Easy as Pie: Perfecting your next pie’s crust

By Colleen McTiernan

We all know that pies are a staple at Thanksgiving! Apple, blueberry, cherry or lemon meringue, you just can’t go wrong with any of them! The dough recipe you follow is just as important to making a delicious pie as what goes inside. But there are so many variations on the basic dough recipe that it is hard to tell which is best. So, to help you out, we tried three different doughs for three different pies to see which one was easiest to work with and yielded the tastiest results.

Control Pie Crust

For our control crust, we went with a simple recipe. Some basic pie crusts call for shortening or a mixture of butter and shortening, but we went for an all-butter crust.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 stick (4 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2–4 tablespoons cold water

Pulse the flour, salt and sugar together in the bowl of a food processor until well combined. Add in butter and pulse for about 10 seconds, or until butter just starts to incorporate (some chunks of butter should still remain).

Add the water to the mixture and pulse until dough just comes together. Start with 2 tablespoons and add more water as needed to create a slightly tacky dough.*

Remove the dough from the bowl of the food processor and place on a sheet of cling wrap. Shape dough into a 4-inch disk, cover in cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes before rolling out as desired.

Vodka Pie Crust

Substituting half of the water with cold vodka is said to produce a more flaky crust.

 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1–2 tablespoons cold water

1–2 tablespoons cold vodka (we used Grey Goose)

Pulse the flour, salt and sugar together in the bowl of a food processor until well combined. Add in butter and pulse for about 10 seconds, or until butter just starts to incorporate (some chunks of butter should still remain).

Add the water and vodka to the mixture and pulse until dough just comes together. Start with 1 tablespoon of each water and vodka and add more of each as needed to create a slightly tacky dough.*

Remove the dough from the bowl of the food processor and place on a sheet of cling wrap. Shape dough into a 4-inch disk, cover in cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes before rolling out as desired.

Sour Cream Pie Crust

The addition of sour cream to a traditional pie dough recipe is said to produce a more tender, flaky crust.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

2 tablespoons sour cream
2–4 tablespoons cold water

Pulse the flour, salt and sugar together in the bowl of a food processor until well combined. Add in butter and sour cream and pulse for about 10 seconds, or until butter just starts to incorporate (some chunks of butter should still remain).

Add the water to the mixture and pulse until dough just comes together. Start with 2 tablespoons of water and add more as needed to create a slightly tacky dough.*

Remove the dough from the bowl of the food processor and place on a sheet of cling wrap. Shape dough into a 4-inch disk, cover in cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes before rolling out as desired.

Results

All of the doughs were surprisingly similar to work with, so we figured that the true difference would be in the taste and texture of the baked crusts. Once we got our pie crusts rolled out, filled and baked, it was time to break out the forks!

Between the three pies, our panel of testers decided that we like the control crust the best for its flavor. The taste of the butter really pulled through for a satisfying finish. However, this crust was a little more dense in texture. This is where the other two pies excelled. Both the vodka and sour cream doughs produced a flakier crust and browned a bit better. However, the sour cream dough was definitely the flakiest of the two and offered a better flavor. Unless you already have vodka on hand and want to try something a little different, we would recommend skipping this variation. Instead, go with either the control crust (all-butter) or the sour cream crust.

Decorating

If you are making a pie with a filling that must be baked, then why not consider doubling your dough recipe and decorating the top? For our cherry and blueberry pies, which both required the filling to be cooked, we decided to do just that! After removing your doubled crust mixture from your food processor, simply split the dough into two even pieces before wrapping and refrigerating. We went with a stars and stripes theme for our decoration, but you could opt for a more traditional lattice top or cut your dough into any shape you would like! If your pie filling does not need to be baked, like our lemon cream pie, simply blind bake your crust, fill once cooled, and decorate with whipped topping if you would like.

Stripes

Before rolling your dough out, allow it to soften slightly, about 10 minutes. Generously flour your work surface, then roll one piece of dough out into a 12-inch round. Set your rolled out dough into your pie pan and gently press it down and to the sides.

Roll out your second piece of dough to a 12-inch round. Using a pizza cutter or a sharp knife, cut five 1-inch thick strips.

Fill your pie with filling, then drape those strips across the top of your pie. Once finished, cut off any overhanging dough, then crimp the top dough and bottom dough together using a fork. Brush with egg white before baking.

Stars

Before rolling your dough out, allow it to soften slightly, about 10 minutes. Generously flour your work surface, then roll one piece of dough out into a 12-inch round. Set your rolled out dough into your pie pan and gently press it down and to the sides. Cut off any overhanging dough and pinch (or flute) the edges for a more finished look. Fill your pie with filling and bake.

In the meantime, roll out your second piece of dough to a 12-inch round. Using a cookie cutter or a knife, cut out stars of varying sizes and brush with egg white. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 350 F for 8–10 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to cool before placing on top of baked and cooled blueberry pie.

*We found that with the base amount of water most recipes recommended our dough was too crumbly, so we did add more water to each. Still, be sure to add additional liquid slowly so to as not create a too-wet dough.