Leveling or smoothing crust
Leveling is also known as smoothing the crust.
When baking layered or bar cookies, having the crust, filling, or batter level before the pan goes into the oven is very important. Uneven batter will bake unevenly. One section may be burned, while the other is underdone.
The different tips below will keep your crusts smooth and even. They will have less of a chance to burn and crumble.
Make sure the dough is well chilled
Chilled dough won’t become sticky as you work with it. Use ice-cold water to make the crusts. Add an ice cube to the water to keep it cold.
Line the pie plate with the slices
Place the pieces of pie dough along the bottom of your pie plate in a single layer.
Bend and break pieces of dough as needed, fitting them together like a puzzle, until you fill up the entire bottom of the plate.
If you have any extra dough, wrap it in plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator or freezer for another use.
Press dough against the pie plate
Starting at the center and working your way out toward the sides, press the pieces of dough together with your fingertips maintaining an even thickness.
You can also use a leveler. This is a thin rolling pin that slides along 2 guide sticks.
Flour your fingers as you work so the dough doesn’t stick to them
Mold and push crust up the edges.
When you reach the edges, start pressing the dough up the sides of the pie plate with the fingertips of one hand, slowly turning the plate with the other, until you’ve completed the entire edge.
Starting at the center of the pie plate and working your way to the edges, pat the dough to make sure it feels even in thickness.
Use a pastry blender to mix the shortening and flour. A fork will work too.
Overworking the pastry dough will make it tough, so handle it as little as possible.
Prevent crusts from over browning
Shield them with a pie crust shield ring or 2- to 3-inch strip of foil.
Remove pie shield or foil strips 15 minutes before baking is complete so that edges can brown.
Use the size pie plate or pan called for in the recipe.
Use a heat-resistant glass pie plate or dull aluminum pie pan.
Shiny or disposable pie pans reflect heat and prevent crusts from browning.
Dark pans absorb heat, causing overbrowning.
Nonstick pans cause an unfilled crust to shrink excessively.
It is not necessary to grease the pan as pastry is high in fat.