10-double crust pie tips and tricks


Baking is my first love and, although I’ve been baking cakes, cookies and even bread successfully since I was a kid, double crust pies used to be my nemesis.

The filling was often too runny; the bottom crust was sometimes soggy and my top crusts sometimes ballooned up during baking only to collapse when the pie was cut. Worst of all, the edges of my pies were rarely pretty unless I made a cardboard textured crust. All sad but true facts from my tortured past (like all artists, we bakers suffer!).

Over the years I’ve worked on my pie-making techniques by practicing, reading and quizzing professional bakers. I’ve learned a lot of important lessons and now, about 95% of the time, I make damn fine pies.

Shortcut your way to pie making success with these tips, gleaned on my journey from pie shame to pie pride:
1. Because I have warm hands, I use a food processor to make pie crust so that I handle the dough as little as possible.

2. If a pastry recipe says you can use all-purpose flour or cake and pastry flour, I use the all-purpose. It’s easier to roll and move than C&P based pastry.

3. I like to use a tapered rolling pin instead of one with handles. It’s easier to roll the dough to an even thickness. I also find my wrists get less fatigued when making a lot of pies if I use this type of rolling pin. I had a marble rolling pin which is prized for being cooler than wood but it was so heavy that it compressed the fat and flour so the resulting crust was not as flaky as it should be.

4. When making a big pie (over 9-inches/23 cm) in diametre, I like to roll the dough out on waxed paper so that it has support when being moved. In fact, I often roll the top portion of dough on waxed paper and then transfer it to the refrigerator to rest. Then I roll out the bottom crust, line the pie plate and place the lined plate in the refrigerator while I prepare the filling.

5. Although I’m still not the world’s best crimper, I’ve learned to roll out enough dough so that there is ample overhanging dough to make a pretty edge.

6. If using frozen fruit, thaw completely before using and drain off all liquid. If you want to use these juices, reduce them in a saucepan or thicken them with cornstarch before stirring them back into the filling mixture.

7. Cut lots of little vent holes in the top crust instead of several larger vent holes to prevent the crust from rising and forming air pockets as the pie bakes.

8. Always bake pies on the very lowest oven rack so that the bottom crust is exposed to the highest heat possible. (I’ve tried cooking pies on a preheated pizza stone and it works quite well, by the way).

9. I always use a glass pie plate so that I can lift up my pie and check to see if the bottom crust is golden. If it isn’t, the pie bakes longer no matter what the recipe says.

10. Always bake fruit pies until the juices are bubbling. They don’t have to bubble over like my apple pie posted above but they must be boiling for the juices to thicken.

Have you ever had a pie making disappointment? If not, what tips can you share that ensure your pastry prowess?

Also:  Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers!  I hope you enjoy a wonderful meal with people you love to be with!

25 Responses to 10-double crust pie tips and tricks

  1. Terry says:

    I love the idea of using a glass pie plate so you can see the bottom. I’m almost embarrassed to say that I would never have thought of that but have now firmly adopted it. I seldom make pies so when I do, everyone is so appreciative that they don’t notice my lack of skill, lol. Maybe my next attempt will be better with your tips.

  2. danamccauley says:

    Good luck Terry! For pies, practice does actually make perfect, I found.

  3. Rosa says:

    Thanks for the tips! Generally, the filling is too runny, so I always make sure to coat the fruits with enough cornstarch.



  4. Thanks for posting tips and tricks. i too face problems while preparing pie.
    Your post has been more helpful.


  5. Cheryl A says:

    Great tips. I never thought to lower the oven rack, but that makes perfect sense.

    My lesson learned: If you want to crimp the edge, trim the excess overhang to a reasonable length before crimping. I’ve fallen victim to giant edges because I rolled over the bottom crust on the top crust, then crimped. This is fine if you are confident in the flakiness of your pastry – the edges will be prized. If your crust is less than flaky, however, this can create a thick, undercooked, and rough hunk of dough on a perfectly good piece of pie.

  6. My “cheat” for any fruit pie is to dot the fruit filling with tiny cubes of icy cold butter. (maybe 2-3 tablespoons) If the filling is loose and liquidy, it firms it up. If fruit is hard or too tart, butter softens and mellows it up. Thanks for the practical breakdown for making fab pies!

  7. Great tips. Glass pie plates are the norm for me, too. However, I have never made a double crust pie because they’ve got too much pastry for me. I opt for lattice whenever a recipe calls for a top crust.

  8. feride says:

    Great tricks! Thank you! I too use glass pies plates for my pies.

  9. Candace says:

    Pies are my nemesis too! Like you… A professionally trained chef that was terrified of pies. I still don’t care much for them… give me a tart or galette ANY day over a pie, but I’ve begun to make my peace with pies!

  10. Cheryl says:

    Oh, Dana, having just lost a massive pecan-pie throwdown, I’m quite sure that you don’t want any pie commentary from me. Yours looks fabulous, though. Sigh.

  11. Elra says:

    That is really great tips, Dana, and oh… I always think of glass pie plate is a bad idea, Now I know, also make sense since you can take a peek for the bottom crust.
    Thank you, such a perfect timing. Thursday is the Thanksgiving day here in the U.S. So, this post is really help.

  12. […] Go here to see the original: 10-double crust pie tips and tricks « Dana McCauley’s bfood/b blog […]

  13. Potato Chef says:

    You sure know a lot about how to make pie crust.

    Dana, do you have a good recipe for a pot pie crust? I am trying to put together a garlic potato/chicken pot pie recipe and want it to be outstanding. Would appreciate it if you had one or could direct me to one.

  14. Jackie says:

    Please help! I’d appreciate your advice…
    I need to cook double crust chicken pot pies for the freezer and don’t know whether I should bake the bottom crust first or leave it raw?
    Please also advise at what temperature and for how long individual pot pies should be baked from frozen. I’d appreciate your input. Thanks.

  15. danamccauley says:

    Hi Jackie,

    I think that the most common practice is likely to freeze the entire pie raw. But, I think blind baking the bottom crust just to the point of removing the pie weights is the way I’d go. That way the bottom crust will have some flakiness to it even if the filling is quite wet.

    Let me know how your pies turn out – I’ll be very curious to hear what you do and how it works!


  16. danamccauley says:

    Potato Chef:

    I don’t often make pot pies but in my opinion, the flakier the better! That’s why I like lard crust brushed with egg yolk when I do make a pot pie crust. Try the one on the Tenderflake lard package. I find it’s quite good, albeit not as rich as some.

  17. Judy Zuckerman says:

    Thank you so much Dana. My situation is same as yours. Love to bake. Pie making just doesn’t come to me naturally. Never made a pie like my Mom’s. I have warm hands too. Now I know it’s okay to use the food processor. My Mom always made me feel I wasn’t doing it right unless I used a pastry cutter. She had icy hands. She made great pie crust. She died 2 years ago at 95. Yes, I was very fortunate to have her so long. Every couple of years I take a stab at making an apple pie. It doesn’t come out bad, but I want a great one. It’s all about the crust. Your photo looks more like my mom’s. I’m going to try again. I’m bringing pies to my friend for Thanksgiving. I’ll bake the apple pie. Thanks so much. Judy

  18. adrian says:

    #7 got me – I suddenly remembered that, when I was a kid, my Mum had me make vent holes in the crust with a fork, when she made pie. Even convinced me that I did it better than her, which, of course, made me want to do it more. Smart woman… (and awesome pies – apple and blackberry.)

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