Whoever came up with the term "easy as pie" surely wasn't referring to crust. "Many a great cook or baker is intimidated by piecrust," says Helen Fletcher, owner of Truffes specialty bakery in St. Louis and piecrust maker extraordinaire. When Helen shared her super-easy piecrust recipe and tips for making it turn out perfectly, Midwest Living®'s Test Kitchen knew they had a winner.
The next slides show Helen's piecrust tips. You can also click on the links below to see her recipes.
Cutting cold butter and/or shortening into dry ingredients is key to a tender, flaky crust. Use two knives or a pastry blender and cut in fat until pieces are pea-size.
Transferring the pastry from rolling surface to pie plate is easier if you loosely wrap the pastry around your rolling pin or fold it in half, then fourths. Set it into the pie plate, easing gently to fill the plate. Stretching the pastry can cause it to shrink down into the plate as it bakes.
Trim bottom crust 1/2 to 1 inch beyond edge of pie plate for a single-crust pie, or trim it even with the plate for a double-crust pie. Use either a knife or scissors, whichever is easiest for you.
Trim top crust 1/2 to 1 inch beyond pie plate edge for a double-crust pie. Fold top crust under bottom crust and finish edge. For the single crust, fold under pastry and finish the edge.
Finish the piecrust edge the way you like it. One classic example is pinch-roping (left). Our next slide shows other techniques for finishing your pie.
Start with a turned-under piecrust for the edges shown here. Techniques from top to bottom of photo:
Classic flute edge: Use the thumb of one hand inside plate and the thumb and index finger of other hand outside plate to press pastry.
Cutouts: Roll out scraps of pastry and cut out your choice of shapes. A small round hors d'oeuvre cutter formed this finish, but a tiny cookie cutter or squares cut from pastry would work, too. Brush pastry with water so your cutouts will stick.
Patchwork edge: Snip the pastry edge every half inch or so for this unusual finish. Then move around the piecrust, pushing one snipped portion to the center and the next one to the outside for a patchwork pattern.
Scallops: Two sizes of measuring spoons marked these scallops on the edge of the crust. Another familiar version: fork marks around the edge.
(A version of this story appeared in Midwest Living® September/October 2009.)