How to Brown a Pie Crust

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Practice makes perfect when it comes to pies.
Practice makes perfect when it comes to pies. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

A perfectly baked pie crust is a sought-after technique that once perfected is often passed down from one generation to the next as a family tradition. A family pie crust recipe can sometimes be kept like a closely guarded secret; if you’ve been searching for a good crust-browning technique to no avail, there is hope. Follow these few simple steps to achieve a well-browned pie crust with every pie you bake.

Things You'll Need

  • All-purpose or pastry flour
  • Cold water
  • Fresh lard, vegetable shortening or butter
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • Fork
  • Baking dish
  • Baking sheet

Mix together the four basic pie crust ingredients -- flour, fat, water and salt, according to your recipe. Select all-purpose flour or pastry flour instead of cake flour to ensure you have enough protein to make your crust tender or crisp. If the flour does not have enough protein, it can make the crust soggy or formless.

Choose vegetable shortening, butter or lard for the fat in your crust. Butter will add more flavor to your crust but may not generate as flaky of a crust as shortening or lard will. Fresh lard produces the most flavorful and flaky pie crust; however, a high quality, tasty crust can be made from a combination of half butter and half lard.

Add ice cold water to your fat and flour mixture slowly to achieve the best baking pie crust dough. Add the liquid one tablespoon at a time, tossing it into the mixture after each addition. Throw in 1/8 tsp. of salt at the end to enhance the flavor of your crust.

After rolling out your dough and placing it into your pie dish, place the dish into your refrigerator for 20-30 minutes to prevent shrinkage during baking. While your dish is cooling, preheat a baking sheet in your oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the crust from the refrigerator and poke the bottom and sides with a fork to prevent air pockets from forming during baking.

Line your crust with two sheets of aluminum foil and fill it with one pound of dry beans. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, place the foil-lined crust on the preheated baking sheet and turn down the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Prebake the pie crust for 10-12 minutes in the oven. Pull the pie crust out, remove the foil and beans and fill the crust according to your recipe.

Place the pie back into the oven and set the temperature according to your recipe. Bake pies without a top crust just until the bottom begins to change color, for about six to eight minutes. Bake a refrigerated cream pie for about 21-23 minutes until the entire crust changes color.

Do not prebake double crust pies as these types of pie crusts need to cook together to seal properly. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit with a baking sheet inside. Poke a few holes in the top crust with a fork to allow air to escape during cooking and place your double crust pie on the baking sheet in the oven. Bake the pie until the bottom crust starts to brown, about six to eight minutes. Use a glass pie pan to make it easy to tell when your bottom crust is beginning to brown. When fixing a quiche, brush the top crust with egg whites when it is almost finished baking and put it back in the oven for three additional minutes. Cool your pie on the counter for two hours before serving if it's custard-filled and four hours if it's fruit-filled.

Tips & Warnings

  • Keep all the ingredients cold for your crust up until use. Refrigerate lard, butter and shortening and add only cold liquids. Place flour in the refrigerator the night before or at least 30 minutes before you make your dough.
  • If you own a pizza baking stone, place it beneath your baking sheet when you cook a double crust pie. The stone will help ensure the bottom crust cooks as evenly as the top.

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