By Cassie Johnston
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I used to be terrified of making my own pie crust. I’m not sure where the fear came from. Maybe I watched one too many Food Network shows where I was sternly lectured about the importance of using the exact right temperature of butter that was made from milk from a dairy cow raised only on sunshine and unicorn blood, but for some reason, I thought making pie crust was pretty much the hardest thing ever.
Newsflash: 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 from scratch. Store-bought crusts do the trick, but a homemade pie 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 white flour brother. I love this organic flour from Great River so much that I order it specially online. That’s love.
Other good options are white whole wheat flour (I really like the King Arthur organic one) or, honestly, just live life and use regular all-purpose flour. Never forget that there are two ways food nourishes us—our body and our soul. And I believe an occasional slice of butter, sugar, and gluten-filled pie is about as soul-nourishing as it comes.
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 perfect pie crust are painfully simple—flour, butter, salt, sugar, and ice water. Done and done. There is a full printable version of the recipe below, but I did want to talk through ingredients a bit before we dig into the tutorial:
The main tool you’ll need here is your handy-dandy food processor. I’ve been using my cheap-o Hamilton Beach food processor to make my pie crusts for a decade, and it’s been just fine. Nothing fancy is needed here. If you don’t have a food processor, you can definitely still do this by hand (and I’ll include instructions below)– just know that it’ll require a bit of elbow grease!
You’ll also want a board for rolling out your crust (a marble pastry board is great, though a silicone pastry mat works just fine, too), a rolling pin, and a pie plate. Alright, let’s get started!
First 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. If you don’t have a food processor, that’s cool, just whisk together the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
Now it’s time to add your frozen butter. You can take a sharp knife and cut the butter into small (about 1/2”) cubes, but I will say that cutting through rock solid frozen butter isn’t the greatest.
Instead, my favorite trick is to shred the frozen butter using a cheese grater! Just use the largest holes on your cheese grater and go to town (scroll down to the recipe to see a video of how we do this).
Add the cut-up or shredded 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. So easy, right? 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 20 minutes before you roll it out. If you’re in a rush, you can stick it in the freezer for 5-10 minutes.
After the crust has chilled out in the fridge, let it warm up a bit at room temperature for just a few minutes. Roll it out on a lightly floured surface until it is about 1/8″ thick 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 into 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!
If your pie recipe calls for an unbaked crust, just fill and bake according to the directions in your recipe.
If you need a blind-baked crust (a crust that is already fully cooked—usually for no-bake pies), then here’s how you do that:
Line your crust with parchment paper, then fill either with pie weights or country-girl pie weights (AKA: dried beans). Place the whole contraption in the fridge for 30 minutes. Then bake in a 375°F oven for 20 minutes. Remove the pie from the oven, then lift the parchment and weights out. Using a fork, prick all over the bottom of the crust, and then pop back in the oven for an additional 15 minutes or so.
And that’s it! I promise that making your own pie crusts is the way to take your baked goods to the next level. Happy baking!
Making your own perfect pie crust is the way to take your baked goods to the next level, and it isn’t nearly as finicky a process as you might think!
Keywords: dessert, pie, Thanksgiving, holidays, pie crust
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I always make my own pie crusts. And I always use unsalted butter. I don’t typically put sugar in my crust though, so next time I make a sweet crust I will try it. I also sometimes put some baking powder in with my savory crusts to make it a bit fluffier. Enjoy your pie season!
I think just a touch of sugar is a really nice contrast to the butter. And I always use unsalted, too! I’d much rather control my own salt.
Perfect!!! And now maybe you could do a similar post on fluting, haha. My pie crusts always look puffy and uneven and sad – more like pizza crust. But you’ve got me looking forward to what looks like a delicious autumn comfort food!
Fluting is so easy once you figure it out, that it almost doesn’t seem worth a post! For years I couldn’t figure it out, and then I watched a video on YouTube and the light clicked on!
You are spot on when you say that homemade crust is life changing. I’ve been making homemade pecan pie for Thanksgiving since I was in middle school, but two years ago I made it with a homemade whole wheat crust. My dad went on and on about how this was the best version I’d ever made. And he always says that my pecan pie is the best so this meant a lot that I had improved it even further.
And I’m definitely in the butter camp. Shortening has it’s place, but not in my pie crust.
Oh gosh, I so want a pecan pie, now! A perfect pecan pie is pretty much the stuff dreams are made of.
My recipe calls for half butter, half shortening, but when really want to indulge I go with all butter. This crust you made is gorgeous! I wish I had taken pics of the kindergarten crusts that came out of my class on Monday! Not at all like yours!! They each got a tiny ball to roll out and we baked our pies in muffin tins so each kiddo got their own. I was so glad I did this because I realized that many of the kids had never even seen someone make pie. Somme didn’t even know what flour was! I think I’ll work on an after school cooking class!!!!
All butter, all the time! :) And you are doing AWESOME work teaching those kids about food. I remember watching a Food Revolution episode where Jamie Oliver went into a classroom and kids (not even super young kids, maybe 6th graders?) couldn’t identify common veggies. Like tomatoes or potatoes or cucumbers! They had no idea. So sad.
I’m so glad this does not have Crisco or any other kind of trans fat! I love my Mom to death (and her amazing apple pie with homemade crust), but the trans fat has got to hit the road!
Companies are so sneaky these days to manipulate their labels to say 0g trans fat. Newsflash – that really just means <1g per serving! It could be .99 grams, yet they are able to bare the "No Trans Fat!" label.
That drives me crazy! Did you know Girl Scout cookies have trans fats? But they put the NO TRANS FATS! label on the outside. So wrong.
I have one that is way easier and it’s flaky and perfect for Apple Pie…
2 Cups Flour
1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
1/4 Cup Milk
Mix ingredients together with a fork until crumbly, then form into two balls. Roll each out between waxed paper. Makes 2 crusts or 1 top and 1 bottom.
Awesome! I might have to try it out, although I have to say butter > oil in my world, always and forever. Me and butter be tight. :)
I love that you posted this today! I made my very own pizza dough for the first time last night and was like, stupid proud of myself. I’ve ALWAYS been so intimidated by breads and refused to make them myself. I think I thought they were way more complicated than they really are.
Weird question, have you ever had issues using a gas stove verses an electric? When we moved to our townhouse I had to adjust to using a gas stove for the first time ever, and I can’t find a balance between temperature and time. I have little trouble with putting chicken or pizza in the oven, but my cookies and other baked goods end up burnt or gooey in the middle all! Any advice?
I grew up cooking on a gas stove, so I’ve barely ever even used an electric, so I <3 gas. That being said, those stoves in those apartments SUCK. SUCK. SUCK. I had the hardest time finding the right temperature. I eventually learned that my stove was a lot hotter than it said it was and that helped. Good luck!
Yes! I’m pumped about this. I’m in the butter camp but have never mastered the art so I don’t make pie. And of course it’s husbands favorite food ever… poor man is suffering and you may have just saved his life. I owe you one.
Hahah! It’s easy, I promise! And pie is one of my favorite foods, too. We didn’t have cake at our wedding, just a whole table of different pies!
I have the world’s smallest kitchen with absolutely no counter space for rolling out, so I usually make single crust, press-in pie crusts. So easy and you save a ton of calories with only a bottom crust. You can find a bunch of recipes on google or bing.
That’s awesome! I’ll have to look into it, thanks!
Try freezing the butter and then grating it into the flour mixture and combining it with a fork then adding the liquid as required.This method produces a really open fluffy texture.
Thank you for posting this! I have also always had an irrational fear of making my own pie crust, so have never done so. I am in charge of pies for Thanksgiving this year and will take the dive and use your recipe. Thank you!
I made my first homemade pie crust today. It was for a German Chocolate Coconut Pie. It’s chilling in the fridge for thanksgiving tomorrow. I’m not sure it’ll make it through the night without sneaking a piece:) One step that I wasn’t prepared for in the recipe I followed was needing pie weights. I ended up putting my foil lining in place and pouring in uncooked rice. Seemed to work good. Do you use pie weights?
Do you have a printable version of this recipe, I would really like to use this.
When you say 1 stick of butter, does that mean 1/4 cup or 1/2 cup of butter?
1/2 cup :)
I just came upon this recipe on Pinterest. I am going to make my first ever pie crust tomorrow. I’m pushing 60 yrs old and decided it’s time to put fear aside and just do it!! Wish me luck! I’ll be using your recipe and techniques. And for my first pie I’ll make apple.
I have made all variations, all butter (always unsalted), shortening, half butter and half shortening, and lard. Allthough I prefer an all butter crust, I have developed a milk allergy, so butter is now out for me. ?
I’m old fashioned and prefer lard ( organic free range if possible) amazing crusts.
Most often I use a blend of butter and shortening.
1 cup flour 1/2 cup 1/4 cup water double or triple .never had a failure
I use Crisco instead of butter, and my recipe calls for a tablespoon of vinegar! Not sure what it does, but it is a very good pie crust.
It shortens the dough. Makes it more tender.
This looks great but what is the measurements of 1 stick of butter please ?
It is 1/2 cup, or 4 ounces.
Both. You can do half and half or today I did 3/4 butter to1/4 shortening that came out perfect.
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