I’m warning you right now… This is going to be a long post. I feel very passionately about pie crust. Which is slightly ironic since I have zero pie recipes on my blog (so far– I promise I’ll get to one eventually) unless you count the adorable apple hand pies I posted a few weeks ago.
The reason for lack of pie recipes on my blog is because… I just don’t love pie. I said it in my hand pie post, and I’ll say it again: give me a brownie or a cookie. Or PUPPY CHOW. Ok ok, give me pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, but on a big dessert spread, I’ll likely gravitate towards other goodies.
I do, however, believe that having a solid pie crust recipe in your baking arsenal is very important as a baker. I have taken pies to gatherings because it’s what was requested. I’ve made pies for my coworkers because I just love them. And I also frequent pie crust for things like cookies. Cookies, you say? Why yes. I actually have two cookie recipes planned for December that include pie crust. Get excited, people!
Those cookies are made a million times better thanks to homemade pie crust. Of course, you always have the option of buying a pre-made pie crust, but nothing compares to the buttery, flakiness of a homemade pie crust done right.
And that’s what I have for you here today: my favorite buttery, flaky, goes-with-anything, perfect, classic pie crust. Think I’m exaggerating? Read and bake on, my friend. You will agree with me in no time, I guarantee it.
So let’s talk about what you need to make this great pie crust. All pie crusts begin with the same ingredients: flour, salt, sugar (sometimes), cold water, and cold fat.
For the flour, we’re just working with all-purpose. Nothing fancy there.
Salt for flavor. Obviously. If you just mixed flour and fat together with nothing to jazz it up, you’d basically be eating Play-Doh. Let’s not forget some saltiness.
Next up, granulated sugar. There is much debate out there about whether or not sugar belongs in pie crust. I firmly believe that it does, but with that, I must say there is only 1 Tablespoon in this entire recipe, which makes 2 pie crusts, so we’re talking 1/2 of a Tablespoon in each pie crust. That’s almost nothing, but at the same time, gives my pie crust the slightest sweetness. Not too sweet though– you never want your pie crust to actually be sweet. Just a touch of sweetness is what I prefer in my homemade pie crust.
The liquid you’ll add to your pie crust is water, but it must be cold water. We do not want any of the fat in our pie crust to melt (yet), so in order to keep everything nice and chilled, you’ll be working with ice cold water. I use anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 cup of water for my pie crusts, so I start by measuring 1/2 cup of water into my glass measuring cup. To that, I add a few ice cubes, stir it around, and measure out of the ice cold water by the Tablespoon (more on that in the step-by-step instructions).
The last ingredients that you’ll be working with are butter and shortening. I have tried making pie crust with purely butter and I just wouldn’t want to know what an all shortening crust would taste like. All butter? Much too greasy for me and very hard to handle. It also tastes like straight up butter. Good, but lots of the other flavors get lost in the shuffle. All shortening? I would imagine no flavor. And that’s just not what we want at all. What’s the purpose of using both? Butter, of course, brings tons of flavor. Also, the moisture in the butter helps to create lots of defined flakes. We want a lot of this. Shortening also adds flakiness, but also lends to the tenderness we all love so much in pie crust. Flaky + tender = pieeeeeefection!
Just like the water, your fats must be cold. We don’t want the fats melting before they get into the oven, otherwise, the result will be greasy, crunchy, and totally unappealing. If we keep the fats cold as long as possible, they will melt in the oven, release the steam, and create pockets of air that then result in flakes. Following? Cold, cold, cold fats!
I cut my butter up into tiny squares and freeze them on a plate for about 1-2 hours before I begin my pie crust. If they can freeze longer than that, great! For the shortening, I measure it out onto a plate and just keep it in the fridge.
SO let’s put that all together.
Start by whisking together your flour, salt, and sugar. Then, add the fats.
Using a pastry blender, cut the fats into the flour mixture until it becomes coarse and crumbly. You may use a fork or two knives to do this, but a pastry blender will save you a lot of time. Plus, they’re fairly cheap. Every baker should own one. A lot of pie crust recipes tell you to look for “pea size chunks” when cutting fat into flour, but I find that my shortening/butter combination gives me shreds and circle shapes. Look for small circular bits and 1/4″ to 1/2″ shreds.
Once all of your fats are incorporated, it’s time to add the ice water.
Add 1 Tablespoon at a time, stirring after each addition. It may seem silly to stir after the first few Tablespoons, but you do not want your pie crust to get too wet.
Similarly, you don’t want it too dry either. Stop adding water when it starts to clump together like this:
Transfer your dough to a floured surface. Make sure all of the bits and excess flour make it onto the surface as well.
Using floured hands, fold the dough onto itself until all of the bits of dough and flour are incorporated. The dough should come together easily, not crumble, and not feel overly sticky. Be careful not to overwork the dough. It will become tough once it’s baked. Yuck.
Form the dough into a ball, cut it in half, and flatten each half into a disc about 1″ thick and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 5 days. You can also freeze your pie crusts for up to 3 months.
Thaw a frozen pie crust dough in the fridge overnight or use a thoroughly chilled dough right away.
When you are ready to use it, roll out the crust gently. Use a rolling pin to roll from the center of the circle outwards. Turn the dough about 1/4 turn each time so as to roll it out evenly. You’re probably working with a 9″ pie plate, so rolling your dough to 12″ will give you enough room to work with an edge. My favorite rolling mat is from King Arthur Flour.
I hope that you followed along ok and feel great about conquering the homemade pie crust world– just in time for Thanksgiving!
- 2 and ¾ cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
- 8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
- ⅔ cup vegetable shortening, chilled
- ½ cup ice water
- Mix the flour, salt, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the butter and the shortening.
- Using a pastry cutter or two forks, cut the butter and the shortening into the mixture until it has mostly shredded and created some smaller bits.
- Measure ½ cup of water into a cup, bowl, or glass measuring cup. Add a few ice cubes and stir it around. Add the ice water in 1 Tablespoon at a time, stirring with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon after each addition. Stop adding water when the dough begins to form large clumps. I usually use between ⅓ and ½ cup of water. Do not add more water than you need to.
- Transfer dough to a floured work surface, being sure to add all of the bits of dough and extra flour. Using floured hands, fold the dough into itself until the extra bits and flour are fully incorporated. Form the dough it into a ball, divide dough in half, and flatten each half into a 1" thick disc. Wrap each disc tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 5 days.
- When you are ready to make your pie, gently roll out your dough on a lightly floured surface starting from the center of the disc and working your way outwards. Turn the dough ¼ turn between each roll. If you're working with a 9" pie dish, roll your crust out to about 12".
- Proceed with the pie per your recipe's instructions.