How to Bake Perfect Pie Crust
Updated: Aug 28, 2020
Mr. Baking With Chickens and I are pie snobs. We LOVE pie but rarely order it because the crust is usually iffy. Too often they are tough, dry, mealy, tasteless, and ruin an otherwise fantastic pie. I won’t point any fingers. For the pie-obsessed, it’s the most important element that holds in all that pie filling goodness, balances flavors, and is the difference between a pie that’s just good and a pie that’s clucking amazeballs.
There are so many different techniques to do a pie crust -- all butter, butter and vegetable shortening, vodka, lard, sour cream, coconut oil, Crisco pie crust, shortcrust, etc. Then there are pie shells like graham cracker crust, pretzel crust, potato chip crust, Oreo pie crust, and Nilla wafer pie crust. Then there are sweet and savory hand pies, and fried hand pies! AND let’s not forget about all the celebrity recipes floating around the internet: the Martha Stewart pie crust, the Paula Deen pie crust, Ina Garten pie crust, Stella Parks Brave tart pie crust, Alton Brown pie crust, the Pioneer Woman pie crust. Ahhh so many pie crusts, so little time.
While the best pie crust or the perfect pie crust is entirely subjective. This is my go-to basic pie crust from scratch recipe that works every single time -- an all-butter pie crust (pâte brisée). The flaky layers and crisp texture won over the pie-crust hating Mr. Baking With Chickens.
This recipe is a great go-to recipe in your baking repertoire because it explains how to make adjustments, has detailed instructions for how to blind bake a pie crust, and allows for variation and substitutions like almond flour. If you’re wondering which pie crust to choose for which recipe, this is a good general one that works for almost any pie you’re baking. This is the base recipe for my Salty Cardamom Pie Crust, that pairs well with Dark Chocolate Meringue Pie or my award-winning Seville Orange Marmalade Pie.
Tips for Making a Perfect Pie Crust:
Cut the butter into the flour until the texture resembles soft sand.
Cut the butter into small ½ inch pieces using a knife first and put the cut butter into the freezer to chill for 10 minutes before incorporating into the flour.
You can use a food processor to mix the flour and butter, but I like to cut my butter in by hand using a pastry cutter to feel the dough.
You can also use a grater to grate frozen butter into small chunks.
Roll chilled dough between two sheets of parchment paper with a light sprinkle of flour.
Rolling between two large sheets of parchment paper makes so much easier to roll, transfer the pie dough to the pan, and easier cleanup!
This way you don’t have to sprinkle all the extra flour to prevent the dough from sticking to your rolling surface.
Rolling with all that extra flour to prevent sticking makes the dough tough.
Thinner dough works better. Roll to about 1/8 in. thick. Too thick and you’ll have mouthfuls of hard crust instead of a nice balance of filling and crust.
Peel the parchment paper off when you’re ready to transfer and move it into the pan using the parchment. I use a flip method by putting the pan upside-down on the rolled out dough and flip the parchment, dough, and pan altogether.
Keep everything cold, don’t let the butter melt.
If it gets warm and gooey, pop it back into the fridge to chill.
The cold bits of butter are what makes the crust light and flaky.
When blind baking your pie, remember to freeze your pie shell for 30 mins to 1-hour before baking to help it keep its shape while baking.
Bake with a pan or foil under your pie pan to catch any butter drips.
Your crust should not hang over the side of the pan, it should sit right on the lip of the pan. Otherwise, your pie dough will melt over the side as it bakes in the hot oven.
If any butter melts off the side of the pan and into your oven, it will start to smoke and set off your smoke detector. Use a flat pan or foil to catch drips!
A flat pan makes it easier to move the pie in and out of the oven.
Bake on the bottom rack for a cooked-through, crispy bottom crust.
If you’re baking a pie with filling and uncooked dough, bake your pie on the bottom rack of the oven.
The heat will ensure that the bottom of your pie will cook all the way through so you get a solid, crisp crust to support your pie. No soggy pies!
If you’re pre-baking or blind baking your pie shell, put in the middle of the oven.
I don’t have a food processor or a pastry cutter.
Use two butter knives criss-crossed to cut the butter into the flour. This is a long and tedious way to do it, but I have successfully done it! You could also use a blender to mix the dough but watch out if the blades get too hot and melt the butter. Also, you can just use your fingers to break up the butter into the flour but your hands are warm and the butter will get soft. You’ll need cold hands, or to keep chilling the butter throughout until fully incorporated.
I don’t have a rolling pin.
Use an empty wine or liquor bottle! My favorite rolling pin is a sawed-off broom handle from my grandma. Buy one using my Amazon link below!
Why is my pie crust tough?
Several possible reasons. Not chilling it, your butter didn’t stay cold and melted into the flour before baking. Too much water and your dough was too wet. Too much flour added in during the rolling process. Handled the dough too much and developed the gluten.
Why did my pie crust shrink?
If you pulled or stretched your pie dough to fit into your pie pan, it will shrink when baking. Gently lay the dough into the pan to fill the pie pan. Don’t stretch to fit!
How do I pre-bake a pie crust?
You’ll need pie weights, beans, rice or a lot of sugar to weigh down the dough while baking. The instructions for how to blind bake a pie crust from Simply Recipes are EXCELLENT. Make sure to prick the bottom of the crust a lot with a fork so it allows steam to escape so you don’t have a bubbly bottom.
Pie crust too hard. Pie crust too soft.
Overbaked and overworked if too hard. Underbaked if your pie crust is too soft.
Why is my pie crust soggy?
It didn’t bake all the way through. Did you put it on the bottom rack to bake the bottom crust? Or your pie filling is too liquidy. Water retaining fruit pies like apple and berry release liquid as they sit in sugar and bake. You can let the fruit sit in sugar for a while to release some liquid before putting it into the filling, or use cornstarch or flour to help thicken the fruit juices so it’s not so watery.
My pie crust is burning on the edges but my pie isn’t done baking!
Use foil to cover the edges of the pie crust and protect from burning/browning if your pie isn’t done baking.
Is this a puff pastry?
This is like a puff pastry, same idea with the flaky butter layers but less puffy.
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Get the Recipe:
All-Butter Perfect Pie Crust
Time to Prepare: 1 hour (plus 1 hour dough chill time)
How to make the perfect all-butter pie crust (pate brisee). This is my go-to versatile pie crust recipe that works great for almost every pie. Makes enough for bottom and top crust. Adapted from Simply Recipes. Try my Baking With Chickens Original Salty Cardamom Pie Crust recipe
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
6 to 8 tablespoons ice water
Variation: Swap out 1/2 a cup of the flour with ground blanched almonds or almond flour
1. Mix flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl or in a food processor.
2. Add butter, cut in the butter into the flour mixture using a pastry cutter or your fingers. If using a food processor, add half at a time, pulsing several times after each addition. Pulse to cut in the butter and mix until the texture is like soft wet sand with butter chunks no larger than pea-sized. Flatten butter chunks with your fingers.
3. Slowly drizzle ice water a little at a time. Mix or pulse. Then add more ice water a tablespoon at a time until the dough just starts to hold together.
4. Press pie dough to see if it holds together. You know that the mixture is ready if when you pinch some of the crumbly dough together with your fingers, it holds together. Don’t add too much water or your dough will be tough.
5. Gather the mixture and divide the dough into two halves. Knead just enough for the dough to hold together, but don’t over-knead. Press the dough together and form two flat dough disks. This will help when you need to roll it out.
6. You’ll see cold butter chunks/streaks speckling the dough. These small bits of butter will spread out into layers as the crust bakes to create a flaky crust.
7. Wrap each one in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for one hour or up to 2 days.
8. Remove one crust disk from the refrigerator and place on a rolling surface between two large sheets of parchment paper. Very lightly flour the dough disk to help it stick less to the parchment.
9. Roll out with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface to about 1/8-inch thick. As you roll out the dough, if the parchment is getting wrinkled on the dough, peel the parchment off the dough, sprinkle lightly with flour, and continue rolling.
10. Peel the parchment slowly and carefully off the dough on one side. If it’s very sticky, put it in the fridge for a little bit to chill and harden. Place the parchment back on top and flip the dough with both parchment papers over. Peel the parchment off the other side.
11. Place a 9-inch pie plate upside-down on top of the dough. Grab the side of the pie plate along with the parchment paper with both hands and flip them right-side up.
12. Take the sides of the dough and lift them gently to fall into the pie pan so that it lines the bottom and sides of the pie plate. Don’t stretch or press the dough down.
13. Use a pair of kitchen scissors to trim the dough to within 1/2 inch of the edge of the pie dish.
14. If your dough is feeling sticky and gooey, put the pie into the fridge to chill for a little bit before adding the filling.
Need to make a pre-baked pie crust? Read Simply Recipe’s instructions for How to Blind Bake a Pie Crust.
15. Roll out second disk of dough, as before. Set aside.
16. Add filling into pie pan. Gently place the second dough place onto the top of the filling in the pie.
17. Trim excess dough, leaving a 3/4 inch overhang. Fold the edge of the top piece of dough over and under the edge of the bottom piece of dough, pressing together.
18. Crimp edges using thumb and forefinger or press with a fork.
19. Score the top of the pie with four 2-inch long cuts, so that steam from the cooking pie can escape.
20. Bake according to your pie recipe’s instructions.
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