Pie dough freaks some people out, but when you have the right ratios of fat to flour and know how much to mix it, there’s nothing to fear. It’s quite simple, really!
Here is everything you’ll need to make perfect pie crust:
Cold butter, cold shortening, flour, salt, and water. That’s it!
I like to use a mixture of butter and vegetable shortening in my pie dough. Why? It’s similar to Wilton’s Buttercream Icing recipe which uses a combination of these 2 fats for delicious flavor with added stability against melting. The butter in my pie dough is going to give amazing flavor to my crust, but it melts at a lower temperature than shortening. The shortening will help with the flakiness of my crust because it will take longer to melt in the oven. The longer the melting takes, the more steam the fat will give off, and that steam is what pushes the dough apart, leaving behind flaky layers of pastry. So good!
It’s important that the butter, shortening and water are all very cold. The cold helps the chunks of butter and shortening cut into the flour, but not completely cream together like a cake batter. That also helps with flakiness.
If you have a food processor, use it to make pie dough! It’s really fast to pulse the ingredients together. If not, you can use a pastry cutter or even 2 forks to cut the cold flour and shortening into the flour and salt. Mix it until it’s coarse, like cornmeal with a few larger lumps, but avoid mixing it any more than that. It should look like this:
Most pie dough recipes will list a range of ice water. Always start by adding the lowest quantity of water because it may be just enough to bring the dough together. The less water in the dough, the better, because you’ll get more flake (is this getting repetitive?) and the dough will be less sticky and less likely to stick to your countertop and rolling pin when you roll it out. The dough may still look lumpy in the bowl after you’ve added your water. It’s kind of like cake batter – if it’s overmixed, it will be tough.
But if it holds its shape when you squeeze it together in your hand, it’s perfect. Don’t add any more water. If it doesn’t hold together easily, or it crumbles in your hand, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time until you can squeeze it together.
Then it’s time to divide it into 2 even disks and wrap it in plastic wrap to chill in the fridge. A helpful hint –press the dough, including the edges, together as much as possible now so that it will crumble later when you’re rolling it. It needs to get good and cold again before rolling it out, so plan for at least 1-2 hours but you can make pie dough several days in advance, too.
When you’re ready to make pie, take the dough out of the refrigerator to warm up a little bit. I usually aim for about 20 minutes so that it is easier to roll. If the dough is super cold, it will just break up as you put pressure on the rolling pin, and that is super frustrating. Dust both your counter top and your rolling pie with flour so the dough doesn’t stick, and if the top of the dough feels sticky, dust the top of that, too. Remember you can continue to dust with flour to keep things moving as you’re rolling.
I like to roll the dough out a bit, the rotate it ¼ of a turn, check to make sure there’s still a substantial amount of flour underneath the dough, and then continue rolling and rotating until the dough is the size I need. With the dough continually rotating, there is very little opportunity for it to stick to the counter and if it does stick a little bit, you can throw some extra flour underneath to absorb the moisture and keep going.
This crust recipe is enough dough to make a double crusted pie with some dough left over for decorating, but I’m using it to make mini pies in a mini muffin pan. Check out all of the visible nubs of butter throughout the dough. That means it wasn’t overmixed, and it’s going to be delicious and flakey! Cutting small circles of the dough makes them easy to fit into the pan.
I used this perfect pie dough recipe to make baby lemon meringue pies, but this crust is ideal for any kind of pie – baked fruit pies, custard pies like banana or chocolate cream, or anything else you can think of. It’s so versatile and once you master the easy technique of making the dough, you’ll have endless pie options at your fingertips.
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, cold and cut into 1/4 in. pieces
1/3 cup vegetable shortening, cold and cut into 1/4 in. pieces
8-10 tablespoons cold water
In large bowl, stir flour and salt together. Using a pastry blender or fork, cut butter and shortening into flour until mixture resembles cornmeal. Add 8 tablespoons cold water and stir until mixture holds together in large clumps. Add additional water tablespoon by tablespoon if the dough is still dry. Divide dough into two discs, cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour.
To make pie, roll first disc to a 14 in. circle, about 1/8 in. thick. Place in pie plate, pressing firmly into the sides and bottom of the pan.
For open-faced pies, fill crust with prepared filling, garnish with additional dough cut outs and bake.
For double-crust pies, fill bottom crust with prepared filling. Roll second crust to 1/8 in. thick; cut holes to vent filling with small cutter. Place crust over filling and crimp edges of top and bottom crusts together tightly. Bake until crust is golden brown.
Makes enough dough for 1 double-crust pie or 2 open-faced pies.