Of all the wonderful foods to make during the Thanksgiving season, pumpkin pie surely stands out. And, like any good pie, it all starts with the crust. Follow our 10 tips for a flaky pie crust, and people will be sure to leave room for dessert.
1. Keep all ingredients cold to inhibit the development of gluten in the flour. Use butter right out of the refrigerator and add ice-cold water to the dough.
2. Use the least amount of water possible, just enough to make the pie crust hold together. The recipe usually gives a range for the amount of water – start with the least amount.
3. If the recipe does not call for it, add an egg yolk. This adds more fat, as well as natural lecithin, which makes the dough pliable and easier to handle.
4. If the recipe does not call for it, add some acid, about 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar. Acid interferes with the elasticity of the gluten and makes the crust more tender.
5. Do not over-handle the pie crust; overworking develops the gluten and toughens the dough. It’s okay to see flakes of yellow from the butter and egg yolk. Also, when working the dough, use your fingertips instead of the warmer palms of the hand.
6. When ready to roll out the dough, lightly flour the countertop or other surface (pastry cloth, silicone rolling mat, parchment or waxed paper). Position the rolling pin in the center of the disk of pie crust dough. First, imagine a face of a clock, roll away from you toward the 12 o’clock position, easing the pressure as you near the edge to keep it from becoming too thin. Return the rolling pin to the center and roll toward the 6 o’clock position. Repeat rolling toward 3 o’clock and then toward 9 o’clock. Continue this process until the dough reaches the diameter needed for your pie pan.
7. If the pie crust is soft, chill about 30 minutes. Flatten the pastry disk, wrap and chill. Roll out pie crust on a lightly floured cutting board or roll out dough between two sheets of waxed paper. Lift paper and crust into the pie pan and gently peel the paper off.
8. Use a heat-resistant glass pie pan for the flakiest results.
9. Follow baking instructions. Bake the pie in the lower third of the oven. Generally, bake the pie at 425° for 15 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 350° and bake until the filling is cooked through, about 30 to 35 minutes more. Insert a knife tip to test if the pie is done.
10. To prevent excess browning of the edges during baking, cover the pie edge with a 2- to 3-inch wide strip of aluminum foil, and mold lightly around the edge of the pie. Bake as directed, removing the aluminum foil 15 minutes before the end of the baking time. If pre-baking ("blind baking") a pie crust making a cream pie, line the unbaked crust with foil or parchment paper and fill it with pie weights, dried beans or rice. Bake until the edge just begins to color. Remove the weights and carefully prick the bottom and sides with a fork to prevent air bubbles.
They say that to make a good pie, you have to start at the bottom. With these tips, your pumpkin pie just may give the turkey a run for the money.