Friday, March 25, 2011

Taking the Fear Out of Pie Making

When you want pie what do you do?  Do you head to the local bakery?  Is the frozen food aisle at the grocery store your go to solution?  Are you a pie making pro who whips up pies on a regular basis?  Whenever I talk with anyone about pies the focus is always on the crust.  It's the crust making that cause grown women and men to shake in their boots.  This fear of pie crusts has resulted in many frozen and ready made pie crust options for those of us who want to bake a pie at home, but don't want to struggle with the crust.

Pies have never been my strength.  Yes, it's the crust. I admit it.   I have bought pre-made pies from the bakery.  I've bought frozen pies at the grocery store.  I've purchased both frozen and ready made pie crusts.  Perfecting pie dough is on my list of things to do in 2011.

This week I attended a free pie making demonstration hosted by King Arthur Flour.  It was one stop on a four city tour for the King Arthur team.  Over 400 of my closest friends from southern New England attended as well.

A Standing Room Only Crowd
The topic of this presentation was how to make an apple pie, but the focus was on making the perfect pie crust. 

A King Arthur Flour Apple Pie

Robin, a baking educator at King Arthur Flour, was our able instructor.

Robin, Our Able Instructor

While Robin worked at a table in the front of the room, a camera projected her approach on a large screen.  No machinery was used in the making of this dough.  At one point Sarah used a pastry blender, but she quickly set it aside in favor of her fingers.

I'll being showing you a crust I made following Robin's recipe and technique in a future post.  For now, here are some helpful hints Robin shared about pie crust making:

Twelve Tips for No Fear Pie Crust
  • Inconsistencies may be created from one pie crust to another by the flour you use, the humidity in the air and your measurement technique.
  • Salt is an important ingredient in pie crust.  It makes a difference between tasty crust and bland crust.
  • It is not necessary to sift flour any longer.  Flour is pre-sifted at the mill.  All you need to do is aerate it by fluffing it with a whisk or a fork.
  • Whatever fat you choose to use in your crust must be kept very cold.
  • Keep your empty butter wrappers in the freezer.  Use them to grease your baking pans.
  • Using your hands to combine the butter and the flour to make the crust is a technique called "rubbing the butter".
  • The amount of water used in a crust will depend on the weather/humidity.
  • Pie dough should be chilled for 20-30 minutes before rolling it into a crust.  This is an important step in developing better hydration in the dough and gluten formation. The dough can be frozen for up to 4 months. 
  • Use enough flour when rolling out your dough to allow for easy rotating and flipping of the dough. 
  • When making a two crust pie, don't put the filling in the bottom crust until you are ready with the top crust.  That helps to keep the bottom crust from getting soggy.
  • If you want to make your pie in advance, freeze it before baking.  Just bake the frozen pie an additional 20 minutes.
  • Bake the pie on the bottom rack in the oven for the first 20 minutes, or so.  This will help your bottom crust to brown.  Transfer the pie to the middle rack afterwards.
A raffle closed out the two hour session.  Raffle winners won 5 pound sacks of flour, various King Arthur Flour baking mixes and some small cooking tools. 

Everyone received a handy dough scraper and a gift card for $10 off a $20 purchase at King Arthur's online store or their catalog.

The Dough Scraper

Is King Arthur coming to a city near you?  If yes, attend their baking demonstration to learn from their accomplished bakers.  You'll come away less fearful about making your own pie crust and it's free!

This post was not sponsored by King Arthur Flour.


  1. Enjoyed the tips. The sixth tip about using your hands to blend was particularly interesting to me because both my mom and grandmom told me the more you touch the pastry the less flaky it becomes. And I have to first hand rate the Streusel Topped Berry Muffins as excellent. Sorry I missed a few blogs. I had the flu but I am back now.

  2. Thanks for following our blog. They did a King Arthur demo at my son's school; they sent home some small bags of flour and the scraper. Love the scraper! I want to try to make some bread. I'm still afraid of trying to make crust, though.


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