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HCC’s Baking and Pastries Chef Shares Secrets to Mastering Your Pie Crust

chef making lattice pie crust

Thanksgiving is as “American as… apple pie,” of course! Perhaps that is why this delicious fruit-filled dessert has become a staple for many families’ Thanksgiving tables. Getting the pie crust just right is the key to making any pie, and even the most seasoned bakers can be intimidated when it comes to rolling out flaky dough.

Chef David Milburn, pastry chef and instructor at Howard Community College’s Center for Hospitality and Culinary Studies, provides his tips for perfecting the pie crust in this video.

  • Be sure to use cold unsalted butter and cold water. Using unsalted butter ensures that you are controlling exactly how much salt is used in the recipe, and cold water prevents the butter from melting while forming the dough.
  • Don’t overmix the dough. Overmixing can lead to tough, chewy dough. The dough should have small pea size chunks of butter. It is these chunks of butter that will make your pie crust flaky. Mix just until the dough comes together.
  • To make two crusts, divide the dough in half, shape into a disk, and refrigerate for at least one hour. Again, to create a flaky texture, you don’t want the butter to melt into the dough. Cold dough will also be easier to roll and transfer to the pan.
  • For a lattice crust, roll out dough to 12 inches in diameter and cut 10 strips about 1 inch wide. Start by crossing two strips of dough in the center of your pie. Then, lay a strip of dough on each side of the first strip (they will cross over the top of the 2nd strip). Now lay a strip of dough on each side of the second piece of dough. Continue alternating the dough strips until the lattice top is complete. Finish the lattice top by crumping the dough around the top edge.
  • Ensure you have a nice golden crust by baking the pie until the internal temperature reads 190⁰F. 

This crust will work with any of your favorite pie fillings, but Chef Milburn has provided his recipe for traditional apple pie with a lattice top crust.

Basic Pie Dough

All-purpose flour                           1.5 lbs/680g

Salt                                                  ½ oz/14g

Butter, cut into pieces, chilled           1lb/454g

Cold water                                     8fl oz/240ml

Combine the flour and salt in the mixer. Add the butter and blend on medium speed with the dough hook attachment until pea sized nuggets form, about 3 minutes. Alternatively, use your hands or a pastry cutter to massage cold butter into the flour mixture. Add the cold water all at once and continue to mix until the dough just comes together.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. For a double crust pie, divide into 2 even pieces (use a scale, if desired). Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before rolling. Dough can be frozen for later use.

Apple pie filling

Sugar                                 5oz        

Corn starch                     2.2oz    

Salt                                  ½ tsp    

Ground nutmeg               ½ tsp    

Ground cinnamon           ½ tsp    

Butter, melted                   1oz        

Golden delicious apples, peeled, cored and sliced 1/8in thick      2lbs 2oz               

Egg wash (one egg mixed with 1 tbsp cold water) or heavy cream for top crust                  

Cinnamon sugar for top               


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Roll-out ½ of the pie crust dough to about 1/8 inch thickness, keeping the remaining dough refrigerated. Line the bottom of the pie pan.

Combine the sugar, corn starch, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, maple syrup and melted butter. Toss with the apple slices.

Fill the pie shell with the apple mixture. Brush the rim of the dough with egg wash or heavy cream.

Roll out the remaining dough to a thickness about 1/8 inch and place it over the filling (see tips above for a lattice crust, if preferred). Crimp the edges to seal, and then cut a few vents in the top of the pie dough. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture.

Bake until the filling is bubbling and the crust is a rich golden brown, about 45 minutes. The internal temperature should be 190 degrees.

Serve warm or at room temperature. Add a scoop of vanilla or cinnamon ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce!

“Baking is a great way to bring family and friends together. As a child, I remember watching my Grandmother and Mother baking pies for the holidays. I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to make a pie or a cake myself. Hoping you and your family enjoy baking as much as I do!” – Chef Milburn 

Is cooking your passion? Would you like to take your skills to the next level, and pursue a career doing what you love? Check out Howard Community College’s Center for Hospitality and Culinary Studies. Registration is now open for winter and spring classes –

Topics: Career Focus
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