There is pastry greatness within you
EC: Stop Screwing Up Your Pie Crust
Credit: Photo by Philippe Desnerck via Getty Images

A quiche is like a frittata with a bit more pedigree and a lot more butterfat. You begin with a rich pie dough, then fill it to the brim with chopped meats, sautéed vegetables, mixed herbs and generous (and I do mean generous) amounts of shredded cheese. Next you whisk a couple of eggs with a few cups of half-and-half, pour it all over the filling, hit it up with a few cracks of fresh black pepper, pop it in the oven for about a half an hour and you’ve got a lovely start to a Sunday morning. Sundays are both for the Lord and for quiche.

Making quiche really is that simple, but recipes always make it seem so fussy and difficult, and 99 percent of that stems from making pie dough. It’s one of those recipes that you can only be really good at making if you do it a lot, and while there are people out there who are really into pie-making, it’s not most of you.

If you’re a novice you’ll be utterly confounded when it comes to figuring out how much water to add to the pie dough, or stress about keeping your butter cold enough, or learning how to roll out the dough and keeping it in one even piece. Then there’s the whole cleaning off the entire counter just to end up getting flour everywhere. It’s seriously such an ordeal that no one could blame you for skipping it for cornflakes. So let’s fix all this mess and make a perfect pie crust, shall we?

Problem: Adding liquid

Most pie dough recipes begin by telling you to cut together your butter and flour, and then to add ice water a bit at a time until it “looks right” before chilling it for an hour. It’s an inaccurate measurement because it depends on a lot of environmental variables like humidity, and it’s not supposed to “look right” until resting is complete and the dough has hydrated. You will always add either too much, or not enough liquid, unless you know what you’re looking for. Which you don’t.

If you don’t feel like making 100 experimental batches of pie dough until you find your sweet spot, there’s a better, and much smarter option: find a different recipe. There are pie doughs out there that eschew “mystery water” for precise values of cream cheese, sour cream, Greek yogurt, and they all taste incredible.

Problem: Sticky dough

First, make sure the oven is off. You need everything to be cold: the room, the counter, the dough. Keeping the butter from melting will keep everything in tip top shape.

To keep your dough from sticking to the counter, gently rotate it after each time you go over it with the pin. If it won’t turn, carefully lift it up, using a spatula if needed, and throw a bit more flour on the counter. After a few times your dough will become non-stick.

Problem: The dough cracked

If it’s cracking a lot, fold it over itself and knead it a few times with a bit of water, then let it chill again for about 10 minutes. Otherwise, just pinch it together with some wet fingers and keep on rolling. It’ll all work out. Besides, the crust is on the bottom and no one will see it.

Problem: Moving the dough

This is where everything gets scary like a magician ripping a cloth from a table, but is far easier than you think. First, give your dough a little twist to double check it isn’t sticking. Then gently fold it into quarters and lift it up. Place the point into the center of your pie dish and unfold. Voila, all done.

Problem: Greasy crust

This happened because you tried to bake the dough immediately after you rolled it out. You’ve been so patient and then you blew it at the last moment, because you couldn’t wait and now all your soft butter just poured out of your handcrafted crust. From now on, pop it in the freezer for at least 20 minutes before baking to get that dough nice and hard, which will let it set up in the oven before the butter melts and transforms it from awkward dough blob into flaky joy.