Tips, recipe for perfect pie crust

WASHINGTON — One doesn’t need an occasion to make a pie, but the holiday season presents plenty of opportunities.

And while people have their preference between pumpkin and pecan (or coconut and chocolate), one thing is certain: A flaky, buttery crust is the key to sweet (or savory) success.

This year, skip the store-bought shells. Lauren Parlato, head baker at D.C.’s Little Red Fox, shares her recipe — and tips — for making a simple one at home.

Here’s what you need to make a homemade pie crust (this recipe actually makes two):

  • About 40 minutes (most of this is “resting time” for the dough)
  • A stand mixer with a paddle attachment
  • A rolling pin
  • 2 9-inch pie tins (Parlato prefers the disposable ones)
  • 2 ½ cups of flour (plus some for the counter when it’s time to roll out the dough)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 8 ounces of cold butter, cubed
  • 1/2 cup ice-cold water
  • A knife, fork or cookie cutter (depending on how you like to decorate your crust)
  • Plastic wrap

Let’s get started:

The more you ‘dough’: Time and temperature are important Making a pie crust is simple, but there are a few variables that can make or break your project, specifically time and temperature. The dough comes together in a matter of minutes, but requires time to rest before it’s rolled out and before it’s baked. It’s also imperative that the butter and water are cold. “If the butter melts before it gets into the oven, it will lose its flakiness. Basically when the butter is baking, the water kind of evaporates and the butter kind of melts away and that’s what makes these flaky little air pockets that makes (the crust) flaky,” Parlato said. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
Add 2 ½ cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of sugar into a stand mixer with the paddle attachment; mix the ingredients on low until they are incorporated. Then, add 8 ounces of cold, cubed butter (cut to the size of sugar cubes) and mix on medium-low. “And you let it keep mixing until it’s incorporated, but there’s still some pea-size pieces of butter,” Parlato said. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
With the mixer still on medium-low, add ½ cup of ice-cold water (be sure not to include any ice) in a slow, steady stream. “If you add it all at once you can get some real soggy patches of pie dough. But if you just pour it in a steady stream, it incorporates,” Parlato said. “And you want to let it mix until it’s almost come together, but is a little shaggy.” (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
Take the dough out of the mixer and cut it in half. (The recipe makes two crusts, which you can use for two different pies or for one pie that requires a top and a bottom.) Then, form each half into a disk. Wrap the disks in plastic wrap and let them rest in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
After the dough has had time to rest, it’s time to roll it out. Flour your surface and the top of the dough disk. Using a rolling pin, apply some pressure and roll the dough in one direction, stopping just shy of the edges. Keeping your rolling pin in the same place, rotate the dough to a new area until the dough is in a flat circle, slightly larger than a 9-inch pie tin. “Start in the middle, roll it out, then you just turn the dough. Your rolling pin should always be rolling in the same space, and the only thing moving is the dough,” Parlato said. This will create a perfect circular shape that will fit easily in a pie dish. “And try not to let the rolling pin go over the edges because then it just makes it too thin around the edges and it helps it all keep an even thickness.” (WTOP/Rachel Nania) (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
Gently put the dough in the pie plate (again, Parlato prefers disposable aluminum plates) and shape the crust to the plate. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
Place a second pie tin on top of the dough and use a knife or scissors to remove the excess crust along the edges. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
You can leave the edges as they are, or do a simple crimp with a fork or your fingers. Then, let the crust rest again in its final shape before it is baked. “That way it keeps its shape better,” Parlato said. “People tend to roll it, cut it and bake it, and then it shrinks. So, the resting time is important.” (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
This year, skip the store-bought shells. Lauren Parlato, head baker at D.C.’s Little Red Fox, shares her recipe — and tips — for making a simple pie crust at home. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
When it’s ready, fill the crust with your preferred filling, and bake according to the recipe’s instructions. (Parlato said par-baking is not necessary for pecan, apple and pumpkin pies. Crust for a cold-filling pie needs to be baked before the filling is added.) For pies that have an upper crust, you can leave the top plain (just add a few slits with a knife for steam to escape), or get creative with cookie cutters (pumpkins, turkeys and acorns are festive for Thanksgiving) or lattice design. If you only need to make one pie, freeze the second half of the dough either in its disk form or in the pie pan. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)  (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
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This year, skip the store-bought shells. Lauren Parlato, head baker at D.C.’s Little Red Fox, shares her recipe — and tips — for making a simple pie crust at home. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)

If you find yourself in a pie pinch, let Parlato and her team at Little Red Fox do the baking for you. The Connecticut Avenue cafe is taking Thanksgiving orders. You can find more information on its website.


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