Flaky Pie Crust
Learning how to make a flaky pie crust is totally within your grasp. And I’m going to let you in on a little secret that I’ve discovered during my pie dough making adventures: Every single recipe for American pie dough is pretty much exactly the same. Flour, fat, water. That’s it. There is no great secret. No one has a magic ingredient that works wonders. The secret is you. You — the baker — simply learn, by repetition, how to make pie dough.
The first pie crust you make might not be ready for the cover of Gourmet, but it will taste infinitely better than anything you can buy in the store. And after a try or two you will learn how to transform flour, butter, shortening or lard (yes you do need it for the best possible pie dough), and water into a pastry that will have future generations reminiscing about your flaky pie dough.
The Only Things You Need To Make Homemade Pie Dough
Here are the ingredients you actually need to make a flaky pie crust:
- Flour. American pie dough is built around American all-purpose flour, so if you live in the States you’re pretty much good to go. If you live elsewhere, try to find a flour between 10-12% protein. You can read about the difference between American and British flours in my post here, if you like.
- Butter. Buy the unsalted kind if you can. The fat content can actually be lower in salted butter than unsalted and you want all the fat you can going into this dough. Pie is not a health food, nor will it ever be. We are here for flavor and texture. Flaky pie crust, after all. If you’re making it I assume you have already made peace with that knowledge.
- Shortening or lard. You don’t need much of it, but wow does a quarter cup make a difference to your pie dough. The added beautiful flaky layers that shortening (or lard) provides are unbeatable. Now, you can make an all-butter pie dough and it will be good, but it probably won’t be great. And we are here for great, my friends. No child ever talks about their favorite aunt’s good pies. No. They talk about their favorite aunt’s amazing pies.
- For the record: shortening is not something we should routinely consume a lot of. But — despite what many loud, well intentioned voices on the internet say — the amount you are going to ingest from a slice of pie is not going to kill you.
- Actual lard is only for savory pies. Trust me on this one. Shortening can be used for sweet or savory, but lard is only for savory. If you want to learn about How To Make Meat Pie Dough you can find my recipe for that here.
- Leaf Lard: Some people think this is a vegan product made from leaves. It is not. It is pig lard. It’s great for savory pies, but don’t let the name fool you. It’s pig. Check the label.
- Water. Just enough of it to bring the dough together. Yes you can use some vodka in a pie dough and I’ve had success with that. And you can use cider vinegar in your pie dough. I’ve had success with that, too. But all you really need is ice-cold water.
- Time. No one talks about this as much as they should so please listen to me when I say that your pie dough needs time. 8 full hours of resting time, minimum. I know, I know, the internet will say “chill your dough 30 minutes to 2 hours before rolling.” Unfortunately, like so many other times in life, the internet is lying to you. Think of your beautiful ball of pie dough like an extension of yourself. You can go on five hours of sleep, but you’re at your best with eight.
To food process, or not to food process
Listen, if you have a food processor I insist that you use it. Machines are just capable of doing things better than we can do them ourselves. This is true of speed (your car is faster than you are), detail work (your sewing machine will stitch more evenly than even the most advanced seamstress), math (computers are exceptionally fast at this) and cutting butter into flour. When it comes to making a flaky pie crust there is no better technique than handing the technique over to your food processor.
Still hesitant? Here’s a video of Julia Child extolling the futures of a new invention called the food processor. To quote Julia, when asked what she would say to people who would frown on her using the food processor: “Foo on them.”
Now, if you don’t have a food processor you can — of course — make a very good pie dough completely by hand. It will take longer, and it won’t be as uniformly flaky, but it will be delicious all the same.
Other recipes you might be interested in:
If you’re looking for more inspiration you might enjoy one of these other recipes I’ve posted!
Tag me Instagram @jamandbreadofficial (I love seeing when other people make one of my recipes!) and please consider leaving me a review below if you make my recipe for Flaky Pie Crust. I really hope that you love it, and that you are ON BOARD with making my Flaky Pie Crust a staple of your dessert routine.
For even more recipe ideas you can follow me on Pinterest!
Flaky Pie Crust
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: N/A
- Total Time: 10 minutes (plus time to rest)
- Yield: A single pie crust
- Category: Dessert
- Cuisine: American
Here is my recipe for the perfect flaky pie crust. It works every time, without fail. It is, in fact, a thing of great beauty. The other night I was in bed staring at my photo, pinching to zoom in on my phone, marveling at the tiny specs of fat that dot my flaky pie crust. Self-appreciation at its finest.
Why do I lead with metric measurements? Because they’re so easy. They’re also going to allow you to memorize my the recipe for a single flaky pie crust very quickly as you only have to actually remember two numbers: 80 and 60. Doubling that to make a double-curst is, well, it’s easy as pie.
All that said, I have given you old-school measurement, too, in case you prefer to use measuring cups.
For a single flaky pie crust you will need:
- 180 grams all-purpose flour (1 1/3 cup)
- 80 grams butter (6 tablespoons)
- 60 grams shortening (1/4 cup)
- 60 milliliters water (1/4 cup)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
For a double flaky pie crust you will need:
- 360 grams all-purpose flour (2 2/3 cup)
- 160 grams butter (12 tablespoons)
- 120 grams shortening (1/2 cup)
- 120 milliliters water (1/2 cup)
- 1/1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar (optional)
Food Processor Method:
- Combine all your dry ingredients in the bowl of your food processor (flour, salt, and sugar, if using). Pulse a few times to combine. Cut your butter into small chunks and add it to the flour mixture. Give it five to eight good pulses until the mixture starts to look like sand. Cut your shortening into chunks and add it to the bowl. Pulse another five to eight times.
- Dump the mixture into a large bowl, add your water and stir until a rough dough forms. If you are making a double-crust divide the dough in half and — using plastic wrap — press it into disks about one-inch thick. For single crust just press the whole thing into one disk. Wrap tightly and refrigerate overnight or up to three days. My flaky pie crust dough can be freezon for up to three months.
By Hand Method:
- Combine all your dry ingredients in a bowl (flour, salt, and sugar, if using) and stir until combined. Cut your butter into bite sized pieces and add it to the bowl. Working quickly, cut the butter into the flour by rubbing it between your fingers. Your aim is to create a sandy mixture without melting the butter. If things start to get warm stick the bowl in the fridge for 10 minutes. Cut your shortening into small pieces and — like the flour — rub it into the mixture with your fingertips.
- Add your water and stir until a rough dough forms. If you are making a double-crust divide the dough in half and — using plastic wrap — press it into disks about one-inch thick. For single crust just press the whole thing into one disk. Wrap tightly and refrigerate overnight or up to three days. My flaky pie crust dough can be freezon for up to three months.
Keywords: pie dough, pie crust, homemade pie crust, homemade pie dough, flour, butter, shortening, salt
Matthew, I have not made your flaky pie crust recipe yet, but I will be shortly and follow up with a new post (rating). Can you kindly tell me the brand of shortening you use? That would be awesome, as I bet you have a favorite!
I will be making the single crust for a lovely fresh blueberry “rustic pie” – which is a favorite thing for me to do once summer begins. Come to think of it, I will use your “double” crust recipe, and freeze for the next rustic fruit pie 🙂
Hi Chris! Oh, you might be terribly disappointed in how basic my answer is going to be: I use Crisco. Mainly because I love those (overpriced) sicks they make now. You can keep them in the freezer forever and when you need them just slice off the amount you need and you have already-ready-chilled shortening to use for your pie crust! Truthfully though, any shortening will work. What we’re really trying to do here is minimize the water content in the crust. Do you have a brand that you really like? If so I will 100% put it on my list to try out in the future.
And please do let me know what you think of my recipe — even if you have negative feedback it’s really helpful because I can always tweak things / rewrite things to make them more clear for the future. ~ Matthew