5 Tips to Making the Best Pie Crust from Pastry Chef Lauren Soutiere

March 20, 2011

Lauren Sautier Weisenthal

Lauren has worked in a variety of pastry kitchens, but she feels most at home making rustic desserts using the best seasonal ingredients that she can get her hands on. She trained at The French Culinary Institute in New York City and currently holds the position of pastry chef at Northern Spy Food Co., an elegant farm-to-table restaurant in Manhattan's East Village. Her perfectly baked pie was featured in New York Magazine's The Best Bet in 2010, and lucky your sweet tooth, she's here now to give you 5 tips to mastering the art of pie making.

1. Cold is your friend: At every step of the process, be sure that your ingredients are as cold as possible. You want to make sure that your butter stays firm and chunky to create flaky layers, and melted butter will get you nowhere. In the winter this is easier to maintain a low temperature, but as we move into the warmer months, taking extra steps like freezing your flour and butter (after it's been cut), using ice cubes to chill down your water, and pausing while you are rolling the dough to chill it in the fridge, can make a big difference.

2. Resist the urge to over-hydrate: Writing recipes for crust can be daunting for chefs because there is no set amount of water that should be used due to variance in flour. The best way to hydrate your dough is to add ice water in small dribbles as you mix, stopping when the dough still has some dry patches. The resting step will help your dough hydrate further, and too much water makes for a tough crust.

3. Rest your dough: Once you've mixed the dough, pack it into a disk using plastic wrap to squish the dough together (try not to touch the dough with your bare hands, this helps keep the dough cool, too - See rule 1). Put the pack of dough in the fridge and allow it to rest for at least 30 minutes (longer if possible). Resting allows the dough to evenly hydrate, brings the temperature down (see rule 1), and gives time for the gluten to relax, which helps you roll it out faster and more evenly.

4. Blind bake to avoid soggy bottoms: It's a personal preference thing whether you like soggy bottom crusts under fruit pies. If you're like me and prefer a crispy bottom crust, go ahead and blind bake (fill a shaped bottom crust lined with parchment with dry beans or pie weights) the bottom. You can still put a beautiful top crust over a blind baked one and get stunning results without having soppy wet dough under your filling.

5. Start your oven high: To ensure that all-butter crusts hold as much of their shape as possible, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, and then when the pie goes in, lower it to 375 degrees F, and after 15 minutes go down to 350. This will help preserve all of your beautiful handiwork. If you think part of the crust is getting too dark, put a patch of foil over the dark spot.

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Jennifer's picture

Thanks so much for posting this. I find it very difficult to make good pie crust. I look forward to trying this recipe next time I make a pie.