This basic butter pie crust recipe is the only one you'll ever need if you're looking to make a delicious, flaky crust for your pie. This pie dough recipe works equally well with sweet fruit pies as it does savory pies. Scroll down for tons of tips to make the best pie dough recipe!
The Only Butter Pie Crust Recipe You'll Ever Need
Pie pastry, when made correctly with high-quality ingredients can be a work of art. A properly cooked pie pastry should be so crispy it shatters when you bite it but also be delicate enough that it melts in your mouth.
This basic all butter pie recipe results in a classic American style flaky pie pastry. Many bakers, both novice and experienced, tend to be intimidating by making pie crust. After reading through this article, you'll be armed with all the knowledge you need to make the best flaky pie crust.
Want to know just the basics and make the pie dough? Scroll on down to the recipe and everything basic you need is there. Want to learn more about pie dough? Keep reading, there is so much information throughout this post.
Let's Break Down What Pie Dough Is
At its heart a good pie dough is a balance of three key ingredients: flour, butter and water. This butter pie crust recipe contains a few other ingredients that make it the best it can be, but the aforementioned three are the fundamental elements.
The water interacts with the flour to form the gluten that creates the structure for the dough. You want to develop just enough gluten formation that the pastry has some strength to hold its shape but not so much that it's tough.
The butter coats the flour, helping to keep the dough together, but it also creates pockets of steam as it melts which then creates that flakiness we all love.
Each ingredient added to this pie dough recipe is there for a reason, and with a recipe like this it's best to follow the instructions as closely as possible.
But truth be told? Any homemade pie dough you make is worlds away better than anything you can buy at the store, so don't be worried if you are a beginner: you're going to do great!
This all butter pie crust recipe has more than just the three essential ingredients mentioned above. This recipe for pie crust contains:
- All Purpose Flour: Generally speaking pastry flour is the best flour for making pastry because it has a lower protein content. But most people don't keep it in their kitchen, so this recipe it calls for all-purpose flour.
- Cornstarch: The addition of cornstarch makes the flour mimic pastry flour. You can totally skip this and add in equal parts flour if you wish, but cornstarch helps make this pie dough delicate.
- Salt: All baked good needs salt, period.
- Unsalted butter: Make sure you use good quality butter here! I like unsalted that way you can control the amount of added salted.
- Apple cider vinegar: This helps make the dough tender by inhibiting too much gluten formation and it brings a nice subtle hint of tang to the crust that keeps it nicely balanced.
- Ice water: Water brings the whole thing together, but it should be cold to help keep the temperature of the dough as chill as possible. Honestly when I don't have ice laying around I'll just let the tap run for 30 seconds to get water cold and use that.
Essential Steps for Making Pie Dough
This recipe offers three different ways to make an all butter pie crust. Regardless of what method you use to make pie dough, these are the essential steps:
- Whisk together the dry ingredients so they are thoroughly combined.
- Combine the butter into the flour evenly, using your hands, a stand mixer or a food processor. You'll want most of the butter to be no smaller than the size of a pea and no larger than a marble.
- Slowly add the wet ingredients until they are evenly combined into the flour, but not so much that it forms a cohesive ball at this stage. If the dough forms a ball, you've overworked it.
- Divide the dough in half, and quickly bring the dough together by squeezing it with your hands.
- Place in plastic wrap and wrap tightly.
- Roll out the dough in the plastic wrap to create an airtight seal and let rest at least 2 hours, or better overnight.
What is the best method to make pie dough?
Here are the three different methods you can use to make pie dough, and the pros and cons of each:
Pie dough by hand will almost always be flakier than any other method. The reason handmade dough is flakier is because the butter naturally stays in larger pieces than by the other two methods.
The bigger butter chunks the flakier the dough.
The con of this method is that it is more difficult to evenly hydrate the dough, so you may need to add more water to the dough to get it to come together.
Check out this post on How to Make Pie Dough by Hand for a more in-depth look at this method.
In a stand mixer:
If done properly, making dough in the stand mixer can result in very tender, mildly flaky pie dough. The dough comes together easily in the stand mixer, especially after the water is added, and is much easier to clean up.
The con is that it has the most gluten formation since it's the most "worked" dough. To adjust for that do not let the machine run for too long once the dough has come together.
The food processor:
This is my preferred method of making pie dough. It isn't the flakiest method, but it results in the most tender pie dough that is really easy to make with just the push of a button. The dough hydrates easily so you won't have to add any extra water.
The con is that pie dough made in a food processor isn't as flaky because the butter tends to break down into smaller pieces. Despite this, I still prefer this method.
Tips for Making All Butter Pie Crust
- Let the dough rest. I never advise making dough the same day you plan to bake it. It's essential for the dough to hydrate properly and so the dough should rest at least overnight. If you absolutely need to, you can make the dough and bake it all in the same day, but you must let it rest at least 2 hours before you roll it out. Dough that is made the same day it's rolled out and baked can be more difficult to handle and possibly deform in the oven because the butter hasn't chilled enough and the gluten hasn't had time to relax. It will still taste good, though.
- Weigh your ingredients! An electronic kitchen scale is not a huge investment. You can get one for around $25. I can't recommend enough that if you want to get good at baking, get a scale.
- Use high quality butter and flour. Both of these ingredients can vary wildly in quality. Poor quality butter is going to have a higher water content and less fat. Lower quality flour can vary in the protein structure and that can effect your final pie crust. In the end, I'd still choose a homemade pie crust made with cheap butter and flour over anything store-bought, but if you are looking for a really amazing pie crust buying quality ingredients will help.
- If you kitchen is hotter than 70 degrees you'll need to move quickly! Melted butter is the enemy here. If the kitchen is hot, utilize the freezer or refrigerator through the dough making process to ensure the butter doesn't turn soft. If it's very hot in the kitchen, freeze the butter for 15 minutes before working with it, especially if you are using the food processor. Soft butter will not allow your dough to come together evenly.
- The bigger the butter chunks, the flakier your pie will be. If you love the look of super flaky dough, that almost looks like puff pastry, leave at least some of your butter chunks the size of a marble. Though there is a limit for how big to leave your butter pieces, so take care to only leave a few pieces the size of a marble.
- Wearing food-grade kitchen gloves when making pie dough by hand is helpful! If you have them, wearing food grade kitchen gloves actually made handling the dough much easier if you are struggling with the dough sticking to your hands! The dough doesn't stick to the gloves like it does your bare hands and it kept the butter from getting as warm as it would when it is touched by bare skin, which is by nature quite a bit warmer.
Butter Pie Crust FAQs:
The answers to these questions are useful to know when making pie dough. If you have a question that isn't answered here, be sure to leave a comment and I'll answer it here.
You want the butter to stay cold up until the moment it hits the hot oven. Cold butter that is left in chunks will create the flakiest layers. Additionally, melted butter releases liquid into the flour which makes the pastry tough.
Your pastry can form too much gluten and be tough. If you have way too much water the dough will be too soft and sticky to roll out, causing you to add more flour than you should when you roll it out.
The dough won't be hydrated. A properly hydrated pastry is easy to roll out and doesn't crack when rolling out. If you don't add enough water your pie crust will be difficult to handle. It's always a balance of adding enough, but not too much, water. To be sure though, it's better to add a touch too much water than it is to not add enough.
This helps make the dough tender by inhibiting too much gluten formation and it brings a nice subtle hint of tanginess to the crust that keeps it nicely balanced.
Ideally, pastry flour is the best one to use. Since most people don't keep this readily available at home this recipe adds cornstarch to regular all-purpose flour to make a faux-pastry flour. Look for high-quality unbleached flour from a well-known flour company. I prefer King Arthur Flour, Bob's Red Mill or Arrowhead Mills.
Overworking the dough, adding too much water or rolling it out too many times can all cause a pie crust to be tough.
Pie dough needs time for the flour to fully hydrate and to give the gluten a chance to relax. Two hours is the minimum resting time for this pie dough for best results. But an overnight rest is recommended. Resting the pie dough makes it much easier to roll out and handle.
It's likely that your pie crust is under hydrated. If it's still rolling well enough, but getting small cracks, you can patch it back together in the pie dish. If it's so crumbly it isn't rolling at all, you can try putting it back in a bowl with a bit more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and gently knead it back together. This isn't ideal, but it's better than throwing out the pie crust. It will need to rest for at least 2 hours after you knead it back together, but even better would be to let it rest overnight. Sometimes a dough can crack too when it's too cold. I let my pie dough sit out of the refrigerator for about 10 minutes before rolling it.
This is not the ideal crust to make pie designs because it will puff up too much. A pie crust that has very small pieces of butter is much better to make pie designs. You could use this recipe, but instead of leaving larger pieces of butter, blend the butter into a fine sand consistency.
Yes, this just means the pie crust oxidized. This typically occurs after the pie crust has been sitting for 3 or more days. Wrapping the pie crust as instructed in this recipe, and rolling it out so it creates an airtight seal can help prevent this from happening. Make sure to use the pie dough right away if it oxidizes.
Storing Pie Dough
As I said above, I don't recommend making pie dough the same day it needs to be rolled out or baked! Pie dough keeps really well either in the refrigerator or the freezer. But first you need to wrap it well!
Wrap the pie dough as tightly as you can, and then use a rolling pin to roll out the pie disk and flatten it out so it fills any empty space and essentially makes an airtight seal with the plastic wrap. This helps prevent it from oxidizing (or turning a muddled gray color).
You can store it in the refrigerator for 3-4 days or the freezer for up to 3 months. If you plan to store it for an extended period of time than wrap it up twice!
Rolling It Out
When you are ready to roll out your dough, remove it from the refrigerator and place it at room temperature for 5-10 minutes. You want the pie dough to warm up slightly so that it will easy to roll out. If the pie dough is too cold it can crack when you roll it out.
But conversely, if it's too warm it can be difficult to work with too. You will know the pie dough is ready to roll out when the dough yields slightly when you press it with your finger.
Make sure to flour your work surface liberally to prevent your pie dough from sticking to your surface or the rolling pin. As you are rolling, periodically check to make sure it isn't stuck and spread more flour underneath the pie crust. It's useful to have a bench scraper by your side for this, just in case it does get stuck. If you have excess flour on your dough you can brush it off with a pastry brush.
If at any point you feel like your pie dough is too warm, place it back in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes.
What pie recipes are good for this butter pie crust?
This pie is perfect for classic fruit pies or savory pies that will be served at room temperature or warm. This is a highly opinionated piece of advice, but this pie dough is not ideal for any pie that is to be served cold, like a cream pie. If you are looking for a pie crust that is good for a pie that is to be served cold, check out this Pâte Sucrée (Sweet Pie Crust) recipe.
The reason I don't recommend using this pie dough for a pie meant to be served cold is that it can taste stale when served straight from the refrigerator, the same way a croissant or puff pastry might taste stale when very cold.
A properly made pastry, which is buttery and flaky, is at it's best when it's at room temperature. The primary reason is because of the butter within the crust. Once it goes into the refrigerator it solidifies, and the crust becomes more solid and it loses that ethereal softness to it.
Does that mean I'm saying you can never eat an Apple Pie made in this crust straight from the refrigerator? Absolutely not! I know many people love it! But a fruit pie has a lot of juices and it transforms this crust when it is hanging in the refrigerator.
If you are set on making this pie crust with a chilled pie, I recommend blending the butter to a finer consistency. This will result in a more mealy dough, which suits a cold set pie better.
How to Bake All Butter Pie Crust
Almost as important as how you prepare pie pastry is how you bake it. There is one main rule to remember when it comes to baking all butter pie dough: very cold dough should be put in a very hot oven. All butter pie pastry should be thoroughly chilled before baking, and baked at a high temperature, ideally around 425ºF.
As a general rule of thumb, it's always best to chill a pie crust either in the freezer for 10-20 minutes or in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 1 hour before you bake it. While this is an extra step, it makes all the difference in the world.
One of the most common problems bakers ask me about is why their pie crust melted, or lost it's shape, or sank in the pie pan. And the most common reason for this is because the crust was too warm, or the oven wasn't at the right temperature.
So make sure to chill your pie crust and fully pre-heat your oven!
However, not all pie fillings can be baked at that high of a temperature, which means that sometimes the pie crust will need to be partially or fully blind baked. Usually, a pie recipe indicates how the pie crust should be baked, so reference those directions for pies using this flaky pie crust.
More Resources for Butter Pie Crust
For more reading and resources, check out these recipes and tutorials:
- How to Blind Bake Pie Crust
- How to Make Pie Crust By Hand
- How to Make a Lattice Pie Crust
- How to Make (and Use) an Egg Wash
- How to Bake a Double Crust Pie
- How to Bake a Frozen Pie
Other Pie Crust Recipes:Print
Some of the links on this page may be affiliate links. Everyday Pie is a participant in the Amazon Associates Program. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases, at no extra cost to you.