How to Make Perfect Pies at Home
All the tips you need to make comforting, warm pies this season...with ease!
Comfort food needs no introduction, yet it means something different for everyone. In our Comfort Food Issue, we’re exploring the recipes that are always there for us and invite you to do the same. Check back here for our latest recipes and articles from the issue, and don’t forget to follow us on Instagram for exclusive content.
We’ve all heard the saying, “As easy as pie!” but I do have to wonder about the origin of this turn of phrase... As wonderfully comforting as pies are, I know more than one person who truly fears pie making, and it’s almost always a question of dough.
One of the best cooks I know, my mother, won’t even go near pastry making. In fact, she always delegates the task to me. Starting young, I think, was my advantage; I had no existing pastry anxiety and dove into the task full of beginner’s luck. Over the years, practice, and guidance (see me being schooled by chef Lisa Kvan here, I’ll never forget this masterclass) has improved my technique and I’m here to share different, approachable ways to make pies at home, for any skill level. Comfort, in this case, *is* as easy as pie.
The pie dough: How to find the best store-bought options or make your own from scratch
If you want a general brush up on types of doughs, see our detailed guide here.
Store-bought dough: What kind do I look for?
Nothing makes pie easier than having some store-bought sheets of dough on standby that can be quickly unfurled into a dish. There is zero shame in not making everything from scratch. Puff pastry is the all-purpose choice that works for both sweet and savory fillings, but you can also find less flaky, shortcrust pastry in both unsweetened and sweetened versions.
Another advantage of purchasing pre-rolled sheets of store-bought pastry is that they’re usually rolled thin enough that you don’t need to blind bake (more on that below), so you can assemble your pie and put it in the oven in an instant.
When buying store-bought pie dough, it’s important to look for quality in the ingredients. Many premade doughs on the market are made with vegetable oil (which is the perfect choice if you’re vegan), but for a classic, full-flavored, buttery crust, when I buy dough, I look for a butter-based one.
The easiest pie recipe you could ever make: The slab pie
In celebration of shortcuts, try Devan’s new recipe for an easy-peasy mixed berry pie that had everyone crowding ‘round the oven in the test kitchen to see what was responsible for wafting that mouth-watering smell. For this recipe, you don’t need a pie dish, just a regular old baking sheet will do!
Making dough from scratch: Some foolproof tips!
It is, of course, extremely satisfying to make pastry and dough from scratch. For flaky, delicious pastry, the most essential thing is temperature. Always work with cold, cold, cold butter straight from the fridge! When making pastry you simply want to work the cold butter all the way through the dough, essentially pressing flakes of it in, but not working it so much that it melts. This is what’s going to give you the flakiest dough. You can also put all your ingredients in the fridge for an extra chill before starting; many pros will put their flour in the freezer, for this reason. As it has no water content, it won’t freeze, but it will get super-duper cold.
Alternatively, if you have a food processor, you can use this to whizz up your dough first into a sandy mixture, then into a lovely dough with the addition of ice water, which means you’re not warming up the ingredients with your hands. Once you’ve worked the dough you put it back into the fridge to cool down again. This will mean that the dough will keep its buttery structure better when you roll it out again. Don’t skip this step. The same goes for pieces of dough you’ll use as decoration (keep reading for tips): When it’s cold it will hold its shape better and be easier to work with.
Roll with excess in mind! As pie crusts shrink when they cook, so it’s important to always have a little overhang that you can trim, keeping in mind the shrinkage that will occur during baking.
Use a rolling pin, or parchment paper to help you transfer your dough into the baking or pie dish, don’t simply pick it up and risk tearing holes into it. Roll out your dough directly on a sheet of parchment paper. Then, simply invert into your dish and peel away the parchment paper, ta da! It’s the same technique that Hanna uses in her new recipe for a traditional German apple pie below. Alternatively, roll up your dough onto a rolling pin and then unfurl it into your dish of choice.
Try out Hanna’s from-scratch pie dough with this German style apple pie recipe
How to avoid soggy crusts with blind baking
Ever had a pie crust that was more soggy than flaky? Depending on the thickness of your dough, it’s important to blind bake, which means lining your pie crust with parchment paper, filling it with baking weights or beans, and pre-baking it before any filling goes in and before the top crust goes on. This is usually specified in the recipe when needed.
Our recipes and resources for homemade dough
The instructional videos below provide basic recipes for pie doughs and pastry. There are also plenty of tips for how to make super buttery, flaky puff pastry in this video, plus how to add flavor to your dough with herbs.
Easy ways to make decorative pies
1. Easy lattice pie crust
2. Crimped pie crust
3. Leaf pie crust
4. Scalloped pie crust
Get your fill: Our favorite sweet and savory pie fillings
Now it’s time to decide: Sweet or savory? Whichever way you go, we have plenty of inspiration from chocolate-y pecan pies and pumpkin pies to classic steak and ale pie: Just browse through our collection of recipes.
What’s your favorite pie to make at home? Let us know in the comments and share any pie questions you still might have!
Published on November 8, 2021