Pumpkin Pie & Good Basic Pie Crust

Pumpkin Pie is a must for Thanksgiving at my house.

Pumpkin Pie is also a must for breakfast the day after Thanksgiving at my house.

Let’s talk about pies. Do I make the world’s most beautiful pie crust? Nope. (Don’t let those fancy leaves fool you.)

Do I make a pie crust that tastes great and holds the filling of the pie just fine? Yes.

Pie crust is one of those things with a bit of a learning curve. The more you make them, the easier they seem, and the more confident you become.

A few things to remember:

#1 – You can almost always fix small tears, imperfections, or other pie crust problems.

#2 – If all else fails, you can re-roll a pie crust (even though others will tell you not to) and it will be just fine.

#3 – If stress over the crust is the deal breaker between you making a pie or not making a pie, buy a store bought pie crust and make your own filling. You can even buy a crust that you “roll out” into your own pie pan and no one need ever know.

So let’s do this pie thing!

Here’s what you need:

For the crust:  Flour, Sugar, Salt, Butter, Shortening, and Ice Water.

Click here for a Good Basic Pie Crust Shopping List

For the filling:  Pumpkin, Evaporated Milk, Eggs, Sugar, Vanilla, Orange Juice, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ground Ginger, and Ground Cloves.

Click here for a Pumpkin Pie Shopping List

Pie crust is much easier if you have a food processor. It makes things go much quicker but you can always make pie crust using a pastry blender, 2 forks, or even your fingers.

Place 2 1/2 cups of flour into the bowl of a food processor. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of sugar and pulse to combine.

For pie crust to be flaky, you need super cold butter and shortening. I measure out my shortening and then put it in the fridge for at least 20 minutes to chill. I like the butter/shortening combo because you get all the flavor of the butter but the addition of the shortening makes the crust a bit easier to handle and roll out.

Cut 1 stick (1/2 cup)butter into small pieces and add it and 1/2 cup of cold shortening to the food processor. Using the pulse feature, pulse the processor about 10 times to break the butter up into small pieces.

You can see small pea sized lumps of butter which is perfect for pie crust. You want little clumps of butter that will melt and explode in the crust as it is baking. If you over mix and pulverize the butter, you will have tough crust.

With pie crust, the less you work and mess with the crust, the better.

The other secret to good crust is to use super cold ice water. I like to fill a measuring cup with ice and water and let it chill. Then when I’m ready to make the crust, I take out the cubes and measure out 1/2 cup of cold water.

Add half or 1/4 cup of the ice water to the dough mixture.

Pulse or mix the dough together about 6-8 more pulses or until the dough begins to hold together.

Test with your fingers…if it is more crumbly and dry as seen here, add more water 1 Tablespoon at a time and continue to pulse to combine. In total, I used 1/4 cup water + 2 Tablespoons more water.

As you can see, after adding just 2 more Tablespoons of water, my crust is holding together nicely when I squish it with my fingers. This should still be quite crumbly. This is NOT dough you want to come together in a ball.

Dump your crumbly pie crust dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and use your hands to gather it up into a ball. Don’t knead it like bread, just press all the crumbs together.

This makes enough for 2 single pies (bottom crust only) or 1 double pie (top and bottom) crusts.

Divide the dough ball in half and gently flatten each half into a round, thick disc. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 20 minutes to get a good chill.

You can make this ahead and refrigerate it longer (even a couple of days) or also put the wrapped discs in a zipper bag and freeze them for a few months.

When you’re ready to make the pie, take the dough out of the refrigerator and place it on a lightly floured work surface. Sprinkle a little flour on top of the dough and then turn it over to flour the other side.

If your dough is really cold, let it warm up just a bit to keep it from tearing. As you can see in the photo below, when I started to roll out my dough, big cracks started happening at the edges. If this happens, just let the dough rest about 5 more minutes to warm up, reshape it back into a disc with your fingers and try again.

A couple of hints about rolling out crust:

#1 – be sure you have a nice light coating of flour on the counter or work surface, on the dough, and on the rolling pin.

#2 – don’t roll back and forth…start in the middle of the crust and roll in one direction OUT toward the edges.

#3 – don’t be afraid to pick the crust up, move it around on the board, turn it over, etc. That will ensure that your crust doesn’t stick.

Roll the crust out, trying to keep it in somewhat of a circular shape, so that it measures 2-3 inches bigger than your pie pan.

To move the crust from the board to the pan, roll it up loosely on your rolling pin and then transfer it over and unroll it on your pie plate.

Gently coax the dough down into the bottom of the dish and up the edges. No need to press it firmly in there…just allow the dough to settle. Repair any small cracks or holes in the dough. Remind yourself that this is the BOTTOM of the pie and the part that no one will see or care about.

For the edge of the pie you have a couple of options. You can do the finger pinch raised edge method by using two fingers to pinch the dough together and one finger on the opposite side to push the dough upward.

Sorry I don’t have a good pinching technique photo…I only have 2 hands and my kitchen assistants of the day do not have opposable thumbs.

OR if the pinching method isn’t your style, you can go plain and simple and trim around the edge with a sharp knife making a clean cut. Some people like to crimp this edge with a fork.

OR you can get all artsy fartsy with some cute little seasonal cookie cutters. More on this after we make the filling.

Remember the pumpkin filling ingredients?

I’m using pie dough that I took out of the freezer. Allow the frozen dough to thaw for a day in the refrigerator and then take it out for 5 to 10 minutes to warm up while you make the pumpkin pie filling.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Break 2 eggs into a large bowl and give them a quick whisk to break up the yolks.

Add all the other ingredients…1 (15 ounce) can of pumpkin, 1 (12 ounce) can of evaporated milk,

and 2/3 cup sugar.

Season it with 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves.

Add 1 teaspoon of real vanilla extract.

This is my grandmother’s recipe and she always added 1 Tablespoon of orange juice. It’s the secret ingredient!

Whisk the filling together until it is smooth and lump free. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl as the spices tend to stick to the sides.

I love these little leaf cookie cutters. Now you can find them in stars, hearts, circles, cats, you name it. You can go crazy decorating your pies for all occasions!

Pour the pumpkin filling into the pie crust and then add the little leaves around the edge. I dip my finger tip in water and use it as a bit of glue to get the leaves to stick.

I bake my pie on a sheet pan just to make life easier and less sloshy moving it from the counter to the oven.

Bake the pie for 15 minutes at 375 degrees, then turn the oven DOWN to 325 and bake for an additional 50-60 minutes.

The cooking time will vary depending on how deep your pie pan is. Lowering the temperature takes longer to bake but it keeps you from incinerating the crust.

The pie is done when the crust is golden brown and when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Look at the cute leaf edge. You can make this a day ahead, cover lightly with foil, and refrigerate until the big day.

Don’t forget the whipped cream!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here’s the recipe:

Good Basic Pie Crust

Pumpkin Pie

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5 Responses

  1. I’ve tried some of these more complicated recipes but end up going back to my simple recipe from an old cookbook: 2 cups flour, 1 tsp. salt, cut in 2/3 cup shortening, and stir in (with a fork) approx. 7 tsp. cold water. Then again, my husband taught me how to make crust and roll it out. Since I am not big on measuring carefully, sometimes my crust turns out just “okay” and occasionally it is terrific. I do a 2-handed crimp… it’s probably a total cheater’s way to do it, but it works for me.
    Pie crust cookies are my dh’s favorite!

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