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Old Fashioned Pie Making Secrets and Recipes

Updated on October 5, 2013

Easy as Pie Step-by-step Pie Making Guide

My grandmother used to say, "It's easy as pie," and she meant it. Baking pies was basic and simple to her, her mother, and her daughter, my mother. Although I've made many pies, it never got easy and I always found it hit or miss, with a lot of misses. To me pie crust is tricky. Here is a vintage guide to making pies and pie crust, with step-by-step secrets, tips and the fool-proof old-fashioned techniques that our grandmothers knew would make pie making "easy as pie."

Vintage Images in this article: Files of Nancy Oram

There Are Three Basic Types of Pies

1. Double Crust - such as apple and berry

2. Shell - such as custard and pumpkin

3. Meringue - such as lemon and chocolate


About Pie Crust

Obtaining a light, flaky, tender crust is largely dependent upon combining the necessary ingredients accurately and baking the pastry correctly.

The most common error in pie crust making is using too much water, and "working" or mixing the pastry too much, thus producing a heavy, soggy, rubbery, tough result.

Always add the liquid ingredient very slowly, preferably by the tablespoonful and work it very lightly through the flour and fat mixture. Use only enough liquid to bind the flour and fat together.

There are three methods for making pie crust:

1. Cold Water Pie Crust

2. Boiling Water Pie Crust

3. Slow Oven Pie Crust

Method No. 1 is the standard or conventional method and requires the liquid and other ingredients to be very cold and baked quickly in a hot oven.

Method No. 2 produces a very light, attractive and tender crust, although not a particularly flaky pastry.

Method No. 3 is somewhat like Method No. 1 except that the pastry is baked slowly in a cool oven. This makes a crisp crust and some persons consider it more easily digested than ordinary conventional pastry.

Simple Basic Rules For Making Pie Crust - The Do's and Don'ts for Successful Pies

They say the devil is in the details, and the details make all the difference in pie making success or failure.

  1. Have all ingredients ready before beginning to mix the pie crust.
  2. Have the oven at the correct temperature.
  3. It is essential to keep the pastry and rolling pin very dry.


Method #1 - Cold Water Pie Crust

See Picture Tutorial further on down this page.

1-1/2 cups sifted pastry flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/3 cup shortening

Ice Water

Follow measurements and methods of combining them accurately. All measurements are level. Have all ingredients ice cold. Work quickly with a light touch.

Sift flour, salt and baking powder into a cold bowl, add shortening, cutting it into the flour with two knives, until shortening is distributed through the flour in pieces the size of peas. Add the ice water by the tablespoonful, tossing it through the mixture with a knife or spatula. Do not add any more water than is required to lightly bind the ingredients. When the paste is on the blade of the knife in a ball that has cleaned the bowl, toss it on a lightly floured board; cut in half, put one-half the paste in icebox (refrigerator) and roll the other half to form the lower crust. Always roll away from you with quick light strokes.

Roll to about one-fourth inch thickness, fit loosely on pie tin, trim edge and pour in pie filling.

Take the paste previously placed in ice box and roll out upper crust, fold in center and make several 1/2-inch cuts in the dough on the folded edge to allow steam to escape. Moisten edge of lower crust with water, fit on top crust loosely, press edges together, trim dough. To impart glossy color, brush top crust with milk. Bake in a hot oven (450 degrees F.) until well browned.


Method #2 - Boiling Water Pie Crust

1-1/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup shortening

1/3 cup boiling water

Sift dry ingredients, add boiling water to shortening, and beat until it is creamy and fluffy. Add dry ingredients, tossing lightly with knife blade or spatula. When in a ball of paste which has cleaned the sides of the bowl, toss on a lightly floured board and roll out as desired.

Split Decision Pie Pan - Makes Two Different Pies in One Pan - The best of both worlds

When two whole pies is too much, make half on one side and half on the other.


Method #3 - Slow Oven Pie Crust

Mix as for Cold Water Pie Crust. Bake in a slow oven (350 degrees F.) for forty-five minutes or until well browned.


Mock Puff Paste

A very delicious pastry may be made from the Cold Water Pie Crust Recipe by following these directions after the pastry has been tossed on the floured board.

Roll out one-fourth inch thick, dot one-half with pieces of butter the size of a pea, one inch apart, fold undotted half over and roll out lightly. Re dot and re-foll, until one-fourth cup of butter has been worked into the paste. This may be used for especially flaky top crusts, patty shells or tarts, but is not a suitable pastry for lower crusts.


Basic Double Crust Pies

Apple Pie and Berry Pie Recipes

Apple Pie

5 medium tart apples

1/2 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon butter

1 teaspoon lemon juice

nutmeg or cinnamon

Follow directions for the Cold Water Pie Crust. Line pie plate loosely with dough. Fill with apples which have been peeled, cored and cut in eighths. Mix sugar, salt and lemon juice together. Sprinkle over apples. Dot with bits of butter, sprinkle with nutmeg or cinnamon, cover with top crust. Bake in a hot oven (450 degrees F.) for forty minutes.

Berry Pie

Follow directions for Cold Water Pie Crust. When lower crust is fitted to the pie tin, fill with fresh or canned fruits. Sprinkle with from one-half to three-fourths cup of granulated sugar to which has been added one-half tablespoon cornstarch for each one-half cup of liquid (canned fruit juice or water). This will slightly thicken the fruit juices and prevent a watery pie filling and a soggy under crust. Cover with top crust and bake in a hot oven (445 degrees F.) until well browned.


Shell Pies

There are two types of shell pies: those which are first baked and then filled with a cooked filling, a fresh fruit filling which is to be glazed, or a souffle filling which is to be browned in a very slow oven; and those which are not previously baked and which are filled with an uncooked fillling.

There are two methods for making shell pies: the inverted pan pie shell (used for prebaked shells only), where you form the pie crust over the back side of a pie tin, and the regular method with the crust inside the pie pan.

Inverted Method:

Regular Method:


Basic Shell Pies

Custard and Pumpkin Pie Recipes

Custard Pie

2 eggs

1/4 cup sugar

1-1/2 cups milk

1/8 teaspoon salt


Follow directions above for making a pastry shell. Fill with custard made as follows:

Beat eggs lightly, add sugar and salt. Add milk slowly, beating well. Pour into pie shell and sprinkle with nutmeg. Bake in a hot oven (500 degrees F.) for ten minutes. Reduce heat to 425 degrees F. and bake until custard is firm and lightly browned.

Pumpkin Pie

1-1/2 cups cooked, drained mashed pumpkin

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

2 cups milk

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Prepare a pastry shell according to directions above. Prepare pumpkin filling as follows:

Mix ingredients in order given. Pour into the pie shell and bake in hot oven (500 degrees F.) ten minutes. Reduce heat to 450 degrees F. and bake until firm and well browned.


Meringue Pies

Lemon and Chocolate Meringue Recipes

How to Make Meringue

1 egg whites

pinch of slat

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Beat egg whites stiff, add salt, fold in sugar and vanilla and pile lightly on pie filling.

Lemon Meringue Pie

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

1-1/2 cups boiling water

2 egg yolks

juice and grated rind of one lemon

1 teaspoon butter

Prepare pastry shell as above. Prepare filling as follows:

Place dry ingredients in top of double boiler. Add boiling water slowly, stirring to prevent lumps. Cook over boiling water until mixture begins to thicken. Add lightly beaten egg yolks, lemon juice and rind. Cook two minutes, remove from fire and add butter. Fill pastry shell and cover with meringue. Bake in slow oven (325 degrees F.) until meringue is lightly browned.

Chocolate Meringue Pie

4 squares chocolate grated

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 cups milk

2 egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla

Prepare pastry shell as above. Prepare filling as follows:

Place grated chocolate, sugar, cornstarch and milk in top of double boiler. Cook until chocolate melts and mixture begins to thicken. Add lightly beaten egg yolks and cook two minutes. Remove from fire, add vanilla, fill pie shell and cover with meringue. Bake in a slow oven (325 degrees F.) until meringue is lightly browned.

Photos used with permission are credited in individual modules. Every other photo on this lens resides in original form in my personal collection.

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    • missmary1960 profile image

      missmary1960 5 years ago

      I love home made pies, actually everything home made :) Thanks for sharing !

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 5 years ago from Shanghai, China

      Blessings to you for such a charming lens on pies - I loved the old fashioned pie crust drawing.

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 5 years ago

      I think this is a wonderful lens. Pie was also easy to my mother, not so much to me. I think a lot of it was due to the fact that she used Crisco - which is terrifying to me. :) I'm not 100% natural - but come on. I am trying to use butter and lard, still not completely the same. And of course we had 17 fruit trees, and bushes and many of them made lovely pies. This lens is blessed - and linked to my own lens about apple cheddar pies as a related lens.

    • poldepc lm profile image

      poldepc lm 5 years ago

      I love belgium, we have so many different kinds of pies...