pie crust from scratch
I decided a few years ago that I was going to start making pie. I was a bit scared of the crust. But it turns out pie crust isn’t that scary! I’ve made a lot of pies since then, all of them with crust from scratch. Here is my favorite pie crust recipe and some tips I’ve figured out over the years. This recipe is for a double-crust pie, but I recommend making the full recipe even if you’re only making a single-crust pie! Just freeze the second disc of dough and thaw it out for a few hours before using it later. Extra pie dough will also keep in the fridge for about a week, though it’ll turn a weird zombie shade of grey (it’s fine, I promise). Extra pie dough is always good.
The recipe is from Smitten Kitchen (it is also in her first book). She has lots of good tips there and more tips about rolling and crimping here.
- 2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp sugar (you can skip this if you're making a savory pie like quiche, or if you don't like sugar)
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 sticks of butter (1 cup). I use salted. Unsalted would also work, but if you are like me and like things salty, you might want to up the salt by 25% or so.
- 3/4-1 cup of ice cold water
- Dice the butter into roughly centimeter cubes and stick the cutting board in the freezer with the butter for a couple of minutes.
- Mix together the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.
- Pull the butter out of the freezer and dump the butter cubes into the bowl. Toss to coat them with flour.
- Using a pastry cutter, two forks, or your hands, cut or rub the butter into the flour. The goal is for all of the butter pieces to be pea-sized or smaller. If you pause occasionally and shake the bowl, the bigger butter pieces will gather in the middle, so you can see how you're doing. You'll have some bigger pieces, some sandy-looking bits, and some bits that look like plain ol' flour. As long as the biggest pieces are small-ish, you can stop.
- Drizzle about half of the water over the flour and use a spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl to slowly incorporate the liquid. Once that batch has been mostly absorbed, keep drizzling little bits of cold water over the dry bits of the mix. Keep scraping down the sides of the bowl, as that's where the dryest bits will congregate. Try to get the dry spots to mix with the wettest spots to avoid adding more water than you need to. It's fine to get your hands in there if that seems easier, just make sure you're not melting the butter.
- At this point, most recipes will tell you to err on the side of less water, opting to press in some of the dry crumbs in the next step. I say, add in a bit more water! You don't want your dough to end up sticky here, but if it does, it is not an emergency. I find sticky dough much easier to work with than dry dough.
- Once you have a cohesive clump of all your dough, divide it into two discs and wrap each in plastic wrap.
- Leave the discs in the fridge for at least a half hour. This is when you would start prepping your pie filling.
To roll out the dough:
- Flour your countertop or baking mat generously. I mean generously. Just use a ton of flour. You can always brush it off later.
- Flour your rolling pin. Generously, again. If you don't have a rolling pin, glass bottles work great! I once even used a rolled-up magazine wrapped in a towel. It wasn't great but it got the job done.
- Unwrap and flour the disc of pie dough. If your dough ended up a bit sticky, flour it generously on both sides. Yes, you just floured everything else. Trust me.
- Roll out the disc a few times, from the center to the edges of the circle, changing your rolling pin angle so it rolls out evenly. After a few rolls, peel it up off the counter, re-flour anything that needs re-flouring, and flip the dough to the other side. This all helps it from sticking or cracking later.
- Keep rolling from the center to the edges all around until the dough circle is a few inches wider in diameter than your pie plate.
- Flour the top of the circle, then loosely fold the dough in quarters.
- Place the dough in your pie plate, lining the point up with the center, and unfold it.
- Put the bottom crust back in the refrigerator as you prepare everything else.
To finish your pie crust:
- If you're making a single-crust pie, roll the edges of the pie dough circle under to make a crust and the crimp it all the way around.
- If you're making a double-crust pie, fill the pie first, then roll out the second disc as directed above to use as your top crust. Once the top crust (plain or latticed) is on, roll the bottom crust over the top crust all the way around to seal the pie, then crimp.
- If you're making pie that needs a par-baked or fully-baked crust, fill the empty shell with parchment or foil, then pie weights or beans or sugar (I use sugar, since you can fill the entirety of the pie crust and the sides won't slump down), and par-bake as directed.
A final note:
If you want a video, or if you want to use your hands instead of a pastry blender, this video from Erin McDowell is pretty good, though she uses way less water and a different recipe than I do (my doughs are usually like her “too wet” dough at the end). Pie dough is pretty forgiving, so either is fine.
Most people have issues with dough sticking or cracking when trying to roll it out or transfer to the pie plate. I find the extra water when mixing (for elasticity) plus extra flour when rolling (for nonstick) does the trick.