May 13, 2013

Basic Pie Crust, Real Food Style {A Tutorial in Pictures}

The crust is usually seen as the unhealthy, but delicious part of the pie. But it doesn't have to be this way. With wholesome ingredients the crust can be just as nutritious as any other part of the pie. That is, assuming you are filling the pie with wholesome ingredients.

Making a pie crust at home is practically a lost art. So most people turn to store-bought refrigerated crusts. But these are made with shortening, like Crisco, which is a hydrogenated oil. Hydrogenated oils are the worst kind of oil we can put into our bodies. Our cells need good fats to function properly and these bad fats create brittle, weak cells, which of course effects our bodies on many levels. Some studies link hydrogenated oils to a multitude of modern illnesses. Hydrogenated oils are also known as trans fats, and should not be confused with healthy and natural saturated fats from animals and coconut oil.

I usually use organic palm shortening in my recipe, but butter also works great. Palm shortening is not hydrogenated and is a very healthy, shelf-stable oil. I got mine from Tropical Traditions when they were having a sale. If you get it during free-shipping days, combined with a sale (which they have often), you'll end up only spending as low as $23 for a gallon tub. Spectrum also sells palm shortening at most higher end supermarkets.

Some may have questions as to why I used unbleached all-purpose flour as an option in my recipe. Well, refined, unbleached flour is actually not a modern food, and can be traced thousands of years into the past. Some studies even suggest that white flour is better to use than whole grain flour if you are not planning on soaking or souring the grains (as in authentic sourdough bread making), due to what are known as phytates, or nutrient blockers, that are primarily present in the bran of the grains. My conclusion from my research is that white flour and minimally processed foods containing white flour (like pasta) in moderation can be a part of a healthy diet. We probably eat something with white flour about once a week.

The photo is of a pre-baked pie shell, but this recipe can of course be used for those that require you to bake the pie filling along with the shell.

Basic Pie Crust, Real Food Style

1 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour or whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup organic palm shortening or cold butter
4 to 4 1/2 Tablespoons cold water

In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour and salt. Scoop in the palm shortening. If using cold butter, cut the butter into tiny cubes or very thin slices before adding to the flour. Using two knives or a pastry blender, cut the shortening into the flour as finely as possible (which won't be too small with two knives). Use your fingertips to rub together the largest pieces of fat until the whole mixture resembles coarse crumbs. 

Add 4 tablespoons water and stir. The crumbs should quickly form into a dough that cleans the sides of the bowl without you having to touch it with your hands. If you're stirring it with the spoon and it is looking dry, splash in a little more water. You should not have to mash the dough together to get it all to stick. The correct amount of liquid will accomplish this. This is my secret to a crisp crust that does not fall apart after baking. Also, it is better to have dough that is too wet than too dry. If you accidentally add too much water, just use more flour while rolling the crust out.

Sprinkle some flour on a clean counter. Lightly mold the dough into an even ball, then flatten it into a thick disk.

Lift the disk and sprinkle more flour underneath to prevent sticking. Flip the disk over so you are working with the side that has flour stuck to it.

Using short, outward strokes, roll the dough into a circle. Place your pie plate on top of the circle to see if it is big enough. The circle should be about 1 inch larger than your pie plate.

Sprinkle some flour onto the top of the dough. Carefully fold the dough in half, then in quarters. Place the dough on your pie plate. Carefully unfold. This is my secret to not having the dough tear when you are transferring it to the pie plate.

Fold the edges of the crust under and pinch it together. If it is dry, use a little water as glue. It should mash together easily. If not you will need the water. If some edges are extra long, trim those and glue them to the sides that seem short with a little water.

Work around the pie to make all the edges look even.

Flatten the edge on to the lip of your pie plate.

Using fingers from both hands, pinch together the crust in triangle shapes. This is called fluting. ...Which is hard to demonstrate while taking a picture with one hand! You can also press the edges with a fork.

Smooth any bulging edge portions down onto the side of the crust.

If you do not need a pre-baked shell, proceed from here with your pie filling.

To pre-bake the shell, prick the pie all over with a fork. This will prevent blistering while the pie bakes. Bake the shell at 425 degrees for 7-10 minutes, or until the edges start to turn light brown. Check every minute after the first 7 minutes to make sure it doesn't burn.

Cool for about 10 minutes and fill with your filling of choice!

Preparation time; 20 minutes. Cook time; 10 minutes.

This is my unique pie crust recipe that I've perfected over the years. I usually don't have a problem with people posting my recipes on their own blogs, but in this case, please just link back to my recipe.

{This recipe is linked up at Whole Foods Wednesday,  Wild Crafting Wednesday and Tasty Traditions.}


  1. Beautiful tutorial and I love making homemade crust because it is soooo much tastier. Thanks for sharing with Wildcrafting Wednesday!

  2. This crust is absolutely amazing. I have made it a few times already, and it is by far the best. Thanks for sharing your recipe and method! I've never had such awesome crust!

  3. Is there a way to make the crust without wheat?

  4. Is there a way to make the crust without wheat?

  5. I just made this tonight for a chicken pot-pie (I made 2 crusts). The crust is VERY yummy and the tips were super helpful! Thanks for sharing!

  6. This is a great web site. Good sparkling user interface and very informative blogs. I will be coming back in a bit, thanks for the great article. I have found it enormously useful..happy wheels
    super mario bros

  7. I was working and suddenly I visits your site frequently and recommended it to me to read also. Age Of War 2
    Big Farm | Slitherio
    Tank Trouble | Happy Wheels
    Goodgeme Empire |

  8. I purchased palm shortening for the first time and was ready for my first pie. Googled and found you. I just tried my first piece, blueberry by the way, and it is fabulous! I was nervous, always used Crisco and mom's recipe. I can't wait for the family to try. Thanks! Leslie