Questions for Allie: Why Is My Pie Dough Shrinking?

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Allie Lewis of Martha Stewart's Everyday Food asked for your holiday cooking questions. Here's the first of five questions Allie is answering for us - welcome to The Kitchn, Allie!

Q: Despite not overworking my pie dough and keeping the ingredients very cold, not stretching it into the pan, and letting it chill for at least an hour, my dough still shrinks quite a bit.

Overall, it looks great and is quite flaky; I just can't get it to not shrink drastically for pies and especially for tarts. What should I do?

Click for Allie's very helpful and thorough answer! A: It sounds like you're quite diligent about following all the common wisdom for achieving the perfect, non-shrinking pie crust, so I can understand your frustration! There are a couple of other tricks I use when dealing with pie crust - perhaps they'll help:

  1. Ensure your dough doesn't stick while rolling it out.
  2. You may not realize it, but if your dough sticks to your work surface while you're rolling it out, you are essentially stretching your dough; stretching (as you already know) activates the gluten in the dough, which is the source of your shrinkage problem.

    To avoid this, I like to roll my dough out on a well-floured piece of parchment or wax paper, using the paper (rather than your warm hands) to rotate the dough for even rolling. Also very important in rolling-without-sticking is to frequently run your hands underneath the dough to make sure it's not sticking (if it is, give it a little flour under there). Every once in a while, flour the top of the dough, and quickly flip the dough over; this will ensure that the underside of the dough is nice and dry and will roll out with out sticking or stretching.

  3. Chill your dough after you've rolled it out, but before you fit it into your pie plate or tart pan.
  4. If there's any chance that your dough got stretched in the rolling process, you have to give it a chance to relax and de-activate any activated gluten.

    After rolling out your dough on a piece of wax or parchment paper, make sure your dough is nice and dry on the underside and is not sticking to the paper anywhere; slide the paper/dough onto a rimless baking sheet and place it back in the fridge for about 20 or 30 minutes before attempting to fit the dough into your pie plate or tart pan. Again, it's important here that your dough not stick to the paper; if the relaxing dough is stuck anywhere, it essentially equates to stretching the dough.

  5. Lower your dough into the corners of your pie plate or tart pan.
  6. You already know not to stretch the dough into your pie plate or tart pan, but go the extra distance with this - try and get a little extra dough down into the corners of the pan, so that if and when it does shrink (despite all reasonable efforts), it has a little extra dough to "take with it".

  7. Chill your lined pie shell or tart pan before filling and baking.
  8. For a final touch of non-stretching and relaxation, let your lined pie plate or tart pan chill for about 20 minutes before filling or baking it - give your dough one last chance to relax!

    If you are still having problems, try my all-time favorite recipe (it is the standard Pate Brisee recipe we use throughout much of Martha Stewart Living, Everyday Food, etc.). You can find it at Martha Stewart.com.

    Thank you Allie!

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