Just when I thought I could have a little bit of time to recover from all the eating I did at my in-laws last week, I woke up this morning to learn that it's NATIONAL PIE DAY.  I can't possibly let this joyous occasion slip by without paying my respects, so I guess my little "diet" will just have to go on hold, at least for another day.  My wife has been asking me for an apple crumble, but she'll just have to wait for National Crumble Day or something because today is all about P-I-E.

To celebrate, here are my top ten tips for making the perfect pie crust.  I'll be honest: I wasn't always a pie guy.  In fact, even after I opened CakeLove, I was pretty intimidated by the process of making pies from scratch.  But once I resolved to face my fears head-on and started practicing in the kitchen, I learned that pies are actually quite doable and even fun to make.  So here are some of my lessons learned (for more tips and recipes, check out my cookbook Pie Love).

  1. Use a standing mixer or food processor: Mixing pie dough by hand is a pain in the you-know-what, so use a standing mixer.  Trust me, once you use one, you'll realize how much easier it is to bake from scratch and you'll never look back.
  2. Size of butter chunks matter: A 1/4- to 1/2-inch dice will incorporate faster and much better than a tablespoon size or larger hunk of butter, so cut the butter smaller.
  3. Don't sift the flour:  I sift flour for cakes, but not for pies.  A pie crust should be dense, and the processor will break the flour up enough for that. Stir to blend the flour, sugar, spices, and salt in a bowl or blend them with the steel blade in a processor or flat paddle in a mixer.
  4. Add the butter all at once: Dropping the butter in a little bit at a time allows for some of it to work too far into the flour.
  5. Don't fully blend in the butter: Keep some large chunks in the dough because these will create pockets of crunch and crispiness during baking.
  6. Slowly drizzle ice water in a thin, steady stream into the work bowl while pulsing the processor or turning the mixer off and on: Get the water in the dough quickly, but without rushing.  Try to keep to the specified amounts, adding 1 extra tablespoon if you're using a mixer.  The water takes time to expand into he flour's starch, transforming the crumbly-looking meal into dough.
  7. Handle the dough as little as possible when rolling it out: You want to avoid unnecessary development of the gluten and warming of the butter with your hands.
  8. Always roll directly away from your body, then rotate the dough: Small turns between each roll help ensure a uniform spread of the dough.
  9. When rolling out the dough into a disk, eliminate cracks on the disk's edge before each roll: This will help reduce the chances you'll end up with a jagged edge. 
  10. Last but not least, don't be discouraged: When it comes to baking, practice really does make perfect.  Trust me, I've made some real duds over the years.  

Happy baking!