Perfect pie crust is easy. It is fast, it is cheap and it is delicious. A homemade pie crust is the key to any good pie and will truly make a difference! Here’s how professional pastry chefs make it here in France (recipe from Alain Ducasse’s chef school); you don’t need to be experienced nor have any special equipment.
Classic pie crust | For 2 pies (app. 25cm baking pans)
- 250g good quality flour
- 150g unsalted butter
- 100g powdered sugar
- 20g almond powder
- 1 egg (app. 50g)
- a generous pinch of salt
- On a clean work surface, directly sift the flour, powdered sugar, almond powder and add a generous pinch of salt. Gently mix with your fingers to blend the ingredients. It is important that the powders are sifted to avoid lumps and to get a smooth pastry.
- Dice the cold butter & start mixing with the powders to cut in the dough, by sweeping up and gathering the blend in your hands and gently rubbing them against each other until the butter is integrated into the dry ingredients. The blend should look like rough sand and turn into a rich yellow color. This sablage should take a few minutes. This step is essential for the crust to have the right consistency.
- Form a well and add in the beaten egg. In circles, rub the egg into the flour/butter blend until it forms a homogenous dough. Knead as little as possible, or else the pastry will become elastic and it will shrink when baking.
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Note: if you have a stand mixer, you can sift the powders and add the chopped butter directly in the mixing bowl. Mix on medium speed with the paddle until the blend gets the desired consistency. Then add in the egg and keep beating until it starts forming a ball. Finish smoothing out by hand, shape into a ball and flatten it down. Wrap in film and refrigerate.
- Smooth out the crust by pressing it down with the palm of your hand 2 or 3 times. If you feel that the pastry is too moist, dust with a little bit of flour.
- Shape into a ball and flatten it down a little so it’ll be easier to roll out and will cool faster & more evenly. Wrap in cling-film and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. You can even start by putting it in the freezer for 15 minutes if you’re in a hurry. It’s important the pastry rests and cools before you roll it out or else it might break!
- Dust your work surface with a thin and even layer of flour. Once again, too much flour will alter the pastry’s consistency and make it dry & tear. Roll out the pastry until it is app. 3mm thick. Make sure the pastry doesn’t stick by rotating it regularly by a quarter of a turn. Moving the pastry as often as possible is the key to keep the crust from sticking.
- Once you’ve reached a diameter that fits your baking pan, place it over the crust and trim the pastry app. 2cm over the size of the pan (depending on depth). Doing so will make it easier for you to line the pan without excess crust. To transfer the pastry to the pan, place your rolling pin at the top of the flattened crust and gently roll the pastry all around the pin. Position your rolling pin at the bottom of the pan and unroll over it.
- Ease the crust into the buttered baking pan or tart ring and make sure the crust is well lined against the sides (but don’t press it too hard either). Trim excess with a sharp knife.
- Using a fork, poke holes into the bottom of the crust so that no air is trapped under it while baking.
- Store in the freezer for 30 minutes before baking. This step may seem superfluous but it’s actually one of the most important ones! It will make the crust set and will prevent it from shrinking or getting out of shape while baking. You can even bake a fully frozen crust directly by simply adding a little extra baking time.
12 useful tips
- Don’t bother working your dough in a bowl. The best is to work directly on a clean work station (wood, stainless steel or ideally, marble). If you find it messy, you can work over a sheet of parchment paper.
- To cut in the dough (work the butter into the dry ingredients), simply use your hands or the paddle of a stand-mixer.
- Using powdered sugar instead of caster sugar will make the pastry smoother.
- If the crust tears when you roll it out, it probably means that it’s too warm or too cold (unless the proportion of ingredients is off and it’s too moist or too dry). If too warm, put in the fridge for 5-10 min. If too cold, leave at room temperature for a few minutes before using.
- When rolling out the crust, make sure to turn it by a quarter of a turn after each time you roll through to prevent it from sticking to your work surface. This also helps to roll it out into an even circle.
- To transfer the crust from your work surface to your baking pan, delicately roll it around your rolling pin and unroll over the pan. It is less likely to tear than if you fold it or lift it up with your hands.
- If your crust tears when you transferred it to the baking pan, shape it back into a ball and smooth it out on your work surface with the palm of your hand a couple of times. Then place in the fridge for 15 min. before rolling out again.
- Once you lined your baking pan with the crust, place it in the freezer for 30 minutes before baking. This will prevent it from shrinking or getting out of shape while baking.
- You may think that since flour is a dry ingredient, it has nothing to do with how moist your pastry is. But it’s actually quite the opposite… Depending on the quality and properties of your flour, the recipe’s original proportions may result in different consistencies. If you buy different brands of flour, you may therefore get a different feel & consistency from one time to another. It’s easy to adjust by adding a little flour if too moist or adding a splash of cold water if too dry.
- Some pie recipes call for pre-baking the crust without the filling. To prevent it from rising or getting out of shape during this step, cut out a sheet of parchment paper the size & shape of your pie, place it over the crust & cover with dry beans to pre-bake.
- If you have pastry leftovers, use it to create decorations (leaves, flowers, strips, braids…) or freeze it for future use.
- Make your pastry in large batches and divide into individual portions to be wrapped and frozen for future pies.