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Saturday, November 7, 2015

Pumpkin Pie Frugal Hacks: The Crust

Those refrigerated, pre-rolled commercial crusts are super popular. I have friends and family who use them and think they're great. Many of us, here, just make our own crusts from scratch.

If you don't make your own pie pastry because you've never had success with a scratch crust, try this recipe. It's never gone wrong for me. The huge bonuses with this crust is it freezes well (either in a pie plate or as a patty of dough), and the recipe makes 5 crusts-worth of pastry.

When I first stumbled across this recipe, over 25 years ago, I was curious about a couple of the ingredients. So I did some research and here's what I discovered:
  • the vinegar is a tenderizing ingredient
  • the sugar is a tenderizing ingredient, but also adds a hint of flavor and browning
  • the egg adds a bit of lightness to the baked crust, meaning that I can substitute 1 cup of whole wheat flour for 1 of the cups of all-purpose flour and still produce a good pastry. 

Fool-Proof Pie Crust (always tender and reliable)

This recipe makes a thin pie crust. If you prefer a thicker crust or your pie plate is extra large, divide the dough into 4 portions instead of 5.

This dough is freezer-friendly. Make the dough when you have time and freeze in patties or pie plates. Then when you bake a pie, you'll have the convenience of ready-made pastry

4 cups all-purpose flour (we like whole grains, here, so I use a blend of 1 part whole wheat to 3 parts all-purpose)
1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar
1  3/4 cups shortening
1 large egg
1/2 cup cold water
1 tablespoon vinegar

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and sugar. Cut in shortening.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, beat together the egg, water, and vinegar. 

Combine the dry and liquid ingredients. Mix until the flour mixture is well-moistened.

Chill dough for 30 minutes.

Divide into 5 portions, shaping each portion into a flat, round patty. Wrap individually in plastic wrap.

This dough is very forgiving. Additional flour and handling will not toughen the baked product.

The dough will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or you can freeze it for use later. If freezing the dough, thaw it for about 1 hour at room temp or overnight in the fridge before rolling out. (When I freeze patties of dough, I put the wrapped disks of pastry dough in a large Ziploc bag. That seems to be enough freezer protection for this dough for a few months.)

When freezer space is abundant, I roll out the dough and place into pie tins before freezing. Pie crust is then ready when I am to put together a quick pie with the convenience of a commercial ready-made crust, but with the cost of homemade. 

Patties can also be rolled out flat onto a sheet of waxed paper and then wrapped around empty paper towel tubes and frozen. This works well for a ready-made top crust for a pie. Rolled-up dough thaws beautifully and is easily transferred to the top of a two-crust fruit pie or a simple crust on top of a casserole of meat and vegetable filling for a pot pie.

Ready-made, name-brand pie pastry sells for $2.46 for a two-count package at Walmart. That's $1.23 per crust. This scratch pastry costs me $2.50 or less, for about 50 cents per crust. That's less than half the price of the name-brand, ready-made crust. 


  1. I use a very similar recipe from an Amish Cookbook- it is sooooo easy you can't miss

    1. So agree! It's very easy, and as it's name says, "fool-proof".

  2. I have only made pie crust the way my mother taught me with flour, salt, and shortening. She must have taught me well, because I've never had a problem. However, I like the idea of using more whole wheat flour and adding an egg to make it lighter. I'm gonna have to remember this recipe.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      My mother-in-law made great pie crusts, using flour, salt, cold water and shortening. Some people have a knack for it, and do it quite well. unfortunately, I wasn't one of them! Ha ha! But this recipe, with egg, sugar and vinegar added does always turn out well for me. And I'm grateful for that.

      Adding the whole wheat flour is a bonus. One daughter and I actually prefer the crust with a little whole wheat flour. It gives it a slight "crunch".

  3. Thanks Lili, I will share your recipe with my husband since he likes to bake. I don't think I have ever made a crust in my life...and my husband is just starting. We usually forget to plan dessert for our meals and our meals are so basic and simple. I like that the crusts can be made in a large batch and frozen!!


    1. Hi YHF,
      A baking husband -- there's an invention I'd like for my house!

      Having crusts/pastry in the freezer does make the thought of baking a pie seem much more do-able. And on a busy weeknight, I can throw together the ingredients for a meat pie filling, then top with a crust and make a fairly quick pot pie.

    2. He said to thank you for the recipe...and told me "be sure to save it." :)


  4. I'm super excited to give this a try. I too learned the flour, salt shortening recipe from my mother but unlike Live & Learn my results have been hit & miss. With Thanksgiving right around the corner I'll use it for pies and then turkey pot pies.

    1. Hi frugal spinster,
      Mine, too! I would think I was following the exact same recipe, but sometimes the crust turned pasty, and other times it was flakey. I couldn't seem to get it right, every time. And I really appreciate being able to make several crusts' worth of dough at a time. It keeps in the freezer for a few months.

  5. I have never made pie crust ahead of time for the freezer, but I am definitely going to try your recipe, Lili. It sounds wonderful!

    1. Hi Mary,
      I hope you like the results as much as I do. Ready-made pie pastry, tucked away in the freezer, does make pie-baking so much easier.

  6. I will give this a try it sounds great . I think I will give freezing it a try too have always made mine as I go . It sure would save time . I also use pie crust for my beef pasties. This would make for a quick dinner .
    My husband loves pasties and they ate do cheap and filling .

    1. Hi Dee,
      I don't do this often, but occasionally make hand-pies, with meat/veggies/gravy and this pie dough, or with fruit filling. I am guessing that would be pretty much the same as pasties. They turn out great!

  7. I think maybe pie crust success is partially a "gift". Two family members make absolutely perfect pie crust every time from any recipe, but even doing it for years (often with those two family members) and feeling I understand the chemistry/physics of it, I find mine tends to be a little hit or miss. I have had really good results with a similar recipe to this, though, which has vodka instead of vinegar. (No kidding!) Had to buy a tiny bottle to try it, but it does make a nice crust. Bet you can find it on-line somewhere, I think that's where my cousin found it. Sara

    1. Hi Sara,
      Vodka must also tenderize the dough, like the vinegar. I hadn't heard of the vodka addition, before. That would be a good substitution for someone who doesn't use vinegar in their diet (or someone with a copious supply of cheap vodka!).

      I, apparently, did not receive the pie pastry gift. But this recipe makes it look like pie-making is easy for me.

    2. Yes, Lili, that was what I was thinking, that the vodka probably does the same thing, chemically, as the vinegar. The good news is that it only uses a little, so the tiny bottle I bought has lasted me a couple of years, and is still going. :)

      At least along with not inheriting the pie crust gift, I didn't inherit pie crust pickiness. So, although I do notice and appreciate a fabulous crust, a so-so one is usually fine with me, too. :)

    3. I suppose I'm not too finicky about many foods/recipes, either. Sure makes it simpler to save on the grocery bill! :-)

  8. Hi lili,
    Thank you sooo much for the pie crust .It turned out perfect and is wonderful.:)
    My Mom was one of those people who always made perfect pie crust. She even won blue ribbons at the fair. My little book with all my special family recipes is packed up. We moved not too long ago and I have not found it yet. I hope I find it soon thank you again it saved the day.:) Pie crust for 2 in the freezer section at Traders Joes Cost $ 3.99 in San Diego.

    1. Hi Patti,
      I'm glad this recipe worked well for you! I didn't even think to compare the pie pastry price to Trader Joe's. Yikes! $3.99 just for 2 crusts.


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