Pie Crust: A Recipe for Life

Sometimes I just need to bake a pie. It makes me feel good. And it tastes good! After the year we’ve had, you may need a simple win. Let me teach you to bake a pie, and you might learn a couple of lessons along the way that you can apply to other parts of your life.

It’s not really an exact recipe, as you’ll see, but with enough practice, you will get the hang of it. It now takes me about 3 minutes to make my dough, and another 3 minutes to roll it out and get it ready to fill. 

First, grab a glass of ice water, and set it aside. Don’t drink it. 

In a large mixing bowl, add 1 cup of flour, plus some. Yes, that’s the amount. A cup, plus some. I achieve the “plus some” by dipping a heaping scoop of flour into my measuring cup, and then flattening out the heap with the back edge of a butter knife, until I get about 1/4 of the way to the edge. There should be a funny shaped lump of flour on the tip of the measuring cup. That’s the “plus some” that you’re looking for.

Next, whisk in 1/2 teaspoon of salt. 

Then, you need your Crisco shortening. The amount for this is 1/3 cup, plus some. I like to use the sticks of shortening with the measurements on the wrapper. I cut 1/3 cup plus about a tablespoon to get my “plus some.” 

For this step, you need a pastry cutter like this one. Use this to cut the shortening into the flour until it’s evenly distributed and there are no more large chunks of shortening. 

Now you need that glass of ice water and a tablespoon. I dip out 3 or 4 tablespoons of cold water into the bowl. Start with 3—you can always add more water but you can’t take it away.

Make sure you remembered to wash your hands at the start of all this, because now you just reach into the bowl and use your hands to mix it up. Incorporate the water into the dough until you get something that feels like play dough. It should be moist but not sticky, and all the flour should be holding together. If you need a tad more water, add a little at a time. Form it into a nice round ball, and smooth out the cracks. Then flatten it into a disc.

Here’s the step you absolutely cannot skip. You’ll want to, because we are always in a hurry. But don’t skip it. Wrap your dough disc in plastic and put it in the refrigerator for one to 24 hours. If you’re really in a pinch, you can freeze it for 20 minutes. But to avoid this pinch, I usually double my dough recipe from the beginning so I always have an extra one on hand in the freezer. They thaw out really quickly. 

After your dough has chilled, bring your kids into the kitchen, and roll it out! I always let them start rolling it out, and I finish it out. You start the rolling pin in the center of the dough and roll away, lift, place it in the center and roll toward you. You don’t go back and forth. (That’s what I used to think!)

Gently lift your dough into your pie plate. Be not discouraged! The dough never really fits into the pie plate. Just play Robin Hood with your pie dough: take dough from the rich side and give it to the poor side. Pinch the added dough into the places where it’s needed until you have somewhat of an even amount all the way around the lip of the pie plate. 

If you have extra dough hanging off the sides, tear it off and let your kids roll it up and use it as play dough. 

Now you roll your edges under the outside, and then pinch it into pretty curves all the way around. There is no wrong way to crimp your edges. Get creative.

If you’ve run into any issues between rolling out your dough and crimping your edges, it’s  time for lesson number one:

An imperfect crust proves that it’s homemade.

Embrace imperfection. How refreshing! For pie crusts, it’s actually more appealing for it to be uneven and a little wonky. Then no one will suspect that you bought this pie.

A beautifully imperfect, obviously homemade crust, soon to become a chocolate cream pie.

After you fill it with whatever filling you choose and bake it (or blind-bake it and then fill it if it’s a cold pie), and it looks…not so good, time to learn lesson number two:

Whipped cream covers any mistake.

No matter how ugly your pie looks, just whip up a batch of whipped cream and smear it on top. It goes with every pie and turns it into a show-stopper.

Whether you need the perfect dessert to bring to all the social gatherings that are soon to come, or you need a project that will give you a sense of accomplishment and pride, or you’re simply hungry for pie, get to baking. I guarantee you will never buy another store bought crust again, and neither will your children. 

I grew up in Dallas, went to college and grad school in the Carolinas (Furman-->Wake Forest) with degrees in art history and ministry/theology. I work for organizations that allow me to do things I care deeply about: advocacy for immigration, public education and religious liberty. We moved to San Antonio in 2012 for my husband to pastor a church here. When we moved here, our two older daughters were babies/toddlers, and we eventually added a third. They are now 5, 8 and 9. We chose to live really close to the church and hit the neighborhood jackpot. I'm a bookworm and always have 2-3 books going at once. I have learned to love good music by osmosis (my husband has great taste!) (my current favs: Brandi Carlile, Lone Bellow), but I'm pretty happy with silence too, since it's hard to come by with small children. We don't have grandparents or immediate family in town, and I'm insanely jealous of those that do. But luckily our friends here have become like family. Favorite Restaurant: El Mirasol Favorite Landmark: Eisenhower Park Favorite San Antonio Tradition: 4th of July neighborhood parade