When I first moved to Germany a few years back, it took a while to realize the absence of pie. Pie isn’t a thing here. There are the occasional bakeries that profess to sell pies, but any pie-lover can tell you these are not, in fact, pies (much like the “Mexican” food). After a terrible experiment with puff pastry, and my darling German friend bringing me a pre-made “pie crust” from a special “pie shop,” it became clear that if I wanted pie, I was going to have to make it myself. This pie crust recipe is the fruition of two years’ labor in the kitchen, and it is truly divine!
Pie crusts are very finicky, but there are a few tricks. First of all, you MUST have a pastry cutter. They are about 6 dollars on Amazon, so you have no excuse. You will only find these online in Germany, because, as I mentioned above, Germans don’t do pie. Every pie crust I have made sans pastry cutter has been a disaster, so this is imperative. Secondly, you must keep everything cold, cold, cold. If you live in Germany and don’t have an ice cube tray (Germans don’t believe in ice cubes either), you should buy one, they are also pretty cheap and are available at any kitchen store*. You want to handle the dough as little as possible, and make sure to chill and rest your dough according to instructions. Also, I find pre-baking my crusts yields a much crisper bottom, and then I put a little foil shield around the edges when I bake the filling. That way, the top crust doesn’t burn.
I must also add that although many people are butter snobs, and feel that butter crusts are superior in taste, a truly flakey (and ironically buttery) texture is best achieved with vegetable shortening. I use mostly shortening, with a little butter, to give it that nice flavor without compromising on the mouth feel. I hope you enjoy my crust recipe, and make many lovely pies to come!
MEGAN’S PERFECT PIE CRUST
- 1 1/2 cups flour (all purpose or pastry), plus more for dusting
- 1 tbs sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 6 tbs (85 grams) vegetable shortening, (like Crisco or Bisquin) diced and cold
- 3 tbs (42 grams) unsalted butter, diced and cold
- 3 tbs ice water (cold, with actual ice cubes in it)
- 1 tbs white vinegar
- 1 egg, beaten
- Pie weights or a few packages of heavy dry beans (I like white beans)
- Suggested music: Family Guy “The Pie Song”
Heat your oven to 425ºF (or 220ºC). In a large bowl, cut your fats with your dry ingredients. Cut until it resembles bread crumbs. One tbs at a time, add your liquids, continuing to cut until you can gather the dough into a nice ball. Wrap in plastic, and flatten with a rolling pin, and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. You can also just put it in the freezer, and take it out 20 minutes before you make your crust. Often, I make double the recipe, and then I don’t have to make another crust every time I want pie.
Once it is sufficiently chilled, prepare and flour a clean rolling surface, and remember to flour your rolling pin and the top of the dough as well. Roll it out nice and thin, and drape it into your pie dish. Fold a bit over the edges, and crimp it. It may mean that your crust will crumble a bit when you serve the pie, but if you don’t it might shrink a bit, so take your pick…
Make sure it is lining the sides and bottom evenly, you don’t want space betwixt the dish and crust. Then, freeze your crust for about 30 minutes. Remove the crust from the freezer, and pierce the bottom and sides all over with a fork. Next, lightly flour your crust, and line it with baking paper. Pour your pie weights or beans into the dish until it reaches where the filling will be. This is to keep the crust from running amok. Bake for 15 minutes. I like to bake my pie on a cookie sheet to even up the bottom crust, and also to catch any dripping lipids. Your oven will thank you.
Remove your pre-baked crust from the oven, take out the paper and weights, and use an oil brush to paint the egg all over the crust (you won’t use all the egg).
For non-baked pie fillings– put the crust back in the oven for another 10 minutes or so, until the crust on top is brown, and the bottom is nice and crisp looking. Cool completely before adding the filling.
For baked pie fillings- put the crust back in the oven for 5 minutes or so, until the crust is golden brown on top, and the bottom is not yet brown, but not raw looking either. Cool completely before adding the filling. It is advisable to line your top crust with a foil shield (just rip up thin strips), so that it doesn’t burn.
This crust is easy to make vegan, simply leave off the egg wash and use 3 extra tbs vegetable shortening instead of the butter.
*TRUE STORY: On our third date, Mr. S invited me over for a home cooked meal, his delicious Cauliflower Casserole. He happened to know from watching me order ice in restaurants and obsessively chewing it, that I simply had to have my ice cubes. Chewing ice as often and as vigorously as I do is actually a mental disorder called Pica. Anyway, the man unearthed the never-before-used ice cube tray that came with his fridge, and made me ice cubes. Isn’t he the best? The first time his mother came over for dinner and heard me crunching ice, she cringed and whimpered in disgust and confusion. Nevertheless, this Christmas, she was so proud to serve me ice cubes in my drinks, made from some bizarre plastic bag with little bubble pockets contraption.