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. El

    Do you recommend blind baking the bottom crust of fruit pies? I have a beautiful ceramic pie pan but I’m worried it will still be soggy even after baking it on the bottom rack. Bake everything together or blind bake?

    Also, any tricks to keep your filling from becoming too soggy in extra juicy fruit fillings?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You can if you want to, El, but it’s not always a necessary step. We have just the resources to help you. The first is our blog article on how to make sure your pie crust has a crisp bottom, and the second is our Pie Filling Thickeners guide. Usually, a crust will be soggy because the pan isn’t getting hot enough or there isn’t enough thickener in your filling. Take a look at these two resources and we bet with a couple of tweaks, your pies will be wonderfully crispy without the need to blind bake! Annabelle@KAF

    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

  2. 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
  3. 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

  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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

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