This is the Best Butter Pie Crust recipe, and with the right knowledge and technique, you'll see how simple it is to make. This classic flaky butter pie dough recipe works equally well with sweet fruit pies as it does with savory pies.
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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 delicate enough to melt in your mouth.
After over a decade of dedicating my professional life to baking pies, I can accurately say that this is The Best Butter Pie Crust recipe that results in a classic American-style tender and flaky pie pastry.
Many bakers, both novice and experienced, tend to be intimidated by making pie crust. After reading through this article, you'll be armed with all the knowledge you need to make the best flaky butter pie crust, I promise.
This recipe can be made in the food processor (my first choice) or by hand with a pastry blender, and there will be tips and instructions for both.
So, let's get to making it, shall we? The article below is jam-packed full of useful information. You can jump around using the menu below, or skip to the end of the article for the full recipe.
- The Only Butter Pie Crust Recipe You'll Ever Need
- A Very Short Primer on Pie Pastry
- What Pies work Best with Butter Pie Crust
- Ingredients Needed
- Two Methods to Make It
- How to Make it with a Pastry Blender
- How to Make it in the Food Processor
- Kelli's Best Tips
- Storing It
- Rolling It Out
- How to Bake All Butter Pie Crust
- More Resources
- Other Pie Crust Recipes
A Very Short Primer on Pie Pastry
At its heart, a good pie dough is a balance of three key ingredients: flour, butter and water. This butter pie crust recipe also contains a few other ingredients that make it the best it can be.
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 inhibit excess gluten formation, but it also creates pockets of steam as it melts, creating 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.
And a Small Word of Encouragement
My motto is always, Practice makes progress (not perfection). Making pastry requires various skills that you will improve over time with practice. Don't be discouraged if your initial attempt doesn't yield a picture-perfect pie. I've made thousands of batches of pie dough and I'm always open to learning new tricks and improving.
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!
What Pies work Best with 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 flaky butter 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 or this Pâte Sablée (Sweet Tart Dough).
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.
This all butter pie crust recipe has more than just the three essential ingredients mentioned above. This is an overview of the ingredients, as well as an explanation behind them. For the full recipe, scroll down to the end of the article.
- 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: This recipe was tested using Diamond Crystal coarse kosher salt. If you use Morton's kosher salt or fine salt decrease by about half for volume, or use the same amount by weight.
- 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.
Two Methods to Make It
While pie dough can be made several ways, there are two main methods I recommend: in the food processor (my preferred) or with a pastry blender.
Butter pie crust made in the food processor has the best of both worlds: it is mildly flaky, and ultra tender. And it's the simplest way to make pie dough. That is why this is my preferred method of making pie dough.
Pie dough with a pastry blender (or by hand) will almost always be flakier than any other method. The reason is because the butter naturally stays in larger pieces. The bigger the 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.
If you want to make the pie dough without the pastry blender, that's possible too. Simply follow the same steps, except rub the butter in to the flour with your fingers. Or check out this post on How to Make Pie Dough by Hand for a more in-depth look at this method.
How to Make it with a Pastry Blender
Step 1: Whisk together the dry ingredients.
Step 2: Add in the butter and toss to coat it in flour.
Step 3: Cut the butter into the flour using the pastry blender.
Step 4: Use the blender as an aid to mix the crumbly mixture to ensure all butter is cut.
Step 5: Mix the water in until it's evenly hydrated.
Step 6: Gather the dough together, and hydrate any powdery spots.
How to Make it in the Food Processor
Step 1: Pulse the dry ingredients.
Step 2: Add in the cold butter.
Step 3: Pulse, roughly 5-7 times until the butter is in small pieces, about the size of a pea.
Step 2: Drizzle in the water and vinegar, and then stop. Do not process until it comes together in a ball.
Step 5: Dump the dough onto a work surface and spritz or drizzle any dry spots with water.
Step 6: Bring the dough together.
Kelli's Best Tips
- 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.
- 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.
- Hydrate your dough: Many bakers tend to be overly cautious with water, resulting in under-hydrated dough. Given the choice, I prefer slightly over-hydrated pie dough over under-hydrated. In fact, I often add more water than most recipes recommend to ease rolling out the dough. Make sure there are no dry spots; they won't disappear even with resting. The dough should easily hold together when squeezed, and any dry areas can be moistened with a few drops of water or my favorite tool: a kitchen-safe spray bottle of water.
Making pie dough the same day it needs to be rolled out or baked is not recommended! If possible, plan to make pie dough ahead of time by at least one day. 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 2-4 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 be 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.
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.
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.
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
- Leftover Pie Crust Cookies
Other Pie Crust Recipes
- Chocolate Pie Crust
- Flaky Pie Crust
- Pâte Brisée (Shortcrust Pastry)
- Pâte Sablée (Sweet Tart Dough)
- Cream Cheese Pie Crust
- Whole Wheat Pie Crust
- Spelt Pie Crust
- Pâte Sucrée (Sweet Pie Crust)
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