How to Make the Best Pie Crust

This Pie Mama shares the craft of the crust and a fresh cranberry pie recipe.

How to Make the Best Pie Crust| Country Woman Magazine | Love the Country

STEPHEN SCOTT GROSS

Kate McDermott

How to Make the Best Pie Crust| Country Woman Magazine | Love the Country

KATE MCDERMOTT

Kate's little cabin had just enough room for pie making.

How to Make the Best Pie Crust| Country Woman Magazine | Love the CountryHow to Make the Best Pie Crust| Country Woman Magazine | Love the Country

Years ago, I lived in a very little one-room cabin. Nestled in the foothills of the Olympic Mountains just outside Port Angeles, Washington, it was a bit over 300 square feet. With two little ones underfoot, plus my husband, there wasn’t much room for anything but essentials.

The kitchen was along one side of the room and had an oven about half the width of a standard range, with a door that would spontaneously fall open. We solved that little problem rather neatly by using a bungee cord to hold it shut.

Today I live in a sweet little cottage in town, surrounded by a garden full of old roses, lavender, apple trees and herbs. My kitchen is still a tiny one, with a propane cookstove, plus a beautiful red woodstove that I’ve moved from house to house. The woodstove is almost a member of the family.

I’ve loved to bake since I was a little girl. After school, while my mom taught piano lessons, I would come home and get out the mixing bowl and spoons to make cookies, cakes or bread. I took great delight in arranging a pretty table with china, cloth napkins, cutlery and flowers from Mom’s garden. Some of my first attempts were disasters, but others turned out to be pretty darn good.

Those years of experimenting later served me well in baking for my young family, especially after we moved into a larger post-and-beam house that we built just up the hill from the cabin. I loved my big garden, baking counter and—goodbye, bungee cord!—six-burner stove with an oven that could fit six loaves of bread at a time. Pie became a passion 10 years ago, and a two-year exploration of crust ensued. There was lots of experimentation with different flours and fats, ratios and recipes.

Folks say my crust is flaky and delicious; they’re surprised to learn how easy it is to make. Add to that a seasonal fruit filling and it couldn’t be better. And, if it comes from your heart, that pie will be full of love.

Kate’s Pie Tips

  1. If your dough tears, don’t worry. Patch it back together with a little ice water and move on.
  2. Roll the dough only as large as it needs to be, about 11/2 to 2 inches bigger than your pie pan.
  3. If you don’t have a rolling pin, wine bottles or canning jars work just fine, too!

From Kate’s Kitchen

Cranberry Pie

Prep: 30 min.Bake: 40 min. • Makes: 6-8 servings

“This is a wonderful addition to the holiday dessert table and an unusual way to serve fresh cranberries.” —Kate McDermott Port Angeles, WA

  • 1 qt. (4 c.) cranberries, chopped (add some whole berries, too)
  • 11/4 c. sugar
  • 2-3 tsp. cornstarch (there’s a lot of pectin in cranberries, so little thickener is needed)
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 Art of the Pie® double crust recipe (below) or your crust recipe of choice
  1. Put cranberries, sugar, cornstarch, nutmeg and salt in a large bowl and mix well. Set aside.
  2. Roll out bottom crust and place in pie plate.
  3. Put cranberry filling in 9-in. pie plate and dot with butter. Set aside.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk egg white with 1 Tbsp. water. Set aside.
  5. Roll out remaining dough disk and carefully lay top crust over filling.
  6. Trim excess dough, crimp edges of pie and cut some vents in top crust.
  7. Brush crust with egg mixture.
  8. Sprinkle with 1-2 teaspoons of sugar.
  9. Bake on the middle rack of the oven until crust is just golden, about 40 minutes at 375° F. Depending on your oven, it may take more time!

Note: Use a food processor to chop the cranberries quickly. I chop 3 cups of the cranberries and add 1 cup whole for a filling with varied texture.

Art of the Pie® Dough

(enough for 9” double-crust pie)

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup (16 Tbsp.) mix of butter and leaf lard or shortening; for an all-butter crust, use 14 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 8-10 Tbsp. ice water (more or less)
  1. Cut fat into dry ingredients until fat pieces looks like cracker crumbs to almond size.
  2. Add enough water to hold together.
  3. Form into a round ball and then cut in half.
  4. Form the two pieces of dough into chubby discs; wrap in plastic and chill in refrigerator for at least one hour.
  5. Roll out on floured board.

Techniques for Crust: All ingredients should be cold. Use either salted or unsalted butter. Use a light touch and don’t overwork.

Get more of Kate’s pie wisdom at artofthepie.com.

MARIE 1 October 3, 2015 at 2:40 am

Kate, the reason I send this comment is to tell you I’ll try your recipes but most
importantly was the area you lived OLYMPIC MOUNTAINS -the Mountain of Gods-which is just a few hours from where we live and it’s not where you live…
Thank you for sharing!

PS: DO NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SELL OR PUBLISH MY EMAIL ADDRESS. PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Reba Eich 2 October 3, 2015 at 3:40 pm

Dear Kate, I, like you, have spent years looking for the perfect pie crust. I’ve found that using all butter tastes awesome and rich, but the high fat content causes the crust to spatter all over my oven creating a smokey mess. I’ve kinda decided that 1 part butter to 2 parts shortening (I generally use Crisco) is a good ratio to stop the spattering yet have a nice hint of butter in the crust.
Have you found similar problems with all butter, and if you do combine butter with shortening, how much of each do you use?
Thanks for any help you may give me!
Sincerely, Reba Eich

Reply

Monica C Williams 3 October 19, 2015 at 1:19 pm

Hello Kate,

I love to bake too, but trying to get the pie crust just right, seems to be a big problem for me. So I am taking a look at your pie crust and am going to try it out before the holidays, get here. Baking is sort of a meditation process for me, I just get lost in the thick of it all and before you know it the house is smelling so good. I’m most proud of myself when everyone eats the finished product and nothing is left. Thank you for the recipe and have a happy and blessed holiday season.

Blessing,
Monica C Williams

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