Last week I shared (nearly) everything I know about mixing pie dough for an all butter pie crust and now it’s time to talk about the next step – how to roll out pie dough.
There is one overarching theme in every aspect of pie baking: the importance of practice. The best way to learn how to roll out pie dough is to practice. However, most of us do not have the time to bake pies every day so I have put together all of my best tricks and tips to help you succeed when the opportunity to roll out pie dough comes along.
The other thing to remember is that no pie will ever be perfect and it shouldn’t be. It’s okay if your dough does not roll out into a perfect circle, if part of your crimp unravels, or if a small portion of your dough shrinks and slumps down. Once you slice the pie, no one will ever know. Trust me, I’ve served plenty of imperfect pies and have never once heard a complaint.
So, let’s continue getting of the fear of making pie dough at home and start learning how to roll out pie dough. Here we go…
How to Roll Out Pie Dough
This tutorial can essentially be used to learn how to roll out any pie dough. However, I recommend reading the first post in this series before getting started. You can find that post here: All Butter Pie Crust – Part 1: Mixing the Dough.
Pie Plate – the best all-purpose pie plate is the classic 9-inch glass version from Pyrex. I also use ceramic and disposable aluminum plates depending on what I am doing. When buying pie plates, beware of the size variations or the deep dish versions which can cause you to be short on crust. No matter what, be sure your plate has a nice rim around the edge to hold up the edge of the crust (AVOID plates with a thin rim like these). I tend to keep a stack of disposable aluminum pans on hand for baking pies to give away or when I am taking them to a party or event.
Rolling Pin – Rolling pins can be a matter of preference but I tend not to be too picky. However, if I am recommending a rolling pin I think that a French-style tapered pin (such as this one from Ateco) is the easiest to use and gives you the most control.
Bench Scraper – a great tool to help you lift up the dough if it starts to stick and also great for helping with counter clean up. I prefer a 6-inch scraper such as this one from Fat Daddio’s.
Silicone Rolling Mat – My apartment kitchen does not have a good surface for rolling out pie dough so I rely on silicone rolling mats. I especially prefer the versions such as this rolling mat that have measurements printed on them.
Kitchen Shears – used for trimming the crust after fitting it to the pie plate. Try to find something easy to clean such as this version from OXO.
Pastry Brush – essential for brushing away excess flour before fitting the dough to the pie plate. I recommend a fine-bristled silicone brush such as this version from OXO.
Pie Weights – these are used to give support and structure when blind baking a crust. There are many types of pie weights and ceramic pie beads on the market, but I prefer to use dried pinto beans bought at the grocery store. Not only are they cheap but they do the best job. It takes about 3.5 pounds of pinto beans to fill a 9-inch pie plate to the top. You can reuse them countless times for blind baking but they can no longer be used for cooking after spending time in the oven.
Plastic Wrap – any plastic wrap will work but I prefer the large commercial rolls of Kirkland Brand sold at Costco. Trust me, give it a try and you’ll never go back to regular plastic wrap again.
Parchment Paper – any parchment paper will work but pre-cut sheets will make your life so much easier.
Waking Up the Dough
At this point, the dough should have spent at least one hour (ideally longer) in the refrigerator and will be thoroughly chilled. We want to keep the dough cool but warm it up enough to make rolling it out easier.
You can let it rest on the counter for a few minutes but the best method is to use your rolling pin to give it a few thumps. Kate McDermott of Art of the Pie perfectly explains this process as, “waking up the dough.”
Leave the dough in the plastic wrap and use your rolling pin to smack the disk a few times. This warms it up a bit and makes it pliable and flexible.
Give it a few thumps and then turn the dough and smack it again. This also enlarges the dough disk and starts the work of rolling it out.
Pick up the disk of dough in your hands and bend it back and forth. If it is pliable and flexible, you are ready to start rolling. If the dough cracks or crumbles when you bend it, you need to hit it a few more times until it is flexible.
Rolling the Dough
Unwrap the dough and place it in the center of a lightly floured work surface. Sprinkle the top of the dough and your rolling pin with a bit more flour to prevent sticking.
In order to roll the dough out into a circle, we will give the dough a 1/8 turn in between every pass with the rolling pin. Many recipes call for a 1/4 turn, but I’ve found that the 1/8 turn works better to help me keep the circular shape. When you’re rolling, it can be difficult to distinguish between 1/4 and 1/8 so I make marks on my work surface to help me stay on track.
In the excess flour, use your finger to make marks at 12 o’clock, 3 o’clock, 6 o’clock, and 9 o’clock. Then, make marks in between each of these quadrants.
There are a few tricks to keep in mind before you start rolling –
1. Never roll over the edges of the dough. With each pass of the rolling pin, roll almost to the edge but stop about 1/4-inch before going over.
2. Always rotate your dough in the same direction between rolls with the pin. I always turn my dough 1/8 turn clockwise, taking the section that was at 12 o’clock and placing it down between 1 o’clock and 2 o’clock.
3. Only roll in one direction. You don’t want any back and forth or side to side rolling. You will always be rolling in singular strokes towards 12 o’clock.
To start rolling out the pie dough, place your rolling pin in the center of the disk of dough and use your body weight (but not too much) to press straight forward and roll the pin towards 12 o’clock. Lift the pin up 1/4-inch before the edge and place it back on the table.
Once you make one pass with the rolling pin, lift up the dough and rotate it 1/8 turn clockwise.
In order words, the section of dough that was facing 12 o’clock will now be facing somewhere between 1 o’clock and 2 o’clock. If you make marks in the flour, it becomes mindless and makes it much easier.
After rotating the dough, pick up the rolling pin, place it in the center of the dough and roll forward until you reach 1/4 inch before the edge. Pick up the dough, spin it 1/8 turn clockwise, and continue.
You will continue this process of making singular strokes in the same direction followed by 1/8 turns clockwise until the dough is the about 1/8-inch thick.
If the dough starts to stick, be sure to sprinkle a bit more flour in the sticky spots or on your rolling pin. If you work slowly, you may find the dough becoming too soft and difficult to roll. You can always place it in the refrigerator to chill for a few minutes.
It’s okay if your dough is not a perfect circle. Once you get it in the pie plate, it doesn’t matter. Having the dough in a generally circular shape just makes fitting it into the pie plate much easier.
Once your dough is rolled out to about the desired size and about 1/8-inch thick, check to see if there are any thicker areas. You can now do some ‘precision rolling’ and focus on the areas that may be a little thick or a little short of dough. This is the only time you won’t be rolling directly towards 12 o’clock.
To check size, place your pie plate in the center of the dough. Look and see if there are any spots that are short and try to roll them out a little larger.
As a general rule, your dough should be about 2-3 inches larger than your pie plate. So, if you are using a 9-inch pie plate, you want your dough rolled out to a 12-inch diameter. This gives you 9 inches to cover the bottom, an inch for each side, and a little bit of breathing room.
You can use a small tape measure to check the size or but I recommend the handy rolling mats that have the measurements on them.
Different bakers prefer different methods of moving the pie dough to the pie plate. I’ve had the most luck with folding it into quarters.
Start by gently folding the dough in half.
Use a clean pastry brush to brush away any excess flour.
Fold the dough in half again and brush away the excess flour. Pick it up and flip it over and use the brush to remove any excess flour on that side. Now, pick up the folded dough and move it to your pie plate.
Fitting the Dough into the Pie Plate
There are two keys to successfully fitting the dough into the pie plate. The first trick is to be confident and not let the dough scare you. The second is to remember the dough should fit in the plate very loosely and comfortably. It should not at all be stretched. We will start by loosely draping the dough across the plate, so we can align it and move it around if we need to, and then we will fit it into the edges and secure it.
Unfold the dough one time so it is now folded in half. Carefully align the dough with the pie plate. The seam should be near the center but check the edges of the dough to make sure you are leaving enough to hang over the edge of the pie plate.
Gently unfold it the rest of the way and loosely drape it over the pie plate. Now check to make sure it is aligned as evenly as possible and make any adjustments before pressing it into the plate.
Once the dough is aligned, press it into the bottom of the place and up the sides. Remember, it should still be loosely and comfortably sitting in the plate. Do not pull it or stretch it to make it fit. Make sure there are no gaps or pockets of air between the dough and the pie plate.
Press along the bottom edge of the pie plate to really work the dough into the edges. This gives it support and helps it keep its structure in the oven.
In the photo below, you can see how the dough is shaped and fitted to the plate but still resting comfortably and loosely. It’s not stretched or pulling in any areas and it’s casually hanging over the edges of the plate. However, you can see the crease where it’s been fit into the edges of the plate.
Now, use kitchen shears or a knife to cut any excess dough to leave a 1 to 1 1/2-inch overhang hanging over the edges of the pie plate.
If you’re making a double crust pie – you will now want to roll out the top crust using the same instructions as above. You will then fill the pie, brush the edge with egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water) and lay the second crust on top. Trim it to the same size as the bottom crust and pinch the edges of the crust together. Use the instructions below for the single-crust pie, except rolling both pieces of dough under together and crimping them. Cut small vents in the top crust with a paring knife, brush the top crust and edges with egg wash, sprinkle with crunchy sugar and chill for at least 30 minutes before baking according to the recipe instructions. This video on double crust pies from Real Simple offers a helpful demonstration.
Crimping the Edges for a Single Crust Pie
If your dough is feeling soft and warm, you may want to let it rest in the refrigerator for a few minutes before crimping the edges.
Roll the excess dough underneath until it reaches and aligns with the edge of the pie plate. You want to make sure you are actually rolling this (like you would roll up a sleeping bag) and not just folding or tucking it under. The roll provides structure and also gives you more dough to crimp (which makes the edges look prettier).
Be sure not to roll too much because the crust will shrink in the oven and leave you with a small crust. The edges of the dough should easily be resting directly on the edge of the plate. If it’s rolled in too much, it could slump in the oven.
Now, use both thumbs and your index finger to crimp all the way around the pie. Check out this video from Epicurious for a demonstration.
There are many different ways to decorate the edges of a pie. I prefer a standard crimp but you can also go around the edges with the tines of a fork. I absolutely love the IACP Award Winning video from Lizzie Sommers that teaches 20 Creative Ways to Crimp a Pie in 120 Seconds.
The crimped crust should be sitting directly on the rim of the pie plate. This provides support and structure for baking.
Now, poke all over the crust and up the edges with the tines of a fork. This technique is called docking and prevents the dough from puffing up when the steam is released in the oven.
I poke all over the bottom and the sides so don’t be afraid to make a lot of holes. You don’t see them after you fill the pie.
Now, gently wrap the pie dough and plate with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour.
Blind Baking the Crust
Many liquid-based pie fillings (custards, cream pies) require short baking times. In order to make sure the crust is fully baked, it is given a head start in the oven before adding the filling. This technique of pre-baking is often referred to as blind baking.
Before blind baking, the chilled pie dough is filled up with beans to give it support and structure in place of the filling. If the crust was baked empty, it would slouch down and become a puddle of flour and butter in the bottom of the pie plate.
Take a few large pieces of parchment paper and crumple them up. Unfold them and use them to line the crust. They should easily hang over the edges of the dough.
Now, fill the pie cavity all the way up to the top with beans or pie weights. Make sure they are worked into the bottom edges of the dough and reach all the way up the sides. Now, the pie is ready to go in the oven.
The filling determines how long the pie crust should be blind baked. For fillings that are baked (pumpkin pie, custard pies) the pie crust only gets a head start in the oven before the filling is added and the two continue to bake together. For fillings that are not baked (cream pies), the crust is fully baked before the filling is added.
For fillings that will be baked – Bake the pie filled with weights for about 20 minutes. Remove the weights and continue baking for 8-12 minutes or until the bottom is dried out and the crust is lightly golden brown all over. Cool slightly and brush the edges of the crust with egg wash (1 egg whisked with 1 tablespoon of cold water) and sprinkle them with a crunch sugar such as turbinado or demerara. Add the filling and bake according to recipe instructions.
For fillings that will not be baked – Brush the edges of the crust with egg wash (1 egg whisked with 1 tablespoon of cold water) and sprinkle them with a crunch sugar such as turbinado or demerara. Bake the pie filled with beans for about 20 minutes. Remove the weights and continue baking until the crust is a deep golden brown all over. Remove from the oven and cool completely before filling.
If you’re interested in learning more about pie baking, be sure to check out these posts: