How to crimp the pie shell
So, you signed up to bring the pecan pie this year and want to wow everyone on Thanksgiving? I got you. Pies are so beautiful, but they can have their own spirit. We’ve all worked tirelessly on a pie just to have a crust on us or not look as good as we hoped. Lucky for you, I’ve made all the mistakes in the book so you don’t have to. Learn from my failures and take these few sacred tips to heart, then read on for four pie crimping techniques that are pretty easy to do for any level of baker. I guarantee you will have awesome pies that no one will believe you made. It’s time to cool that butter!
1. Keep Everything cold anytime
Before we even start talking about techniques, we need to recognize the importance of cold pie crust. Temperature is crucial to maintaining your crimp patterns, so I’m telling you now that you will certainly regret skipping the cool down periods. If at any point you feel your dough heating up, don’t be afraid to take a break and let it sit in the fridge for a few minutes. I was halfway crimping a crust and had to let it cool for 15 minutes before I could continue, that’s okay! Your butter should never heat up or you risk tearing the dough in the process. So have a little patience.
2. Let your dough relax
Start with your favorite pie crust that has already been refrigerated. Spread it out on a lightly floured surface in a large circle. Aim for about 3 “wider than the pie plate you are using to ensure sufficient overhang around the edges. Transfer the dough to your pie plate and very gently (without stretching!) Lift and press the sides into the plate Try to make sure there is no space between the plate and the dough around the edges.
This next part is CRUCIAL. Don’t cut your dough right away. First, let your dough cool in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes. This will let your dough rest after you’ve really worked on the gluten. If you tried to cut the crust at this point, it would reform and start to shrink. This will lead to a crust that will fall off and flow in the oven. You’ve seen this in action if you’ve ever rolled pizza dough that no matter how hard you try to stretch it stubbornly comes back to the same size. All this means that the dough should relax a bit before stretching. I made this mistake a few times before I finally learned and my pies have been better since then.
3. Create a crimp edge
Many people worry about the edges of their pies baking too quickly and burning, but there are ways to avoid this. Now that your dough has relaxed, cut the overhang to about 1/2 “to 1”. Tuck this overhang below so that the edge is now flush with or even slightly above the edge of the pie plate. This double layer creates a stronger crust that doesn’t bake too quickly and will withstand oven heat better to maintain its shape.
Classic Finger Crimp
This is the standard pie crimp that you will see, classic and beautiful. After you have tucked your overhang around the edge, let that edge stand at the sides to give it the height it needs. Take your left index finger on the outside and press towards the middle while your right index finger and thumb pinch from the inside. You can make them as thin or as wide as you want. Go around the entire edge to crimp. Let cool at least 30 minutes before cooking.
This one looks like a slightly raised finger crimp, but doesn’t require more skill. It starts the same way with the edge of the crust folded down below, but still standing upright. Tilt your two index fingers with one on either side of the crust, keeping them parallel to each other. Squeeze the crust between your fingers so that it rises. I like to let the outer finger stay steady while the inner finger really pushes the crust out. Keep your fingers at the same angle as you move along the edge of the crust. Let cool at least 30 minutes before cooking.
Using the things you have on hand is the best tip for creating pretty, cutting edge designs. Tuck the crust underneath, but this time lay the edge flat with the edge of the pie pan. Dip your fork in a little flour and press down on the edge of the crust. I like to go for a crisscross pattern, slightly overlapping where the tips of the teeth go. You can also go straight around the edge, making straight lines from top to bottom. It is important that your crust is very cold for it; otherwise, you risk tearing it up. Apply decent pressure to make sure the indentation is deep so that it will hold while cooking. Let cool for at least 30 minutes before cooking.
Start with the edge folded flat against the edge of the pie plate and dip a spoon in a little flour. With the spoon upside down, press it into the crust on the inner edge, then make a second smaller indentation by moving the spoon to the outer edge. Go all the way around to create a nice scalloped edge. As with the fork method, it is important to keep the dough very cold to avoid tearing it. Let cool at least 30 minutes before cooking.
After cooling, your beautifully crimped pies are ready to be blind baked and filled. Prepare for Instagram-worthy golden edges and be in charge of bringing the pies every year from now on.
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