Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tutorial: How To Make Perfect, Flaky Pie Crust

Today, we're gonna make pie crust.

I have made dozens and dozens of pie crusts in the 5 years that I've been cooking and baking. And, I was definitely intimidated by it when I first started. But, I'm happy to say that I'm not anymore. Pie crust is one of those things that once you know how to do it, it's easy. Second nature. Kind of the like riding a bike.

So, today, I'm gonna walk you through exactly how I make pie crust. I use this same recipe for every pie I make. Fresh Strawberry Pie, Peach Crumb Pie, Apple Pie, Pumpkin Pie. And, I use this pie crust when I make Chicken Pot Pie. It's an all-purpose crust that you can use for any dish that calls for pie crust.

There are many, many ways to make pie crusts. This is my way. This is what works for me. Some people like all-butter crusts, cream cheese crusts, lard crusts. I like to say that this crust, a combination of butter and shortening, is what I find to be most trustworthy. It rarely gives me fits - which pie crust can. I have found this set of ingredients, along with this method, produces a flaky, delicious, easy to work with pie crust every time I make it.

*Note: I use a food processor - so these directions will be for making a double pie crust in and with my food processor. If I could only have one small kitchen appliance, it would be my food processor - even above my stand mixer. It's an invaluable tool for baking and cooking. If you don't have one, you can use a pastry cutter or two knives to combine the ingredients. People have been making pie crusts by hand for years. So, if you don't have a food processor, you can still use this method, you'll just need to combine things by hand.

Now, before we start, I want to say that just like with fussy, finicky children, making pie crust requires patience. But, the end result is SO worth making it from scratch. And, once you get it, you can make pies to your heart's content - totally from scratch, and with delicious, flaky, made-by-you crust!

Full recipe below.

Combine 2 cups flour, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a food processor. Pulse until thoroughly combined.

Add 1/2 cup shortening and 3 tablespoons butter.

Pulse until crumbly.

This is the consistency you're going for. Crumbly. Light. Thoroughly combined.

In a small cup, combine some ice cubes and water. Allow to sit for 30 seconds. (You could do this in advance - I just always forget.)

Remove ice cubes and add ice water, 2 tablespoons at a time, and then continue to lightly pulse. This is where pie crust can get a bit finicky. When the pie crust is ready, it will form a ball. That is how you know you've added enough water. Sometimes I need 6 tablespoons. Sometimes I need 8. I have absolutely no idea why that is.

This was after 6 tablespoons. See, it's not quite ready. We're looking for it to combine into a ball.

So, I added 2 more tablespoons of water.

A few more pulses later, and this is what happened. This is exactly what it should look like.

Generously flour a cutting board.

Divide crust into two, even pieces. Set one aside. (Remember, this is enough crust for a double crust pie - top and bottom.)

Place one pie crust on cutting board.

Using your hands, form into a smooth ball. If the pie crust is right, it should feel smooth - like a baby's bum.

Generously flour a rolling pin.

Gently begin to roll out the pie dough. Don't use too much pressure, or you'll squish it and make it all rebellious and not wanna cooperate. Just use gentle pressure.

Continue rolling out dough, turning your rolling pin in all directions to make a perfect circle.

Then, take your pie plate, and set it gently on top of the pie crust to be sure that you've rolled it out big enough. (There are mats you can buy that will tell you exactly how large to roll out your dough, I've just never purchased one and find that my pie plate is pretty trusty in letting me know when I've rolled it out large enough.)

To transfer your pie dough into your pie plate, fold the circle of dough in half. Gently. Always gently and slowly.

Then, fold it in half again.

Place the folded dough into one corner of your pie plate.

Then begin to unfold it - unfolding it from the corner to cover one half.

Then unfolding it from the middle to cover the entire pie plate. Easy, easy way to transfer your dough from the board to the pie plate.

This step is really important. You don't want to stretch out the pie dough to get it "settled" into the bottom of the plate. It could rip and then you'll have holes in the bottom of your crust. I always use the back of my index finger to gently press the dough into the sides. Notice a theme? Gently. Pie crust really does require gentle, patient hands.

Continue patting and pressing until the pie crust covers the pie plate and there are no "bubbles" where the pie crust isn't secure against the plate.

At this point, you're ready to fill your pie with whatever filling you're using. Once you've filled your pie, repeat the steps above to roll out your second pie crust. Fold it to remove it from the cutting board, and then place it on top of the pie filling.

The top crust should hang over the edge just a bit.

Tuck the top crust under the bottom crust. This will create a sealed edge so that the filling doesn't spill from the pie while baking.

You could bake your pie just like this.

But, I always take the extra step of fluting the edge. Just use your two index fingers and thumb and go all the way around the pie, pressing to create a fluted edge.

Your pie is now ready to bake. Depending on the filling, bake times vary. But, most pies bake at 350-400 degrees and are ready in 45 minutes to 1 hour, and this crust will bake perfectly in that time frame. If it begins to brown too quickly on the top, I just cover it loosely with foil until the pie is ready.

Like in my Peach Crumb Pie, sometimes I add a crumb topping to the top of the crust. I can just never choose between a crumb crust and top crust - so many times I use both. I love that method - best of both worlds. But, I love a plain top crust as well.

I hope this encourages you to try to make a homemade pie crust of your own. Again, this is the method and ingredients that I use. But, there are many, many different methods and ingredients online - so find one that works for you. Just try to make a pie crust from scratch - at least once.

Homemade pie crust - it's so worth the effort!

*If you have any questions, leave them in the comments and I'll answer them there.

Happy pie crust baking, friends!

Double Pie Crust

2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
3 tablespoons butter
6-8 tablespoons ice water

Combine flour and salt in a food processor. Mix until combined. Add shortening and butter and mix until crumbly. Add water, 2 tablespoons at a time, and pulse until dough combines into a ball.

Lightly flour a cutting board or baking mat. Divide dough into two pieces. Place one ball of dough on cutting board/baking mat and roll out with a lightly floured rolling pin. Fold rolled out dough in half, then in half again, and place into pie plate. Unfold and press gently into pie plate, removing any bubbles.

Fill pie with filling and repeat steps with top crust. Place top crust on top of filling. Tuck top crust under the bottom crust and flute edges with thumb and index fingers.

Bake pie according to pie directions.

*A special thanks to my sweet husband who snapped pictures for me while I covered myself, him, and the kitchen in flour to create this tutorial. He's the best!


  1. Yay! I'm so excited to finally have this recipe! Way to go, Jason, for being such a good sport.

  2. It's a beautiful thing! Thanks Jason for helping. I need a food processor!

  3. This looks like a fabulous recipe. It's very similar to the one I use from Cook's Illustrated, "Foolproof and Flaky Pie Crust." The combo of butter and shortening is perfect, just the right balance of buttery flavor and crisp structure. The only difference is, Cook's used 3 T cold water and 3 T vodka. Their theory was, if you add too much water, crust can end up a tad tough or chewy. But if it's too dry like most recipes (3-4 T), you can't roll it out or get it in the plate. Their solution was alchol (vodka), which doubles the liquid content, makes the dough as moist and easy to roll as sugar cookie dough, but evaporates out completely during baking, and leaves no flavor behind at all.

    One tip if you're like me and don't have a food processer, it helps to slice the butter and shortening into 1/4-inch slices before adding to the flower mixture. You get to the crumb stage a lot quicker if the pieces are small to begin with.

  4. I'm absolutely going to try this! Thank you for the step by step pics. You do a fantastic job with your recipes!

  5. Nice're so good at that! I'll have to try this some time :) xoxo

  6. THANK YOU!!! I can't wait to try this recipe. Great pictures and instructions... easy enough to follow.

  7. Thank you for doing this -- the tutorial is so helpful. Most of the time I just use those pre-made pie crusts, but now that we're doing a lot more homemade stuff, this would be a fun one to try.

  8. This looks delish! What brand shortening do you use? I heard that makes a difference too. Already choosing my ripe peaches!!

  9. Beth,

    That's really interesting. I've never tried that - but I can see how it would work! And, your tip for cutting up the butter/shortening is a great one!


    I always use Crisco shortening. I never use anything else. I like using the sticks - easy to measure w/o having a sticky measuring cup to clean afterwards!

  10. Yum! I made this a couple days ago and it was SO easy. I used to hate making pie crust--my crusts were always tearing and crumbling on me--but this was very easy and my husband and I both loved it. Thank you!

  11. Thank you for sharing you, your family and your recipes. Words are not enough.

  12. Sarah. Thank you soooooo much for posting this tutorial!

    Quick question...
    I'm making the strawberry pie (yippee!) and just finished making the crust. I made this double crust recipe... but only used one half of the dough. Do you ever store the dough? In the fridge? Have you ever frozen it to make a pie on a different day?
    I'd just make two pies but I only have one pie plate! Ha!


  13. FYI - the reason that you sometimes have to add more water than other times is the humidity in the air. It can greatly impact a truly great pastry.

  14. One other tip: cut the butter into small cubes -- about 1/2 inch on a side -- then stick them in the freezer for a while. (I slice the butter down the middle, then again with each slab. Makes it easier to cut small cubes.) Another tip I read but haven't tried yet is to freeze the butter, then use a cheese grater to shred the butter

  15. Hi, The recipe for pie crust looks fabulous. I'm going to try it right away. But I dont have any shortening on hand. Could I use butter instead?

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  16. How can I mix this if I don't have a food processor? Would some elbow grease and a wooden spoon work?