A pie crust recipe should be easy to make and simple to understand. The perfect pie crust should also be buttery and full of flavor. This recipe has all of that and so much more. If you want easy, jump right to the recipe. However, if you're going to learn the ins and outs of making a pie crust, read my entire post or just the sections you feel you need. All roads will lead to the same place, a perfect pie crust!
Types of Crusts
If you are new to making pie crusts, you are probably confused, not alone. There are many different crusts, and in America, we call them all pie crust. I won't even attempt to cover the different types of crusts. However, I will narrow it down to the top three with a few amazing pastries that are sometimes used as a pie crust.
|Basic Crust (Pâte Brisée)||Yes||Butter||Water||Yes||No||No||Sweet Pies|
Very versatile crust
|Basic Sweet Crust (Pâte Sucrée)||Yes||Butter||Water||Yes||Yes||Yes (yolk)||Sweet Tarts|
Can be used with sweet and savory pies
|Rich Shortcrust (Pâte sablée)||Short Bread|
Cookie/Graham Cracker Crust
Those are the three basic crusts. Some additional pastries used as crusts include:
- Puff pastry
- Ruff puff pastry
- Phyllo dough.
I will save all of those for another day.
I am using the basic pie crust recipe (Pâte Brisée) to make a perfect pie crust. This crust works perfectly for 80% of the crusts made in American homes. The other 20% are rich shortcrust cookie crusts (like the one used here or here).
The ingredients will yield two crusts rolled into a 9-inch pan. This can make two tarts, quiches, etc. This recipe will also make one double (top and bottom) crusted pie.
- 1.5 cups (12 oz) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 8 ounces butter (cold and diced)
- ½ cup (4.5 oz) cold water
- 3 teaspoons (.5 oz) vinegar
Specific Ingredient Notes
Each ingredient in this recipe is necessary to create a rich buttery dough. For the best result, choose each component carefully. Quality matters!
- Flour - Is the structure of a pie crust. I stick with all-purpose flour. King Arthur's brand is generally regarded as the best option. (I love their site as well. It has tons of great resources under the learn tab!)
- Butter - Butter matters! For the best result, always follow these three rules.
- Rule #1 - Always use unsalted butter. This allows you, the baker, control over how much salt is in your recipe.
- Rule #2 - Always (if you can afford it) buy European butter. This butter is richer and has a higher fat content. The result is a flavor that can only be achieved using European butter.
- Rule #3 - When making a crust, always use cold butter. Cold butter is needed to achieve the flakiness in pies that you want. I am so dedicated to this rule that I place it back in the refrigerator once I cut my butter before I use it.
- Salt - I recommend coarse salt. The flavor disperses perfectly throughout the crust and gives little pops of flavor.
- Water (cold) - Water is the binding ingredient for this dough. Always use ice water. I fill a glass full of water and then place a couple of ice cubes in it. I then place it in my refrigerator until it is time to add it to the dough. When it's time, I strain just the water into a measuring cup. (Yes, to make a good pie crust, you really have to be committed to cold butter and cold water!)
- Vinegar - Is the secret ingredient to a perfect pie dough! By adding vinegar, you stop the formation of gluten, which results in a soft dough.
Vegan modification - To make this pie crust vegan, swap out regular butter for vegan butter/ vegan shortening combination at a 1:1 ratio. (equal parts vegan butter and vegan shortening to the one part butter)
High altitude modification - Prepare additional cold water than the recipe calls for high-altitude adjustments. As you work the dough, continue to drizzle extra cold water on your dough in increments. When your dough comes together quickly without crumbling, the dough is ready. If the dough is dry in sports or breaks apart easily, you must add some more water.
Step One: Add the salt to the flour and mix well with a whisk. Your goal here is even to distribute the salt throughout the flour.
Step Two: Combine the butter and the flour. There are a few different methods that you can use here, and they all pretty much work, as long as the butter stays cold and is not over blended. I outlined four methods below. Most bakers will stick with the method they are most comfortable with. For me, it is method two.
- Method one: Finger Tips - Use your fingertips to work the butter into the flour. Using your fingertips, you transfer as little heat from your hands as possible to the butter. When you are done, the flour should look like thick breadcrumbs.
- Method two: Sheeting - This is where you snap the butter and flour between your fingers and create sheets. These sheets are perfect for creating flaky dough.
- Method three: Pasty Blender - This tool allows you to cut the butter into the flour in a downward rotating process. Pastry blenders make combining butter and flour easy, although I prefer method one or two.
- Method four: Food Processor - This is a popular method because it is easy. Place the flour and the clubbed butter into the food processor and pulse no more than six times. It is also straightforward to over-blender the butter into the flour resulting in a tough dough.
Step Two: Combine the water and the vinegar before moving on to the next step.
Step Three: Slowly drizzle the ⅔rds of the ice water/vinegar over the butter/flour/salt mixture. Gently work the dough into a combined dough. Note that the dough will still be shaggy and should not be shinny like bread making.
Step Four: Divide the dough in half. Flatten each half into a disk, then wrap in cling wrap. Place the disk in the refrigerator for 1 hour or up to three days.
Types Rolling Pins
Selecting the correct rolling pin is essential. There are many different types to choose from, and honestly, they all work. However, as a baker, you will find one go-to pin. For me, it's my $4.99 french pin I bought on Amazon. It's simple, lightweight, and easy to maneuver.
Your first step is to select a rolling pin. I have a classic french wooden rolling pin and a marble pin. They both have their pros and cons, and at the end of the day, it is a personal preference.
- French rolling pins - Are wooden and handleless. These come in two styles: one tapers at the end (traditional french rolling pin)and one that does not mean tapper (shaker pin). These pins are affordable, easy to maneuver, and work great with pie dough. This is my preferred pin every time.
- American rolling pin - This is a wooden rolling pin with handles. This pin is very versatile but can sometimes be clunky to maneuver.
- Marble rolling pin - This is a heavy pin with handles. Many bakers prefer this pin type due to its weight and cold marble. This is a great pin when working with puff pastry or stiff dough.
How to Roll a Crust
Once your dough has been made and rested, it is time to roll out the crust. For me, this is the fun part.
Start with removing the dough from the refrigerator. Select a flat work surface. Some people like cold stone countertops. However, I prefer a pastry mat. The mat helps me roll the dough to the correct size. Lightly flour your work surface and keep a small bowl of flour nearby if you need more. Working from the center of the dough, roll outwards. Continue to work the dough in all directions until you reach the desired size.
If the dough starts to warm and the butter is melting, place it on a baking sheet and refrigerate it for ten minutes. Once the dough is cold, continue rolling.
How to Place Dough
When transferring a pie crust to the pan, it is essential to do this in one move. This step ensures the dough stays on one long sheet. There are two basic methods, using your rolling pin or folding the dough into quarters.
Rolling pin method: Move your rolling pin to the end of the dough. Gently roll the pin backward, wrapping the dough around your pin. Then lift the dough and move it to your baking dish. Once in your baking dish, use your fingers to shape the dough into place. Once placed, roll over the top of the dough with your rolling pin to remove the extra dough.
Quarter method: Once you have rolled the dough out, gently fold it into a semi-circle and fold it by half again. Once folded, pick up the dough and place it in the center of your baking dish. Unfold the dough and press it into shape. Once established, roll over the top of the dough with your rolling pin to remove the extra dough.
Once the pie crust is in place, roll over the top of the crust with your pin. This will give you a clean, smooth edge.
Docking a Crust
Once the pie dough is in place, you will need to dock (sometimes called pricking) the dough. This step is critical to allow the steam to escape when baking. If the moisture cannot escape, the dough will bubble up and crack under the weight of your fillings.
To dock a pie crust, prick the pie crust with a fork all over, including the sides. I find this step incredibly gratifying.
Baking a pie can go one of two ways. One, you fill the pastry with the desired filling and bake. This type of baking is standard with a fruit pie where the crust and the filling all bake together. The other type is called blind baking. In a blind bake, you need the bake the crust before serving it. Blind baking is typical with custards, quiche, and even pumpkin pie.
If you need a partially or fully baked crust, you will blind bake the crust. Blind baking involves placing weights between the dough and pan to keep the dough puffing up. Start by lining the dough with parchment paper or tin foil. Then fill the lining with weights. You can purchase pie weights. However, I recommend saving your money and using those old beans, rice, or lentils you never got around to cooking.
After about 15 - 20 minutes of baking the shell with the weights, pull the pie out of the oven and remove the weights. Then, continue to cook the body for another 15 - 20 minutes.
This recipe makes two 9-inch pie or tart crusts. In some instances, you might be using all the dough right away. However, you might want to save the other half. Here are a couple of options to store your dough and your crust.
- Refrigerate - If you're going to use your pie dough in the next few days, you can wrap it in cling wrap and store it in the refrigerator for up to three days.
- Freeze - If you are using your pie dough later, you can wrap tightly in cling wrap and place it in a zipped-up freezer bag inside the freezer for up to six months.
- Refrigerate - If you will use your crust in the next few days, wrap it tightly in cling wrap and place it in the refrigerator. Your crust can be stored this way for up to three days.
- Freeze - If you are going to save your crust for longer than three days, double wrap it tightly in cling wrap and store it in the freezer. You can keep your crust this way for one month.
A Perfect Pie Crust Recipe
- Rolling Pin
- Medium bowl
- Pie or tart pan
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces butter (cold and diced)
- ½ cup water (cold)
- 3 teaspoons vinegar
- Using a whisk, mix 1.5 cups of flour and 1 teaspoon of salt1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon salt
- Using just your fingertips, mix 8 ounces of butter into the flour/salt combination. The final result should look like breadcrumbs. Use caution not to overmix.8 ounces butter (cold and diced)
- Combine the water and vinegar and then drizzle half over the flour. Continue to add the water in small increments until the dough looks shaggy. **You might not use all of the water or you might need more water depending on your climate. The key here is to add just enough so that the dough begins to come together.½ cup water (cold), 3 teaspoons vinegar
- Flatten the dough into a disk and then wrap in cling wrap. Let the dough rest in the refrigerator for 1 hour and up to three days.
- Once the dough has rested, divide it in half.
- Roll the dough out to ⅛ thickness and the desired size.
- Place the dough in the baking dish and press it into place. Use your rolling pin to go over the top of the dough. Then dock the dough with your fork to create air vents.
- Blind Bake: If you need a pre-baked shell you will want to do a blind bake. To do this press the dough into the desired shell. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Dock the dough. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover the shell with parchment paper or tin foil. Fill with rice, lentils, or dried beans. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes. Remove the beans and parchment and continuing baking until the crust is just turning golden.