I frequently get questions in the comments here and on my social media sites regarding baking science and/or technique. While I do my best to answer each question, some of them I get often enough that I think the general baking internet world might benefit from the answers too!
Because I’m giving you a beautiful pie recipe later this week, I wanted to address a question today that I have received pretty frequently. Most recently the question came to me on instagram…
How do I Stop Pie Crust Shrinkage?
This is a great question! A question I didn’t know the answer to not that long ago. It has taken me baking a lot more pies and getting more comfortable with pie crust to really understand how to prevent this.
My approach to figuring out baking solutions is to really understand what is causing the problem. With pie crust shrinkage the problem mainly lies with gluten and development of gluten and the good news is, the solution is really easy!
So, here are my 6 easy tips for troubleshooting pie crust shrinkage! This technique can be used with any baked pie crust, including my favorite recipe for Easy Basic Pie Crust.
Tip #1- Do not overwork your dough.
Pie crust is meant to be delicate. Think of it as the polar opposite as crusty, chewy bread. You want it to be tender and flaky. What happens when you add liquid to flour and start working it together is the protein strands begin coming together and aligning themselves.
The more your knead or fuss with the dough, the stronger these bonds become. For pie dough, you want to keep these bonds weak. Tight gluten strands are going to lead to a tough chewy crust that will shrink when baked.
Tip #2- Let your dough rest.
Have you ever tried to roll out a pizza dough right after kneading it? Pretty impossible right? The dough snaps back immediately and refuses to become wide enough for your pan. BUT I bet if you were to let that dough rest for 10 minutes before rolling it out it would be infinitely easier.
Resting time between creating your dough and shaping your dough is important here. For a pie crust we want to roll it out as gently as possible. We don’t want to force it’s shape and try and stretch and pull it to get it to the right size.
After you mix your dough, you should let it rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour. The main purpose of this is let your flour finish hydrating and to firm the fat back up, but it also relaxes the gluten strands. I like to form my dough, gently pat it into a disk, then cover it and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes, sometimes more.
The time allows for the gluten strands to relax and will make the dough less elastic when rolling out while the refrigeration keeps the dough cool so we get all of those lovely air pockets from steam when the crust is baked. Start in the middle of the disk and roll out then return to the center to roll in the other direction. Do not go back and forth all across the dough stretching it.
Tip #3- Do not stretch your dough.
You see how much wider that crust is than my pie plate ^ up there. That’s what you’re going for here. You want a good amount of overhang because remember, it has to fill in the bottom and up the sides and you don’t want to stretch it to make it fit!
Roll the dough to about 3″ wider than your pie plate. Then when you transfer it into the plate lift up all the sides and lit it gently fall it. Do not stretch the dough to get it to fit! In my opinion, stretching the dough to make it fit in the plate is the biggest offender for causing a crust to shrink!
See how the dough loosely fits in this plate. It is cozy and relaxed. It isn’t taut and hasn’t been pushed and pulled. This is what you’re looking for folks!
Tip #4- Trim your crust wider than you need.
Ok, so here is the kicker. Your crust is still going to shrink. But just a little bit. Even when you do everything correctly to prevent the crust from shrinking it is going to shrink slightly, so do yourself a favor and make it a little bit wider than you want your final outcome to be.
Tip #5- Let it rest again!
Just like we needed to let the dough rest before shaping it, you want to let it rest again after shaping it. Letting the gluten strands relax again will reduce the amount of shrinkage you get once the crust hits the oven. I like to pop the crust in the refrigerator while the oven preheats and as soon as the oven is ready your dough has rested enough to be ready to bake!
If you remember from my basic pie crust post, you want a cold dough to go into the oven. The cold pockets of fat in the dough will create the flakiness as the moisture evaporates out.
Tip #6- Weigh down the crust
Once you are ready to bake you want to weigh down the crust to keep it in place. If you are baking the crust with a filling in it, then your filling is obviously your weight. But, if you are blind baking (aka, baking the crust without a filling) then you need to weigh it down. Lay a piece of parchment paper in the crust and fill it with dried beans, rice, or pie weights.
There you have it. Simple right? I hope you found this beneficial! And coming up this week I’m giving you the recipe for that Fresh Strawberry Pie that you see up there!