There’s a line I love in “Anything You Can Do,” the song from Annie Get Your Gun where Annie Oakley trades boasts with Frank Butler.
Spunky Annie pretty consistently tops Frank — in sharpshooting, drinking, fast-talking, and more — until they reach the ultimate challenge: “Can you bake a pie?”
“Neither can I,” shrugs Annie.
And I must say, pie-baking can be intimidating — until you learn a few things about pie crust.
Sticky dough, crumbly dough, difficulty rolling, trouble transferring a rolled crust to the pie pan: I’ve been there at various times. But as with scones and biscuits, the basic techniques and a trustworthy recipe will do the trick every time. Ready for pie perfection? Let’s roll!
1.Use the Right Recipe
First off, you need to start with an iron-clad recipe. I always use this one. For chicken pot pies as well as for fruit pies. For lattice top pies, for hand pies and mini pies.
2.Chill The Dough Just Enough
When I was first making pies, I misunderstood this direction and I wound up chilling the dough til it was completely solid then trying to smash that down and roll it. That does not work, in case you don’t know. The dough just cracks and is unworkable. You chill the dough until the butter is firm but still malleable. If your dough is too cold, let it sit on the counter a bit before you roll it. On the other hand, if it is too soft, you might keep putting flour on your rolling pin and counter top, but it will just keep sticking. That’ll be because the butter is too warm and you need to chill the dough before continuing.
3.Use A Light Dusting Of Flour
You should have already made the perfect pie crust, so don’t alter the proportions much by adding in a bunch of flour now. Use only just what you must to prevent sticking–a light sprinkling on your work surface and rolling pin a few times should be enough to do the job.
4.Work All The Angles
The idea here is that if you keep rolling in the same direction such as from 6 o’clock to 12 o’clock on your dough and back again, you will get some unevenness. If you alternate with some rolling in other directions such as a diagonal roll from 5 o’clock to 11 o’clock and 7 o’clock to 1 o’clock. Mix it up to get your smoothest, most level crust.
5.Use a Bench Scraper
This tool is so helpful! You use it as you are rolling to lift the dough up a few times along the way and re-position it by lightly flouring again underneath and giving it a 1/4 turn. Doing so prevents sticking and helps keep it smooth. (Bench scrapers are also useful in cutting strips for a lattice top if you wish, for easily lifting scones to the tray, and as a tool in icing cakes.) You’ll use it again in the next step.
6.Easiest Way To Get It In The Pan
Once you’re satisfied that you’ve rolled the dough out nice and evenly, grease your pan and hold it above the rolled dough to make sure your dough extends past its size and will fill the pan with room for a pinched crust. Looks good? Ok, now use your bench scraper to pick up the edge of the fully rolled crust and gently lift it over the rolling pin. Slowly roll the pin with the dough scrolling around it like a window shade. Hold this above your pie pan and unscroll it until it drapes slightly off all sides. Press out any air bubbles so it’s flat against the pan. Now you’re ready to crimp the edges, trim, fill it and bake.
That’s it, hot shot. Now you’re baking pie that really hits the mark!