We have high standards for pastry pie crust. Is there a supermarket option that lives up to them?
Published Oct. 1, 2017.
Let’s get one thing out of the way immediately: Good homemade pie crust has better flavor and texture than store-bought versions. And since you can roll it into any shape and size you desire, it’s also more versatile. But sometimes you need to trade a little quality for convenience. Is there a supermarket crust that will work in a pinch?
Supermarket pie crusts come in two styles: rolled crusts that you press into your own pie plate and crusts prefitted into aluminum pie plates. Experience has taught us that the supposedly convenient prefitted shells are actually a hassle—they’re too small to fit all the filling for many pies, their thin pie plates conduct heat (and thus bake) unevenly, and you have to pry one out of its pie plate and wrestle with it to form a top crust for a double-crust pie. We prefer the rolled style because we can use our own pie plate to ensure a tidy fit and even baking. Plus, rolled crusts are sold in sets of two and thus are perfect for double-crust pies. For this tasting, we focused on three nationally available rolled pie crusts, sold either refrigerated or frozen depending on the store, and tasted each in single-crust Quiche Lorraine and double-crust Make-Ahead Blueberry Pie. To really zero in on flavor and texture, we also tried the crusts plain after a short blind bake.
To our dismay, problems emerged before we even got the crusts into the oven. A supermarket crust should, above all, be easy to use, but two of the three crusts weren’t large enough to fit in our standard-size 9-inch pie plate once unrolled. We had to flour the counter and use a rolling pin to stretch them another couple of inches before they could be fitted into the pie plate, lessening the convenience of using a premade crust. Only one crust, made by Pillsbury, was large enough to use straight out of the package. What’s more, the crust made by Wholly Wholesome cracked and tore when we unrolled the dough or crimped its edges. We tried everything the company recommends to make the dough workable (thawing it overnight in the fridge, leaving it out at room temperature for 5 hours, and, after all that, microwaving it in 10-second stints), but it still cracked. The other two crusts needed only 15 to 30 minutes out of the fridge or about 1 hour out of the freezer to reach a workable texture.
On to the oven, where the Pillsbury crust was the only one to fare well. We saw this most prominently in the blueberry pie test. While the Pillsbury crust emerged tender, flaky, and evenly browned after the 11/2-hour baking time, the other two crusts started to burn about halfway through baking. One crust, by Immaculate Baking Co., began to char at...
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