After years of searching and trials, this is the recipe that turns out the flakiest, tender, best homemade pie crust every time. This tutorial will walk you through it to get great pie crusts every time.
Ah, friends, you have no idea how happy I am to share with you this recipe for homemade pie crust! After years (years) of trying different recipes and techniques I really do think this is the BEST pie crust!
It's made with real food (i.e., butter, not shortening) and some whole wheat flour yet is flaky, easy to roll and shape without much shrinkage, and most importantly, tastes great.
Is pie crust easy "as pie?"
I don't know about you, but I have never found the saying "easy as pie" to ring true, because pie crusts aren't easy! They just aren't - for me at least (any other hands raised out there?).
But I couldn't do the pre-made crusts after looking at the ingredient list and realizing that with only inexpensive ingredients like flour, salt, and sugar, pie crust is super cheap to make from scratch. I shouldn't have to pay extra for ingredients I don't want to eat or serve to people, right?
Searching for the pie crust.
And so the search began for a good all butter pie crust (or 'shortcrust').
I tried Martha Stewart's pâte brisée, the egg-and-vinegar 'no-fail' crust (really shrinks...), crusts with only egg or a ton of water, crusts made in a food processor, with a fork, or with a pastry cutter.
I would weigh, measure, and 'knead' (weird when you don't want gluten to form…) - the list went on, but none were the one. They would be tough, shrink a lot, take days of planning, or be impossible to work with.
It wasn't until I read an article about the science behind adding a bit of acid (in the form of vinegar, sour cream, etc.) and at the same time finally realizing what my dough should look like after adding water (still crumbly, no clumping) that it came together for me.
I finally had a recipe that worked every time! I've been making this crust for a number of years now, taking it to holiday gatherings (usually filled with this decadent chocolate chip walnut pie or this make-ahead crumb-topped apple pie) and getting lots of compliments on the crust.
It's not just me - this really is a winner crust.
Best Homemade Pie Crust Tutorial
Note: I find it easiest to start this crust in a food processor since we're cutting in hard butter and it takes forever by hand. If you don't have a food processor, I'd suggest grating frozen butter and then putting it back in the freezer for 10 minutes or so to get it back to cold and then mixing it gently in with the other ingredients with a fork before starting to add the wet ingredients.
1. Add dry ingredients to the bowl of a food processor. I usually add the 1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour (the pastry part is important, the texture changes dramatically with regular whole wheat flour), but if I don't have any, it's of course fine with all regular white flour.
2. Add butter, cut in cubes. I simply cut each 1/2 cup stick into 12 pieces and dump it in the dry ingredients. You can cut it smaller if you want.
3. Pulse until it is mixed and you see medium-small coarse crumbs (12-15 pulses). I used to leave them larger (the typical "pea-sized" recommendation), but those large pieces of butter made it really hard to roll out later, sticking to the rolling pin.
4. Add vinegar and the minimum amount of water and then process until you see dough start to hold together around edges but still look crumbly (10-14 pulses -you do not want it to form a large clump, that's what creates tough crusts, which apparently I had to learn over and over again...). Grab a small handful of crumbs and press together - when it stays together as pictured, it's good. If needed, add more water, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, until you can hold it together as shown.
Note: I did add about 1/2 tablespoon water after the above picture was taken because the edges fell apart when I let it fall back into the bowl and I've learned that just a little bit more water at that point will make it easier to roll out later. Aim for a few more big crumbs among the smaller ones than this picture shows.
5. Divide crumble dough into two pieces of waxed paper (or plastic wrap). This is where I always messed it up before - I never realized that it should really look more like crumbs, not dough at this point. But shaping from more crumbly dough was hard: when I used my hands to form into discs to refrigerate, it would warm up the dough too much, stick to my hands and be really irritating (who wants that?).
Here's what I found to be the key to easy shaping with a crumbly dough:
6. Grab the edges of the waxed paper together and press and shape the dough into a disc through the paper. Perfection - clean hands and no overworked dough!
7. Repeat with other disc and refrigerate both 30 minutes to an hour, usually the time needed to make your filling. You can make it ahead and refrigerate up to 2 days or freeze for a couple of months.
TIP: if you freeze it in this disc form, you'll need to thaw it a day in the fridge before rolling out. Your other option is to roll and shape the dough into a pie plate, freeze it like that, unbaked, and then just fill and bake it from frozen by adding 3-5 minutes to the total cooking time.
8. Roll out 1 refrigerated disc. Don't be afraid to add flour to the surface - it's better than having it stick to everything. I just sprinkle handfuls as I go along. You should be able to see the butter throughout the dough, but no huge pieces.
I'll be really honest and say this isn't a super easy dough to roll (though it's not hard!) - because it has less moisture than the egg-water or 1/2 cup-water dough recipes it tends to break more along the edges. But it's worth it for the tender, flakier end result, I promise!
It's okay to pinch and press the edges together and roll again, pinching and pressing as needed. It's also okay, too, that it doesn't look perfect, as you can see in the 'final' rolled result above - we're cutting off or rolling under those ragged edges, so no worries!
9. Transfer rolled dough to pie plate. I simply fold it in half and center it on the plate before unfolding.
Some like to roll it up on the pin to transfer, but I find this crust breaks more if I do that, so this is easiest for me.
10. Trim edges to be fairly even, pressing crust together along sides and making sure it's firmly pressed into the bottom and corners (leaving the dough 'stretched' on the bottom causes it to shrink).
It's not pretty at this point - who cares?
11. Shape edges. Roll under remaining dough, filling any areas that need thickening with trimmed pieces, pressing all around the edges to make a uniform smooth edge.
Then shape however you want: fluting like I did (I use my knuckle on the inside, pressing between two fingers on the outside edge), using a fork or attaching shapes with any leftover dough (attach with a beaten egg wash).
12. Refrigerate shaped dough 15-30 minutes (or longer if you can).
13. Finish pie according to your recipe. At this point you can proceed with whatever recipe you are using - prick the bottom of dough and bake for a cream-filled pie, or fill with a filling like the apples above for a baked pie.
You can see above when baked (with a yummy apple filling and 'big crumb' topping) that the shaping remained with little shrinkage - some butter crusts shrink so much that you can't even see any shaping.
You can also see that it's a nice, flaky crust that browns evenly.
This is NOT the crust you'll want to leave on your plate after eating the inside of the pie, trust me.
The Best Homemade Pie Crust
- 1½ cups regular unbleached or bleached flour*
- 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour**
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt use 1 tsp. if using unsalted butter
- 1 cup butter
- 2 tablespoons vinegar
- 4 to 5 tablespoons ice cold water***
- Add the first 4 ingredients (flours, sugar, salt) to the bowl of a food processor. Cut butter into 12 pieces and add to dry ingredients. Pulse until coarse crumbs (medium-small) form, about 12-15 pulses.
- Add vinegar and 4 tablespoons ice water to mixture and pulse only until the dough starts to form along the edges of bowl but is still crumbly (about 10-14 pulses).
- Grab a bit of dough and squeeze to see if it holds together - if edges are still crumbly, add a bit more water - 1/2 tablespoon at a time - as needed. The dough in the bowl should still look fairly crumbly.
- Divide dough onto 2 pieces of waxed paper (or plastic). Grab the edges of one of the paper squares to bring dough together into a flattened disc, using hands to press & shape through the paper as needed. Wrap paper around the disc, repeat with other dough and refrigerate 30 minutes to an hour (or up to 2 days).****
- Roll out one disc at a time onto a well floured surface. Don't worry about the edges splitting - just pinch back together, press edges into a circle and roll again. (The drier crust won't look as pretty rolled as wetter crusts, but that will be fixed in the shaping and the end result is worth it).
- Transfer the rolled dough to a pie plate and fit into plate, making sure the crust is touching the entire bottom of the plate (press down on the sides as needed to make sure the bottom is not stretched). Trim any edges that are a lot bigger than others - just here and there. You'll want 1 to 1½ inches overhang to roll and shape nice edges.
- Shape edge by rolling under the overhang, filling any areas that need it with extra dough, and smoothing edge until even. Shape with desired technique: fluting, fork edge, etc.
- Refrigerate shaped dough 15-30 minutes (or longer) before proceeding with your pie recipe.
- Prebake: To bake for a cream pie, preheat oven to 400 degrees, prick bottom of dough and bake for 15 minutes or until browned (using pie weights or not - it's up to you).
Here are some recipes to use your homemade pie crust with:
Crumb-Topped Apple Pie (bake now or freeze unbaked)