Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Butter Pie Crust Dough

(Deep breath) - Ok, I'll admit something shameful. I love pre-made pie crusts. The roll-out kind you get in the refrigerated section next to the canned biscuits, the frozen ones that hang out near the garlic bread and Cool Whip, and even the graham cracker ones. It's not that I don't KNOW how to make a homemade pie crust - it all goes back to my dough phobia/bread anxiety

There are two schools of pie crust; butter crusts and shortening crusts. Well, technically there are THREE schools, since nowadays some folks do a combination of butter AND shortening - the "hybrid" crust, if you will. Personally, I love a good butter pie crust - the butter seems (to me, anyway) to yield a flakier crust, great for fruit pies like apple, or for your standard "fall" pies like pumpkin, pecan and sweet potato. Shortening crusts, in my opinion, work best for pies like chocolate pie, caramel pie, and cream pies

The key to good pie crust? CHILLING. Keep your butter cold. Use chilled bowls. Don't mix everything on the countertop directly above a hot running dishwasher (I made this mistake. TWICE.). Don't overwork the dough - the heat from your hands will also melt the butter too much. 

Sounds like a lot of work, right? Well, my pie crust recipe actually comes together inside a food processor. I don't have to touch the dough too much, and it always turns out great for me. Plus, this recipe makes 2 single pie crusts (or 1 double-crust), freezes great, and tastes SO much better than the pre-made kind! 

Butter Pie Crust Dough
adapted from Simply Recipes

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
2 sticks VERY COLD unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
8 Tbsp ice water

Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor** and pulse until blended. Add the cubed butter and pulse JUST until a coarse meal is formed - the butter bits should be about the size of small peas.

Sprinkle water into the food processor, 1 Tbsp at a time, and pulse until the dough begins to form moist clumps. Pinch some of the dough; if it holds together, it's ready. If not, keep adding water, 1 Tbsp at a time, and pulse again.

Guess who forgot to take pictures of this step? 

**If you don't have a food processor (or don't want to lug it out of the pantry or take it apart into 14564891 pieces to clean it), simply use a large mixing bowl and cut the butter into the flour mixture using a pastry blender or two forks. Once the butter cubes are the size of small peas, sprinkle the water over the dough, 1 Tbsp at a time, and cut with the pastry blender or two forks.**

Turn the "dough" (it should still be a crumbly mixture, not pulled together like a bread dough) out on a work surface. Divide the mound of "dough" and form into 2 balls, working the dough as little as possible; you should still be able to see little bits of butter in the dough, which is what makes the dough flaky.

For an EXTRA flaky crust, press the dough crumbles into your work surface with the palm of your hand a few times before forming balls; this flattens the butter into layers, which makes the crust super flaky. Of course, you can always skip this step and still end up with am amazing pie crust!

Flatten each ball into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for at least 1 hour, or up to 48 hours.

You can freeze the dough for long-term storage as well; I squeeze out as much air as possible from the dough rounds, wrap TWICE in plastic wrap (the initial wrapping, then a second wrapping). Then, I wrap in foil, and finally place the dough in a freezer bag. It may seem like overkill, but I've yet to have a pie crust ruined by freezer burn. Just make sure you give the frozen crusts plenty of time to thaw before baking!!


  1. Perfect timing on this post! I am just getting ready to make caramel apple pie and have forgotten my crust recipe! Thanks!

    1. You are very welcome! Caramel apple pie sounds absolutely DELICIOUS! Hope you have a great Thanksgiving!

  2. My neck of the woods pie crust is most often made of lard. If you are creative savory and meat pie crusts use rendered down beef fat. I'm wondering if that's just a Canadian thing? I prefer butter for desserts. Honestly I've never used shortening. I might just try it on my next Strawberry Banana Cream...