I’m one of those strange people who likes the end bits of food. The heels of the bread loaf. The crust of the pizza. Those two end cinnamon rolls that have almost no filling. The crust of the pie.
Classic Pie Dough
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Don’t get me wrong, the pie filling is important. But for me, the filling is just the precursor to the buttery, flaky goodness of the crust. Luckily getting that buttery, flaky crust is a lot easier than it looks.
This is my Basic Flaky Pie Crust Recipe. It comes together quickly, tastes great, and can be used for any recipe that needs a pie crust. No need to use a store-bought crust anymore!
- Fat…which leads us to…
Butter vs Shortening in pie crusts: The debate
- Butter makes your crust taste good (be sure to use unsalted)
- Shortening (like Crisco) makes your crust flaky
- Use half butter and half shortening to get the best of both worlds!
- Need a vegan crust? You can use all vegan butter or shortening in place of the butter. The butter flavored shortening is a great vegan alternative. Coconut oil tends to melt quickly so this isn’t the best option.
How to make pie dough for a flaky crust
The first step is mixing the flour and salt together in a large bowl.
Mixing: Tips and Tricks
Once you’ve mixed the flour and salt together, it’s time to cut in the fat. Add your butter and shortening and chop them down into marble-sized pieces. There are a few ways to do this.
- A pastry cutter
- Two knives – hold one in each hand, cross them, and then pull them away from each other
- Forgo a mixing bowl and throw all the ingredients into your food processor. Pulse the mixture a few times. Some people say this overworks the dough, some say this is the only way.
Adding the water
Use only as much water as you need to bring the dough together. “Shaggy” is the word people often use to describe it. It should just stick together when you roll it out. This recipe takes about 6-7 tablespoons of water, but you may need to adjust the water. Sometimes I need to add an extra tablespoon and sometimes 6 tablespoons is just enough.
What do you do after you are done mixing the dough?
- On a lightly floured board, gather all the dough and divide it into two round disks.
- Wrap each round in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or store for three days.
Keep things cold – why is this important?
- Chilling the dough after mixing it allows the gluten in the dough to relax so it is easier to roll and will not shrink as much.
- Since there is water in the dough, chilling it allows the water to be absorbed more.
- The butter and shortening in the dough will have a chance to rechill.
- If you are blind baking the crust, re-chill for another 10 minutes before baking.
When you bake your crust, the little pockets of fat in the pastry melt away. You should be able to see pieces of butter or shortening marbled into the crust when you put it into the oven. This creates the flakiness we’re looking for.
To get the perfect crust, do not let the butter melt.
Your crust will still taste good but will be closer to a shortbread consistency.
- Keep the butter in the fridge until you are ready to cut it in. I leave mine in the freezer.
- Freeze your shortening. I actually store the entire can in the freezer, but you can also just freeze the portion you need for 15 minutes or so before you start your crust.
- Add a couple of ice cubes to your water before you measure it out
- Don’t overwork the dough when rolling it out, especially on a hot day.
- Put the dough in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes before it goes in the oven.
Now you’ve got the basics! Don’t worry if it sounds complicated. Pie crusts are very forgiving. Got impatient and added too much water? Let your butter melt a little too much? Overworked the dough? No worries! Add some delicious filling and no one will notice.
How to roll the chilled dough
Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and let sit for about 10 minutes so the dough will soften enough to roll. I prefer using pastry cloths for rolling all my doughs. After I roll the dough just scrape the cloth with a bench scraper to clean it up then roll the cloth up, put it in a plastic bag and store in the freezer.
Flour the rolling pin and roll the dough into a round, it helps to make several small turns of the dough as you are rolling. The dough circle should be 2-3 inches larger than your pie plate. Just sit your pie plate on top of the dough to see if it has been rolled big enough.
Roll the dough around the rolling pin to transfer it to the pie plate. I love this Rae Dunn pie plate, its the perfect size for my pies and I have to say this…. it’s cute!
Place the rolling pin over the pie plate, then unroll the dough into the pie plate.
After the pie dough is in the dish, lightly press the dough into the sides.
Finish the dough off by cutting the excess dough from the edges, leaving 1/2″. Roll the 1/2″ of the excess dough on the rim of the pie plate then crimp the edges.
Now that you have your unbaked pie crust ready you have the option of blind baking the dough for cream pies or other pies that need a prebaked crust. Here are the instructions for How to Blind Bake a Pie Crust which is used for this Butterscotch Meringue Pie. For fruit or custard pies add your filling and bake as directed like this Bourbon Pecan Pie.
Once you’ve got the recipe down, try mixing it up. I like to add cinnamon to crusts for my apple and peach pies. You can replace the water with Greek yogurt. Sub out some or all of the flour with almond flour for a textured, nutty crust. Replace two tablespoons of flour with cocoa powder for a chocolate crust (the cocoa powder will melt a little though, so this works better on cooler days). British recipes will often replace the water with a beaten egg for a richer crust.
This recipe can also scale up or down. As is, it makes enough for one double-crust pie and a couple of jelly tarts. I halve it for custard pies that don’t need a top crust. Or I’ll double it if I know I’ll be making several pies in the next month. Just portion it out and stick it in the freezer where it will keep for up to a month.
Don’t forget to pin for later when you have that urge to bake a pie.
Here is what I use when making and serving pies.
How To Make A Flaky Pie Crust
- Mix your flour and salt in a large mixing bowl.
- Using knives or a pastry cutter, cut the butter and shortening into the flour mixture. The butter and shortening should be about the size of a fingernail, or slightly smaller.
- Add water a couple of tablespoons at a time and mix with a fork. The dough should start to come together in a shaggy ball. The dough should be wet enough to hold together without cracking.
- Divide your dough into two disks and wrap in plastic wrap. Store in the refrigerator for one hour before use.
- The dough can keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and the freezer for up to 1 month.
Check out these blog posts for more pie crust inspiration from One Hot Oven.
Have leftover pie dough? Make these Quick and Easy Jelly Roll Pie Tarts. These are a family favorite treat.
Have you ever made a galette? This Apple-Cranberry Galette is a free form pie that is quick and easy to make. No pie plate required.
Thank you for stopping by the One Hot Oven blog. Please leave a comment to say Hello or just let me know what you are baking these days.
From learning to cook on a farm in Indiana to culinary school in California, my passion for food is never-ending. Turning on my oven to bake something for friends and family is my happy place, and I am glad to be here at One Hot Oven sharing both sweet and savory recipes with all my baking friends.
Have any questions or just want to chat about the recipe? Contact me here, and I’ll be happy to help!
Happy pie baking!