Basic Pie Crust

For me ’09 was the “year of the pie”, every holiday season my friends (my guinea pigs) expect to receive frequent deliveries at their door steps of pies, strudels, tarts, tortes,  basically  the result of my mad scientist experiment on whatever fruit or veggie I fresh-picked at some farm, orchard, or grove on the weekend.

No matter what I did to the filling, the crusts on my creature creations were always basically created the same way – mix very icy cold ingredients and bake very very hot. Well this changed in ’09 for me when I became obsessed with experimenting with the crust, after vacationing with my mom in the south of France. I was there in mid-October (well after the tourist season, when locals reappear in the streets). Mom and I were just driving from town to town following the coast, stopping in every little town on the map to eat, walk the village, chat with the people, and everywhere we went there were those magnificent French pastries.

In almost every restaurant, cafe or bistro, the kitchen was part of the dinning room and very open so you could admire the artists at work. After a few stops, I began to realize all the baking ingredients were out on the work tables at room temp, the eggs, butter, cream, etc.  I was always taught to keep them ice cold.

Not only were all dairy products at room temp, but the flour was also tampered with before the butter was added.  For example, a lemon tart had an entire lemon zested into the 2-3 cups of  flour before the room temperature butter was rubbed in with fingers. Cream was used instead of ice water, sometimes salt sometimes not, and always a tablespoon of sugar. In all cases, the soft dough balls were then refrigerated for a while before rolling and baking, resulting in a thicker, more dense crust, but equally yummy.

So if you want traditional, flaky crust, you mix the icy cold ingredients, then bake really really hot, but you’re not going to be disappointed if you play with crust ingredients.
What I have found on my crust crusade are fun new tastes and textures. I have had the most success with the basic ratio of:

  • 1 cup flour to
  • 1/3(or a little less) cup butter to
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk to
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt to
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

and I include in the flour a dusting (1-2 tsp) of the lead flavor or spice in my filling(cinnamon or lemon zest for example) and refrigerate for 2 hours before baking. Oh yeah, one more thing,( I’m probably the last one discovering this little trick ), I find it sooo much easier to roll dough on wax or parchment paper, most of the time you don’t need to “dust surface with flour” which is messy and sometimes hard to peel dough from, instead you just roll out the dough on the paper and pick up the paper, turn it over into pie plate let fall the dough fall into place, voila.

Maria Betar is Rachael’s sister and the baker in the family.  See all of her recipes here!

16 Responses to “Basic Pie Crust”

  1. Debi says:

    YAY Maria!! I am very excited to see your blog. I was hoping to see you writing a blog one day… I will look forward in reading your fabulous baking tips!! Thank you for sharing your insight with us!!

  2. Lesley says:

    Hi Maria! So cool to have you blogging!! Your sister taught me how to cook – and now you can help teach me to bake! Keep the advice and tips coming.

  3. Brenna says:

    Hey! i was wondering if you knew of any gluton free recipes? because i was recently diagnosed with celiac desease, which means i cant eat anthing with gluton it in. im strugling to find good recipes that are still gluton free, do you have any tips?

  4. I too am so happy to see you blogging and hope you do alot more of it, love that you are sharing your recipes with us keep them coming!!! As the other poster said your sister taught us cooking and now we can learn about baking from you this is wonderful!!!

  5. Sue says:

    I admire anyone who can make a pie crust. I usually have to make a 2 crust recipe just to get one crust and then I fight with that one to get it big enough to cover the pie plate.

  6. Mary says:

    I am also interested in glutten free pie crust. Daughter, granddaughter & grandson also celiac and they enjoyed pie or pastries. Please help. Thanks

  7. Mary says:

    Missed the name of the awesome shoes with the clear heel and the ballet type flat shoes. Can you inform me please.

  8. MARIA says:

    HI MARIA MY NAME IS MARIA TOO AND I ALOS LOVVVEEEE TO COOK.I JUST WISH RACHEL WAS MY SISTER TOO.

  9. Martha says:

    Hi Maria. Welcome. Can’t wait to try your pie crust. You can play throw the brick with my pie crust. I am 62 and my baking and cooking is liminated. Don’t use many spices and find recepie’s using as little as possible. Looking foreward to your help. When are you on tv. Hope to see you soon.

  10. Patricia says:

    How cool is that! I’ve always had my pie crust ingredients at room temp then refrigerated or froze disks. So much easier to put together. It’s been suggested that this is “not the way”. I also add a tat of sugar as well as lemon juice w/egg in my water. Never tried milk rather than water, but I surely will, next pie. Adding other flavors in the flour, great idea. My crusts are always favorable and flaky, and now expect will be even better. Validated! Thanks!

  11. Linda says:

    Looking forward to trying out your Italian recipes especially since my grandmother never wrote any of hers down .How about a cook book? From one upstate girl to another, Buona Fortuna ,Linda

  12. Amy says:

    Pie is my absolute favorite dessert and I do not make it as often as I like because I’m afraid of the crust! After reading your tips, I am going try it again and I’ll let you know how it turns out. Thanks!

  13. Pam says:

    I have forwarded this to my husband who spoils me with his cooking since he has become mostly unemployed and I have to work full time. We made our first real whipped cream tonight for pumpkin pie.

  14. Debbi says:

    Maria love the crust tips. I am more of a pie baker than a cake baker. My family always expects me to make the pies. I really enjoy them also. Looking for some new ideas. Thanks

  15. Kim says:

    I was so glad to read your tips on making pie crusts. My Mom is the pie baker and I am the cake baker/decorator. My daughter recently graduated from Le Cordon Bleu and is wanting to go into pastries. We will definitely try your recipe and let you know how it turns out. Thanks again.

  16. Kathy K says:

    Maria I have a recipe you should try for your mother, I hear she is not into the crusts of pies. Try this its really easy.
    Blender Pumpkin Pie
    3/4 cup sugar,1/2 cup biscuit mix,2 tblsp. margarine,1 can evap. milk,2 eggs,1 can 16ounce pumpkin,2 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice, 2 tsp. vanilla, 1 tsp. cinnamon. Put all ingred. in blender and blend on high 2 min. pour into pie plate. Bake 55-60 min @ 350. Hope you like it.

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