Reflections On Shitty Crusts

I’ve eaten a lot of terrible pie crust. The amount of terrible pie crust I’ve consumed far outstrips the good crust I’ve eaten. Hence, I get surprised with how much “crust-swagger” is thrown around in the pie-world.

This asshole is showing off their crust swag.

This jerk is showing off their crust swag.

Any serious piemaker I’ve met will say “oh yes, my pie is all about the crust.” I’ve met some casual piemakers that don’t crust-swag so hard, but the serious ones are determined to convince you that their crust could beat up your boyfriend, EVEN IF YOU DON’T HAVE A BOYFRIEND. I’m glad they care – and hell, I’ve put quite a few terrible crusts forth into the universe. But, with all this caring and bragging going around, you’d think the world of pie crust would be a little less depressing.

As I’ve seen it there are two kinds of bad crust in the world:

  1. Hell Happened Crust
  2. What the Hell Happened? Crust

I have made both.

“Hell Happened” is characterized by a good framework for the start of the crust, but then something causes it to fall apart at the end. Perhaps a general lack of finesse with the fingers, to a huge lack of finesse with the fingers. Perhaps a cooling issue. Perhaps just bad weather and a humid kitchen. Usually “Hell Happened” crusts will taste okay, but they look like they were assembled by a pirate.

Here are some examples of pirate pie-making.

These aren’t garbage can pies; these are “give to a hungry blind friend” pies. These are pies that get away with being sloppy because they are sentimental & American (you should read into that.)

“Get away with being sloppy??!!” You say. “But, Ol’ Riki Tiki, the point of pie is that it IS sloppy! It’s cake’s dirty, tricksy cousin!” You scream at me huffily.

Well, look, you’re sort of right. Pie is, indeed, cake’s dirty, tricksy cousin. However, people misunderstand the way in which pie should be sloppy. Here is the rule I go by:


Pie is a hot girl you didn’t realize was hot until she turns around in the grocery store, where she is buying condoms & Fiber One (NEAT!).

The ways in which pie should be sloppy should seem like an accident. It should seem like you’re the special one for noticing how good it looks. You’re the naughty one for wanting to eat that strawberry poking it’s head out of the crust. Sloppy little strawberry doesn’t want to stay in it’s cozy, little crust cave. What a naughty strawberry.

…and then there’s “What the Hell Happened” crusts. And these are super fun. They are truly inedible. Correction: they should be inedible, but often they get edibled just the same.

I’ve made one crust that was truly inedible (truly should have been inedible) – and I have a few darling friends who are kind enough to remind me of its existence. And I am kind enough to remind them that they won’t be getting free pie ever again.

It was before I really understood the importance of protein levels in flour, and figured that “bread flour” was just “all-purpose flour” for fancy types with a specificity fetish. I’m an exceptionally brave and stupid person. So I made a strawberry rhubarb pie with bread flour. I knew by the time the dough was hydrated that something was wrong. I knew that the dough shouldn’t be vigorously springing to the touch.  What I should have done was throw that dough in the garbage – but nay!

What I made was bread leather. Eating it looked a lot like this.


American pie is confusing and weird. Finding a delicious crust is a treasure. Crust lets you eat on the go. Crust is encasement. Crust is power.

Joe Rybarczyk made the gifs, btw.

One Comment

  1. I have made a lot of Hell Happened Crusts in my life…when I was MAKING, pies.
    Thanks for the great explanation.


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