The 10 Best Tips For Perfect Pie Pastry

Smart pieces of advice from those who’ve tested it for you (again, and again, and again).

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Pie pastry tips: Pie pastry on marble surface after being rolled out

We can’t even count how many pies have been rolled out of the Chatelaine Kitchen—so many, that it’s safe to say our kitchen team knows exactly what makes good pastry. Whether you use these tips to make this classic apple pie recipe, or are targeting Thanksgiving with creamy pumpkin pie—whatever pastry-wrapped confection you’re craving, these tips will set you up for success.

1. Keep all your ingredients chilled.

This rule doesn’t just apply during summer—a kitchen can get pretty hot during a cooking spree, especially if ingredients are left anywhere near a stove. Other than keeping your butter cold, you can also refrigerate your flour—the key is to create an environment that prevents the fat (butter or lard) from melting before it’s cut in the flour, making for the flakiest pastry.

2. Use a food processor for mixing the dough…

It’s fast, cutting the fat into the flour without it melting—while also making it easy to achieve the crumb-like consistency recipes call for.

3. …but less is more when it comes to pulsing  the butter in the food processor. 

Why? If you pulse too much you’ll lose any larger size pieces of butter in your dough.  These larger pieces are best because they spread as the pastry is rolled, creating a thin layer of fat within the dough, which results in a crust that is super flaky and tender. (You need a mixture of larger to small pieces of fat in the end—think pea size to tiny pebble.)

4. Never roll cold dough.

It’s best to form the dough into a smooth, round disc before chilling. When ready to roll, take it out of the fridge at least 15 minutes beforehand to take the chill off. Rolling out cold dough will lead to cracks, leaks, craggy edges (and angry shaking of the rolling-pin).

5. Flour, flour, flour.

Lightly dust your work surface and the top of your dough to prevent sticking and tearing. But light is key—too much flour will make the dough dry.

Tip: Use a sifter to control the dusting and to prevent clumps.

French-style rolling pin

6. Invest in a French-style rolling pin*.

It’s one without handles. Those with handles invites the baker to use muscle and weight when rolling, giving you unevenly rolled dough and leading to uneven baking. A French-style rolling pin offers more control (you shouldn’t be using any muscle while rolling).

*Never immerse your rolling pin in water to wash. Scrape off any dough on rolling pin with a spoon then wipe with a damp cloth. Heavy washing will crack and damage the wood.

7. Roll the dough away from you.

Try to follow a 12:00, 10:00, 2:00 pattern, rolling from the centre outward. Slide and rotate the dough a quarter turn on your work surface as you roll, to ensure it’s not sticking, adding more flour if needed. (Keep the dough moving, if it doesn’t move, you need more flour.)

8. Trim the dough.

Leave only a ½ -in. overhang around the edge of pie plate. Too much overhang will result in thick crimped edges that won’t totally bake through. (Trim with scissors for best results.)

9. Use an egg wash.

It adds extra colour to crusts. The browning is visually more alluring, and it also adds to the taste. Brush it over the top of the pastry, but omit the crimped edges. This will prevent them from turning too dark after baking.

10. Use the bottom third of the oven.

Most two-crust pies will bake well on the bottom third or bottom rack of the oven so the pie base gets more heat. (You want to ensure that the bottom crust cooks through.)