One of my long-time favorite pie crust alternatives starts with frozen phyllo dough. Incredibly thin sheets of phyllo are layered to create an incredibly crisp crust. It can also be customized with additional flavoring, like a sweetener and your favorite spice, by sprinkling these bonus ingredients between the layers as you stack. Best of all, these thin crusts bake up crisp without par- or blind-baking. Plus, there’s no crimping required to make an attractive edge—just ruffle the excess dough organically for a super impressive look. —Erin Jeanne McDowell
Unfold the phyllo sheets and cover them with a damp towel. Have the melted butter and a pastry brush at the ready. If you’re using the optional finishing, stir the ingredients together in a small bowl.
Place one sheet of phyllo on your work surface (keep the remaining sheets covered) and brush it all over with butter. If using the finishing, sprinkle an even layer of the sugar mixture over the phyllo.
Place another piece of phyllo dough on top, arranging it slightly askew so that the corners of the 2 sheets do not match up. Brush with butter all over, and if using, sprinkle with more of the sugar mixture. Repeat with the remaining phyllo, butter, and finishing (if using). The finished crust should look like a sunflower, with multiple corners poking out from all sides of the mismatched phyllo sheets.
Carefully transfer the phyllo to a lightly greased pie plate. Press gently into the bottom of the pan. Work around the edges with your fingers, scrunching the layered phyllo together to create a ruffled effect.
Bake the crust at 375°F (190°C), or at the temperature directed by your pie recipe. Fill raw and bake as directed. (You can tent the edges with foil if they begin to brown too much before the filling is baked.)
I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, The Book on Pie, is out on November 10th, 2020.