Pie crust is one of those foundational recipes, that once mastered, opens the door to all sorts of bakes - pies, tarts, galettes, and even scones and biscuits. The process and method of making this all butter pie crust couldn't be easier. You can make it by hand or in a food processor. Either way, follow this recipe and my tips, and you will end up with perfectly buttery, flaky all butter pie crust.
Pie Crust Explained
- Cold butter (or fat) is cut into flour (including any flavor mix ins - sugar, salt, herbs, etc.) in order to disperse little pieces of the butter throughout the dough.
- The flour coats the butter, and during baking, the water in the butter evaporates, creating steam.
- The steam causes the dough to puff up and create pockets which results in flaky layers.
- A small amount of cold liquid (usually water) is added to help bind the dough, making it easier to handle and roll out. It is also needed for gluten formation. Gluten is actually needed for pie crust but only very little, which is why so little water is called for in pie recipes. Too much water can result in too much gluten formation which leaves you with a tough crust.
One of the most important things to keep in mind while making the dough, is to make sure that your butter and water stay super cold. Warm and melting butter can react with the gluten in the flour which could make for a tough, dense crust. It won't react in the oven to create steam pockets. It also makes the dough hard to work with and unable to keep its shape.
Butter, shortening, lard, or oil, or any combination of these can be used to make pie crust. I prefer all butter because the flavor is just unbeatable. Butter also helps aid in the browning process. There's lots of amazing flavor in a golden brown all butter pie crust.
Shortening and lard won't melt as fast when you're working with it, and it will create a flaky tender crust. But it's flavorless.
A combination of shortening and butter can be used and gives you the best of both fats.
How to Make Pie Dough
- Whisk together the flour, sugar and salt into a large bowl.
- Add the cold butter cubes to the bowl, and using a pastry cutter, or a fork, work the butter into the flour until you end up with pea sized pieces of flour coated butter. You should be able to gently squeeze some of the mixture together and it stays together.
- Use a spatula to stir the water into the flour/butter mixture, a tablespoon at a time until it starts to form large clumps, with no large pockets of dry flour remaining. I use about 6 ½ tablespoons of water total.
A note about water, the amount of water can vary, so this is something you have to gauge by eye here, not by the perfect measurement of water. The dough needs to just be able to come together to form a loose ball. The dough should not be very sticky, or wet.
- Divide the dough in half, and shape each half into a disc about an inch tall.
- Wrap tightly with cling film. The dough needs to relax, absorb the water and firm the butter back up, so leave it to rest in the refrigerator for an hour before rolling out the pie dough.
Rolling and Shaping dough tips
The dough will need to be at a cool working temperature before rolling out, meaning if your dough is too firm, it'll crack when rolling. Too soft and it will get sticky and be hard to roll.
One of my favorite tips - before removing the plastic wrap, roll out the dough as much as you can while it is still wrapped. This helps give you clean edges, a perfectly round shape and a good head start. Remove the plastic and place the dough on a lightly floured surface or non-stick mat.
Roll the dough out to a 12" diameter, or to about ⅛" thick. To prevent sticking, you can place a piece of cling film or parchment paper on top of the dough, then roll it out. When rolling, take care to not roll the pin over the edges of the dough. This flattens and tapers off the edges. If the dough is sticking at all, use a bench scraper to unstick the dough and sprinkle with a little more flour.
Roll from the inside of the dough round outwards. Loosely roll up the dough on a rolling pin and lay the dough into the pie dish. Gently press the dough into the dish so that it lines the bottom and sides. Ease the dough into the dish and avoid stretching it as this can cause shrinking when baking.
If the dough cracks, use extra dough to patch the cracks rather than trying to stretch the dough back together.
Roll overhanging dough underneath itself, creating a thick ledge of dough so that it rests on the edge of the pie dish. Crimp the edges by pressing the pointer finger of one hand against the edge of the dough from the inside of the dish, while gently pressing with your thumb and pointer finger of the other hand from the outside. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow the butter to firm back up.
If making a double crust pie, do not crimp yet, as you will crimp the top and bottom crusts together after the pie is filled.
If you make this all butter pie crust, let me know! Drop a comment below or tag me on Instagram.
For recipes using this all butter pie crust, check out these posts:
Sweet Potato Pie with Toasted Meringue
How to Make a Pie Crust Lattice
All Butter Pie Crust
- Food processor (optional)
- 3 cups (360g) all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter, cold, cubed
- ½ cup ice water
- Whisk together the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl.
- Add the cold, cubed butter to the flour mixture. Cut in, or blend in, the butter using a pastry cutter or a fork, until the butter is about the size of peas.
- Using either your fingers or a spatula, stir in the water, a tablespoon at a time. I used 6 and ½ tablespoons total. Stop adding water when the dough begins forming large clumps. The dough should be moist and slightly sticky, but not wet, with no big pockets of dry flour remaining.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. With floured hands, fold the dough onto its self until all flour is incorporated, forming the dough into a ball. Use a light hand to keep the butter from melting and to prevent too much gluten formation.
- Divide the ball in half. Flatten each ball into a disc and wrap tightly with plastic wrap.
- Refrigerate the dough for two hours or for up to three days before using.
- When ready to roll out the dough, let the dough rest on the counter to warm up a bit before using. The dough should still be cool when working with it. You want to be able to roll it out without cracking but not be too warm to melt the butter and become sticky.
- Place the dough on a lightly floured surface or a non-stick rolling mat. Roll from the center outward, rotating the dough 180 degrees, with your hands, every so often. This helps keep its round shape and prevents sticking. Add a little more flour if needed to prevent sticking.
- Roll the dough to about ⅛" thick and about 12" round. Lightly roll the dough up with your rolling pin, about halfway.
- Lay the dough onto the pie dish. Ease the dough, without stretching, into the dish.
- If making a double crust or lattice pie, refrigerate before proceeding with your recipe. If you're using the bottom crust only for your recipe, crimp or decorate the edges, then refrigerate.
- Refer to your pie recipe on how to proceed.
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