Why are my pie crusts shrinking when I bake them?

So I made homemade pie crusts for the first time and OH MY GOD they're turned out so well. Flaky and tender and buttery and delicious. (For those who are curious, I used the Foolproof Pie Dough from Serious Eats. It's pretty counter-intuitive but it's flawless. I made 10 crusts and every single one is perfect.)

Anyway, here's my question: for the pumpkin and pecan pies I have to pre-bake the shells. These crusts are shrinking to the extent that they don't reach high enough up the sides of the pie dish to hold the filling. Why is this happening and how can I prevent it? Am I overworking the dough? Do I need to let it rest before I put it in the oven? Am I adding too much flour to my worktable? (which would surprise me as I barely added flour to the process.) And while we're at it, why did it shrink *down* the vertical sides of the pan but *inward* from the sides of the pan?


  • Posted by: Peter
  • November 21, 2012


Voted the Best Reply!

ChefOno November 21, 2012

Slumping / shrinking pie crusts could be from:

Stretching the rolled dough into the plate. Ease it in, starting at the center and work out to the edges.

Not resting the formed shell before baking. The gluten needs time to relax or it tends to spring back -- at least 1 hour in the refrigerator, overnight is best.

Dough not cold enough. Transfer the shell to the freezer 15 min. before baking.

Failure to properly preheat your oven. Let it come up to temp then set a timer for 20 minutes. Minimum.

Baking at too low a temperature. The crust needs to set before the fat starts to melt.

Baking too close to the heat source.

Blind baking without pie weights. Line the shell with parchment (avoid foil which can't breathe) and partially fill with ceramic beads, dry beans or rice.

Failure to properly dock the crust A puffing bottom can put tension on the sides.

Too much water in the dough. Overworking the dough. Inappropriate flour. The list goes on…

As for why it shrinks down and not inward, it's a tension thing, the gluten strands are aligned parallel to the original plane on which it was rolled out (if that makes any sense).

Peter November 21, 2012
Thanks! Indeed, I've been using weights but I had NOT been chilling the dough before baking.

I'll try that in the morning... good thing I anticipated problems and made 10 doughs instead of the 7 I actually needed. :-)
nutcakes November 21, 2012
Blind baked crusts tend to shrink, and no I don't know why-- they just do. To prevent it. Chill it well before baking, even freeze it for 20 minutes. Another trick is to use purchased pie weights or just some beans. Line the pan with parchment paper or even foil and fill with dried beans. Bake and remove the beans for the last 5 minutes of baking. You can reuse the beans for the same purpose later.
la D. November 21, 2012
Dough has a tendency to shrink. Even while you're rolling it out you'll notice it retracting. Roll the dough out gently and evenly. If it starts to get too warm, place the dough in the fridge to chill for a few minutes, then pull the dough out and continue your rolling. For pre-baking the pie crusts, a couple things might help:
Once you've rolled the dough out and placed it in the pie dish, chill it in the freezer until firm (less than half an hour). Martha Stewart always says, "make it cold, bake it hot." Rolling the dough out tends to warm it up a bit and the butter starts to melt. If you put it straight into the oven it may not hold its shape.

When pre-baking, it's important to place parchment paper over the dough and fill the shell with pie weights or beans. Make sure to push the pie weights into the crevices so that the weight will help the dough keep its shape.

I hope these tips help. Happy Thanksgiving!
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