How to make a bottom pie crust

The perfect pie crust would be crunchy and flaky, yet tender. Ideally, you’d like to make little balls the size of risotto, each one made of fat coated with an equal amount of flour. You’d like to adhere the little balls and roll them out flat without squishing them together, so that each ball rolls into a flat crispy flake. Here we pre-bake the lower pie crust so that it won’t be soggy and uncooked when the pie is finished.

The list of ingredients is in the recipe for your pie project.

In a large bowl, measure out the flour for your crust using measuring cups, or weigh on a scale (preferred).

Add the salt and stir it into the flour.

If your crust project requires sugar or other additions, add them now.

Cut the fat (butter, lard, shortening, or cream cheese, or here, butter-flavored shortening) into pieces and put it into the bowl.

Using your fingers, work the flour into the fat, breaking it into ever smaller pieces, until it has a texture like grainy corn meal.

You can do this step with a food processor, a pastry cutter (dough blender), two opposing table knives, or several other ways. They may seem quicker and easier, but we recommend you just relax and use your fingers, because you really will get the best results. It only takes a few minutes and there’s no equipment to clean up.

Initially add about half of the liquid (water, milk, half-and-half, or here, heavy cream.) Try to drizzle it evenly over the dough.

Be sure your liquid is COLD, or it will melt the fat. If it’s not, put it in the freezer for a few minutes first.

Use a soft spatula to fold the mixture repeatedly to get the liquid to stick the grains together without mashing them. Add more liquid as necessary, but no more than absolutely necessary!

When you think there is enough liquid for the crust to adhere, dump it onto two pieces of wax paper. It’s okay if they aren’t quite exactly the same size; the larger one can be the lower crust.

Form the dough into two discs. If there’s not enough liquid for the discs to hold together, put everything back into the bowl, break it back into pieces, and add a little more.

Wrap the discs in wax paper and chill in the refrigerator.

Wait at least one hour and up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 450° with shelf on center rack or one notch lower.

Get the dough disc for the bottom crust out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature.

Prepare the baking pan with a good coating of butter or shortening.

Place the disc of dough on a floured piece of wax paper. Flour the rolling pin and your hands.

Always roll from the center, back and forth toward you and away from you, turning everything when you need to roll in another direction (instead of trying to roll sideways).

Roll the dough out bigger than the pie dish so there will be enough to go over the sides.

Use the wax paper as support as you gently fold the dough into fourths. Now you can gently pick it up by the folded corner and transfer it to the pan.

If the dough falls apart completely, you didn’t add enough liquid — sorry, you have to start over. If it’s easy to handle, you added too much, and it won’t be tender — fix it next time. If it’s right on the edge, you’ve got it just right.

Place the folded dough with the point in the center of the pie pan and fit it into one quadrant.

Unfold halfway and fit the dough again.

Unfold the dough all the way and press out any bubbles in the bottom, lifting the sides a tiny bit as necessary to let the air out.

Press the sides and top edges of the dough against the pie pan, releasing any bubbles as you go. Repair any rips or holes with some of the excess dough.

Trim excess dough at the edge of the pie pan. I use the dull side of a table knife.

Wrap the leftover dough up in the wax paper and save it for later (see below.)

Clean up the edges with your fingers until smooth all around.

If you just put the pie crust in the oven like this, the middle would bubble up several inches, and there wouldn’t be room for the filling. See the next steps…

Butter one side of a piece of aluminum foil.

Press the foil over the pie crust and smooth it down, wrapping the excess foil over the edges. Add a little more foil if necessary. Fill the foil with ceramic pie weights. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet.

If you don’t have pie weights, empty a bag of red kidney beans into the foil. You can use these more than once if you keep them in a dry place.

This technique is called “blind baking” because you can’t see what you’ve got until you take it out of the oven and it cools.

Bake 18 minutes.

Cool at least 15 minutes on a wire rack.

Remove the pie weights and carefully remove the foil.

Notice that we don’t want it golden brown yet. It’s going to bake again with the rest of the pie. We just want it cooked.

Before you fill the bottom crust, be sure to inspect it for cracks and holes. You don’t want the filling to leak underneath the crust, because that will either make it soggy or put a hard outer layer on it, depending on what leaks. Just save a little dough from before you put it in the oven, press it into dime-sized paper-thin flat discs with your fingers, put them over the holes, and then carefully press and spread them until they cover the hole and interface with the surrounding surface.

Nobody will notice. I promise!

Cool completely on a wire rack.

Now refer to the recipe for your pie for filling instructions…