Traditional Pie Crust Tips

Traditional Pie Crust Tips
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pie crustTraditional pie crust can be a bit tricky to master, and those cooks who do are admired by friends and family. I looked to my vintage cookbooks for advice on how to make that perfect crust and found it’s not difficult or time consuming, as long as the instructions are followed exactly.

This can be hard for cooks like myself that love to add a bit of this, and a bit of that when cooking, but some recipes are more exact, including pie crust.

The first tips come from All About Home Baking, published in 1933 and my favorite baking tip source. In bold print comes their most important tip:

"Use cold ingredients and handle as little as possible."

This seems simplistic, but it's an important because if the ingredients aren't the temperature called for in the recipe, such as "cold butter", they won't mix properly, resulting in a poor crust. As far as handling the dough, it can make the difference between a light crust and a heavy crust. This also applies to biscuits and scones. Follow the instructions for each recipe to the letter. All About Home Baking gives us more advice:

-If the pastry sticks when rolling, loosen with a spatula and dust the board lightly with flour.

-For a two-crust pie, roll the pastry 2 inches larger than the pie pan; for a pie shell with a fluted rim, allow another 2 inches.

-Roll the pastry with a "light springy touch". In other words, don't use a heavy hand when rolling the dough.

This first recipe is a basic, traditional pie crust.

Pie Crust

2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup cold shortening
1/3 cup cold water (approx.)

Sift flour once, measure, add salt, and sift again. Cut in shortening until pieces are about the size of small peas. Add water (ice water works well), a small amount at a time, mixing lightly with fork only enough to make flour hold together. Continue until all flour is mixed in separate portions, neither sticky nor crumbly. Handle as little as possible. Wrap in waxed paper, press together, flattening slightly, and chill thoroughly before rolling. Roll out on slightly floured board. Bake in hot oven (450 degrees F.) for 15 minutes. This makes enough for one 9 inch two-crust pie, or 15 3 1/2 inch tart shells. Use 1/2 recipe for one pie shell.

The Home Comfort Cook Book, published in 1948 has another good recipe for a quick, easy pie crust with variations that I love. Note that I have made changes to clarify the instructions from the original. This crust can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week before using.

Hot Water Pie Crust

1/2 cup shortening
1/4 cup boiling water
1 1/4 cups sifted flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Pour the boiling water over shortening and beat until mixture is cold and creamy. Sift dry ingredients together. Add to the shortening mixture stirring until a smooth ball is formed. Cover dough and chill until firm. Roll out and bake as for regular pie crust. Makes enough for a two-crust pie.


Cheese crust: Prepare crust as directed but to the portion saved out for the top crust; add 1/2 cup grated cheese. Good with apple pie.

Spiced crust: Add to sifted ingredients for the pie dough: 2 tbsp. powdered sugar and 1/8 tsp. each cinnamon and nutmeg. (Or any spice such as ground ginger, apple pie spice, pumpkin pie spice etc.)

Nut Crust: Add 1/2 cup any finely ground nut meats to dough. Black walnuts are especially good with pumpkin pie.

Lemon Crust: Instead of all water use 2 tbsp. lemon juice and 2 tbsp. or more water in making dough. Add to sifted ingredients: 1 tsp. grated lemon rind and 1/2 tbsp. sugar.

Orange Crust: Use all orange juice instead of water in making dough. To sifted ingredients add 1/2 tsp. grated orange rind and 1 tbsp. sugar.

The ingredients to make your own pie crust can be kept in the pantry; ready to assemble when the need arises, rather than having to run to the grocery store to buy frozen crust. The ingredients are inexpensive, making it easy to start over if a mistake is made, and we all know practice makes perfect.


About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at


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