kitchen 101: how to make pie crust

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Pie Crust Tutorial

I seem to start these kitchen 101 posts with confessions a lot of the time. Well, here we go again, confession time, friends.

Up until about a year ago, I was terrified to make my own pie crust. I’m not sure where the fear came from. Maybe I watched one too many Martha Stewart episodes where she lectured me sternly about the importance of cold butter, but for some reason, I thought making pie crust was pretty much the hardest thing ever.

Uh, it isn’t.

It’s not even close to hard. It’s actually pretty freaking easy. And it is definitely one of those things that is worth the extra time to make it versus store-bought. Store bought crusts will work, but a homemade crust is life-changing good. My favorite part about home-making crusts is I have complete control over the flours. Almost all of my pie crusts are made with 100% whole wheat pastry flour. If you use a good whole wheat pastry flour, I’d venture a guess that you’d have a hard time telling the difference between it and its enriched flour brother. I love this organic flour from Great River so much that I order it specially online. That’s love.

With the holiday baking season coming up soon (or right now, if you live in Canada), let me show you how to take your pies to the next level. I promise, if you make your own crust, someone will say to you, “this is the best pie I’ve ever had.” Guaranteed.

The ingredients for a pie crust are painfully simple—flour, butter, salt, sugar and ice water. Done and done. Here are my measurements to make one pie crust (large enough for a 9″ pie plate):

  • 1-1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or replace with all-purpose flour or a combo)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 stick frozen butter <—– I store my butter in the freezer, so it’s always ready for pie crust-making
  • 4-5 tablespoons ice water

Next up, you want to pulse together the flour, sugar and salt in the basin of a food processor. Pulse just a few times to get it nice and mixed up. Don’t have a food processor? That’s cool, just whisk together the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

Using a sharp knife, cut your frozen butter into small pieces. It takes a little bit of elbow grease to cut through solid-frozen butter, but keeping the butter cold is what makes the crust nice and flaky. If you prefer, you can cut unfrozen butter into chunks and then freeze those chunks. Whatever makes you happy. Just as long as your butter is crazy cold.

Add the cut-up frozen butter to the food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles the texture of small pebbles. Don’t worry about getting all the butter chopped up evenly. It’s more important for your butter to stay frozen than it is for the butter to be perfectly distributed. If you are doing this by hand, you’ll need to go at the butter/flour mixture with a pastry blender or two butter knives, cutting in the butter until it’s the size of small pebbles. Work quickly (and in a cool space if you can) you don’t want that butter to warm up.

Working a tablespoon at a time, add in the ice water and pulse the food processor until combined. After each addition, grab a handful of the mixture and squeeze it together. When it stays together without crumbling (it usually takes about four tablespoons for me) you are done. If you are doing this by hand, follow the same method, except whisk vigorously between each tablespoon of water.

Yay! Your pie crust dough is done. Woohoo! Now dump the crumbly meal onto a clean work surface and, using your hands, form into a solid lump, then into a disc. Work as quickly as possible because the heat in your hands will melt the butter (which, as we’ve established, is a no-no). The disc doesn’t have to be perfect.

Wrap up the disc in plastic wrap and stash in the fridge. It’ll need to rest in there for about an hour before you roll it out. If you’re in a rush, you can stick it in the freezer for 15-20 minutes.

After the crust has chilled out in the fridge, let it warm up a bit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes, then roll out on a lightly floured surface until it is about 1/8″  and large enough around to cover your pie plate. Roll the crust around your rolling pin for easy transporting.

Unroll on top of your ungreased pie plate (don’t worry, there is enough butter in the pie crust to not stick). Gently push it in the plate to contour along the sides.

Leaving about 1/2″ all the way around, trim the extra crust, roll the 1/2″ under and then flute or decorate the edge however you prefer. Tada!

See? Easy peasy! And now you can make obnoxious creations like this savory pie, which is coming your way early next week.

Do you make your own pie crust? If so, which camp are you in—butter or shortening?

Cassie is the founder and CEO of Wholefully. She's a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. She lives on a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana with her husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and 15 chickens.
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Hello. My name is Cassie, and I’m a healthy home cooking expert.

I'm a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, and I've been developing healthy recipes professionally for over 15 years. Food is my love language, and my kitchen tips and nourishing recipes are my love letter to you!

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