Double crust pie: tips and tricks for the perfect pie

If one pie crust is terrifying, a double crust can be… twice as terrifying!

Double crust pie via @kingarthurflour

Making pie crust can be scary for many. It certainly was for me. Even up until a few years ago, I would choose to wash every dish at Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner over making the pies for dessert.

My parents don’t have a dishwasher – actually, they do… my hands. Doesn’t it make you shudder? That’s how badly I tried to avoid making pie dough!

I, like most home bakers, learned everything I know from my mama. Mostly through trial and error on my end – and endless patience on her end. This was before YouTube came about, with its limitless supply of informative videos. Now, you can watch – and re-watch – how to make nearly anything, such as a perfectly formed double crust pie, with perfect crimping and a flaky crust.

We here at King Arthur Flour have made A. Lot. Of. Pies.

Seriously.

So, please think of us as part of your family, and let us show-and-tell you some tips and tricks for double pie crust perfection, using our Classic Double Pie Crust recipe.

Double crust pie via @kingarthurflour

We’ve touched bases on the basics of pie making before. Here are our top 3 tips for perfect pie dough:

1) Work half the fat into the flour in pea-sized chunks. Then add the other half of the fat, working it into larger, flat pieces. Those will create delicious, flaky layers when baked.

2) Breathe. Find your pie-making zen place. Over-stressing leads to overworking your dough, which will create a tough crust. Try to keep your hands out of the bowl as much as possible.

3) And keep your ingredients cold! Warm, melty butter is going to give you a greasy, dense pie crust. Cold butter, cold water – heck, you can even keep your flour in the freezer. A little extra insurance, just incase you have extra warm hands or a really warm kitchen.

If you’d like to find out more, there’s no one better to ease your pie dough fears than chef Susan Reid of Sift magazine fame. She introduced me to my favorite pie-making tool: the spray bottle. Check out her Pie, any way you slice it blog to learn more! 

If you happen to be a visual learner, please click and enjoy our newly released video for creating perfect, flaky pie crust!

The butter vs. shortening dilemma:

Some recipes call for all butter, some for all shortening, and some for a 50/50 mix. What’s all the fuss about?

Both shortening and butter work to create a flaky crust. In addition, shortening adds a certain degree of sturdiness to the dough, and butter lends its tasty flavor. When making a double pie crust, we recommend both. Pies made from 100% butter don’t hold their crimped edges as well, and tend to slump a bit when baking. The added shortening ensures your pie looks as pretty as it tastes. PJ’s  Butter vs. Shortening blog post explains this in greater detail.

Double crust pie via @kingarthurflour

Size does matter:

Once your dough is fully combined and before you pat it into a disk to chill in the fridge – STOP. You’d think you could just split the dough in half, right? After all, the top and bottom will use about the same amount.

That’s not the case.

Your bottom crust has to cover both the bottom and sides of the pan, with enough left over to crimp. As for your top? You guessed it. It just needs to cover the top, which takes less dough. Split the dough into 2/3 and 1/3 pieces before chilling. You’ll save yourself from the struggle of trying to roll out insufficient dough for the bottom crust, and being left with excess for the top.

Dough transfer:

One of the scariest parts about a double crust pie? Getting that top crust on without it ripping in half! Here are four different ways to get it done and to make it look easy.

Double crust pie via @kingarthurflour

If you’re feeling totally inspired after reading the above mentioned blogs and watching the videos and wondering what pie to tackle first, you can’t go wrong with a classic apple pie – or even a peach pie, using fresh-from-the-farmer’s-market finds. Make them both! After all, two pies are better than one – just like a double crust pie is better than a single. Especially when made by your own two hands.

Gwen Adams
About

Gwen Adams grew up in northern New Hampshire, on top of a mountain, surrounded by nature and not much else. After graduating from Lyndon State College in 2010, Gwen sought a career that combined her passion for writing with her love of baking. She found ...

comments

  1. Greg

    We love pies in our family. I used to be a butter only person until we tried lard once. Yes, lard. The pie crust was even easier to work with and still produced a flaky crust. We found a wonderful book by a Vermont author, Anne Haynie Collins, called “Vintage Pies”. Her recipes are no fail and have some really interesting stories attached to the recipes. A great book for any pie lover!

    Reply
    1. Renee Leary

      I use lard as well! I love butter but it’s tricky to work with. Shortening is trans fatty acid and unhealthy. Lard makes a flaky and tasty crust that rolls thin.

    2. Susan

      I also highly recommend the Vintage Pies book, by Anne Collins. Crust is so easy to make and the book has interesting recipes for expected and unusual vintage pies. I prefer the lard, but will use half shortening/half butter for vegetarians. I love the fact that I don’t even need to chill the crust before rolling. My “go-to” crust now.

  2. Linda

    I love eating pie but sigh and grumble when i have to make one. I’ve tried literally several dozen pie crust recipes; using vinegar, soda, even vodka.; butter, lard & shortening; food processer, the smear method, all by hand; you name it, i’ve tried it. Martha Stewarts food processor recipe and method has proven to work for me. Thanks for the information. One can never stop learning about pie dough construction!!

    Reply
  3. Bridgid

    Once you master pie crust, it really is “as easy as pie”. I have done the all butter, the all shortening, the 50/50, and the lard. Yep, lard makes an AMAZING pie crust. Tender, flaky, yummy. In fact, lard was THE fat to use in pie crust until Crisco came along. It got a bad rap when Crisco was marketed as the “healthy choice” compared to lard. Funny how it turns out that it is Crisco that causes heart disease, and not lard. Anyway….my go to recipe is Maida Heatter’s French Tart Pastry, which calls for a stick of butter & an egg. You can mix it by hand, in the food processor, or in the stand mixer. It is always perfect.
    Thank you for the tutorial, it is always interesting to learn more about my favorite hobby. Love you at KAF!

    Reply
  4. john ronayne

    I use 2/3rds leaf lard to 1/3rd butter for my fats…cut everything in by hand, no mechanical devises…my pies are excellent

    Reply
  5. Valleri

    I got antsy about fall a couple of weeks ago. I can’t wait for it to get here. So, I decided to make pie dough for the freezer. I used the KAF recipe in The Baker’s Companion. I did a double batch- enough for 4 crusts in my large Cuisinart! Easy as Pie!!! I used one for a crab quiche and froze the other three for later. The crust was flaky, easy to work with, and delicious. Thanks KAF!

    Reply
  6. donna kerr

    I make a great crust with a couple of tricks…..butter and shortning mix or sometimes use lard….
    but if it is dry or not that special feel….Never add more water…water and flour make paste….use oil or a bit of softened butter…and always roll between parchment paper…add only a dusting of flour if need and always butter pie pan….and have it cold also…a friend of mine swears by the vinegar and egg method…which again makes a good crust…just don’t add too much flour in rolling….

    Reply
  7. Linda

    Used your flaky pie crust recipe. I had time one day froze it and made my own black raspberry and rhubarb pie.
    It was the best pie crust ever! Even frozen it was better than my Mom’s who was an expert pie maker. Keep it cold, use water sparely, and handle as little as possible. WONDERFUL

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      The pastry flour is a lower protein content flour (8% protein level) than the pastry flour blend, which has a 10.3% protein level. The pastry flour blend mimics the soft Southern-style pastry flour, making baked goods tender yet not too delicate. It is perfect for making pie crusts that need to support a rich, heavier filling. The pastry flour is better for light, flaky pastries–biscuits, scones, and a softer pie crust is what to expect from this flour. Both are great choices in the world of pastry. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  8. Roxane

    How do I keep the bottom crust from becoming soggy. The bottom crust always looks uncooked and the filling doesn’t firm up. You cut into the pie (Apple) and all the liquid runs out. What am I doing wrong?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Roxane, this is not an uncommon conundrum! However, it’s an easy fix. Try blind baking your crust–pre-bake it filled with pie weights or dried beans–bake it all of the way for cream or custard pies, and just some of the way for other pies. It will help keep it crisp instead of soggy. You can also brush the unbaked crust with an egg white and water mixture. This basically creates a seal between the crust and the pie filling, helping ensure a limited amount of sogginess.
      Happy baking! Bryanna@KAF

  9. PAdams2359

    I can make a delicious pie crust, however, I have found that when making apple pies, if I don’t cook the filling beforehand, I end up with a large air bubble between the filling and the top crust of a 2 crust pie. I make them more than any other because they are my father’s favorite. Any suggestions?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Cooking the apples beforehand is the quickest and easiest way to solve this problem. Other techniques you could try include chopping the apples very thin and arranging them in layers so that there aren’t large air pockets in the filling. Be sure to cut vents in the top crust so the apples can steam and release their moisture, too. I hope that helps! Kye@KAF

  10. Joe Conlon

    I have had great success using combination of lard and butter for the fat and flavored vodka for the liquid. I store the vodka in the freezer until ready to use it. I mix in the food processor and handle the dough as little as possible.

    Reply
  11. Conni Stevens

    When baking my pie crusts (either single or double) I will brush the bottom inside crust with some egg whites & bake for just a few minutes. It keeps the bottom crust from getting to soggy. I do this also when making a recipe for a prebaked crust pie (i.e., cream pies).

    Reply
  12. Anne

    I, too, use a combination of lard and butter as stated by other bakers. My grandmother and mother always did and when I was a young baker I never used it thinking it was horrid for our health and I had stopped using if for several years. After all of the hullabaloo about hydrogenated and flavorless vegetable shortening I have returned to lard and it makes and absolutely lovely and delicious crust.

    Reply
  13. Janice Cook

    To seal bottom crust you say to brush bottom crust with egg whites and water. How much water? You are talking about like apple pies?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Add about 1 tablespoon of water to 1 egg white and mix to combine; this is a basic egg white wash. You can brush it onto the bottom of your pie crust (any kind of pie), and bake it in the oven until the egg is set (8-10 minutes). This is best done in recipes that call for blind baking (or pre-baking) the crust, but you can even try it with fruit pies like apple if you like. Be sure not to bake it for too long initially with these kind of pies, as the full pie will require quite some time in oven and you don’t want it to over brown. Hope that helps! Kye@KAF

  14. gmkjr

    I have had great luck with 1/2 butter, 1/4 crisco, 1/4 lard, but I’ll probably ditch the Crisco after I use up the present can and go 50-50. Lard gives the crust a heartier flavor. I also use a blend of vodka and water, instead of water only. Supposedly, the alcohol doesn’t develop the gluten in the flour, making the crust more tender. Anyway, I have had good success with this method for my one-pie-a-year cooking regimen. I’m going to try the egg wash for my next pumpkin pie.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We can’t say that this is something we’ve ever tried, and we’re not so sure it would work. If you put the top crust on before the filling is cooked and set, it will sink into it, and if you wait to put it on until the filling is set, you’d end up over-cooking the filling in order to cook the top crust. The only possibilities we can envision are decorating the top of a set custard pie with pie-crust cutouts, like we do in this blog article or adding decorative cut-outs just along the edge of the pie before baking, as shown here. If you have success with another method, we’d love to hear about it. Best of luck and happy baking! Mollie@KAF

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