one right way to fill a pie. Pie fillings vary so extensively that we couldn’t possibly show you all of them, so we’re going to show you how to make the classic apple pie filling from our Perfect Apple Pie recipe.

Peeled, sliced apples, flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, if desired
  • 6 cups thinly sliced, peeled apples (about 6 medium apples)

Step 1: Prep the Apples
Peel 6 medium apples and slice them thinly until you have 6 cups. We often bake with Granny Smith and Gala apples, but use whatever variety of apples you like best!

Step 2: Combine Ingredients
In a large bowl, combine all the filling ingredients except the apples and lemon juice. Mix well. Toss lemon juice and apples in the mixture to coat thoroughly.

Combine all the filling ingredients.

How to Bake a Pie

Now that you have your crusts and your filling ready to go, it’s time to actually bake this apple pie!

Perfect Apple Pie

Step 1: Preheat and Prep
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Grab those two scratch crusts you made earlier or a package of Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust (each box includes two crusts — just the right amount). If you haven’t already, press one crust into a 9-inch pie plate already and keep the other waiting in the wings.

Step 2: Fill the Pie
Mix your filling (if you haven’t already). Spoon the pie filling into the crust-lined pie plate.

Spoon the pie filling into the crust-lined pie plate.

Step 3: More Crust
Top pie with second crust. Wrap the excess top crust under the edge of the bottom crust and press the edges together to seal. Flute the edges and cut slits in the top crust to vent.

Top pie with second crust. Wrap the excess top crust under the edge of the bottom crust and press the edges together to seal. Flute the edges.

Step 4: Bake!
In the center of the oven on the middle rack, bake the pie 40-45 minutes or until apples are tender and the crust is golden brown. Cool on a cooling rack for at least two hours before serving.

Foil and pie.

Crust Tip: If the edges of the crust start to brown before the center is done, create a shield to protect the edges. Grab a piece of tin foil about 14 inches long and fold it into quarters, then cut about 4 inches up starting from one folded edge to another, then unfold and you have a circular shield. Or you can just cut 4-inch strips and place them around the outside if you don’t feel like folding. If the whole top is browning too quickly, cover the whole pie with foil while it finishes baking.

How to Decorate a Pie

Golden-Brown Crust
To get that picture-perfect golden-brown crust, use an egg wash. Beat one egg (or just the yolk) in small bowl. Using a basting or pastry brush, gently brush the mixture onto the crust just before you put the pie in the oven. If you don’t have an egg handy, plain water or milk both work surprisingly well too!

Brush the crust with egg wash.

Scalloped Edges
This is what we did on our demo pie. Trim the dough even with the edge of the pan and form a stand-up rim that extends over the edge by ½ inch. Place your thumb and index finger about 1 inch apart on the outside of the raised crust edge. With your other index finger, push the pastry toward the outside to form a scalloped edge.

Rope or Pinched Edge
Trim the dough even with the edge of the pan and form a stand-up rim that extends over the edge by ½ inch. Place the side of your thumb on the pastry edge at an angle. Pinch the pastry by pressing the knuckle of your index finger down into the pastry toward your thumb.

Forked Edge
Trim the dough even with the edge of the pan. Dip a fork tine in flour, then press the fork into the crust edge, facing inward, without pressing through the pastry. Rotate the tines to always face the center of the pie as you work your way around the edge.

Lattice Crust

To prepare a lattice top for a two-crust pie, leave 1 to 2 inches of the first crust extending beyond the edge after it’s pressed into the pie pan. Cut the second crust into strips using a pizza cutter or pastry cutter (they can be as wide or as thin as you’d like, but ½-inch wide is a standard size). For a true lattice crust, weave the top strips over and under the bottom strips, alternating.

How to Store Leftover Pie

A pie’s lifetime is usually short, because it’s pie and it’s delicious. If you happen to have leftovers, here’s what to do.

For creamy, custardy, mousse-y pies, keep them in the refrigerator for up to four days. Don’t bother freezing them, because it doesn’t work.

For pies with eggs in the filling (like pumpkin pie, pecan pie, etc.), keep them in the fridge for up to four days. These pies will freeze, but the texture of the filling and crust won’t always hold up. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap or foil, freeze for up to two months and thaw in the fridge before baking to reheat.

For fruit pies, keep them at room temperature covered with plastic wrap or foil for up to two days. After that, put them in the fridge and they’ll last another two days. Fruit pies freeze surprisingly well. Put them in the freezer uncovered until frozen, then wrap them tightly in plastic wrap or foil and put them back in the freezer for up to four months. Thaw at room temperature for an hour and then reheat in the oven when you’re ready. You can also make and freeze apple pies before they are baked using this handy tutorial.

Perfect Apple Pie

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