06 December 2012

How to Make Perfect Pie Crust - A Flaky All-Butter Pastry


Pie crust is the thing I get the most questions about. I'm here today to take the mystery out of homemade pie crust. Once you "get it," you'll never use store-bought pastry again. Today's tutorial utilizes a food processor, but I'll give the strictly by hand version next time.


I make different amounts of pastry, depending on what I'm making. But if you're new at making pie crust, I'd suggest you stick to making the same recipe in the same amount every time, until you've mastered it. The recipe below calls for 2 1/2 packed cups (12.5 ounces) of unbleached all-purpose flour and makes enough pastry for one 9-inch double crust pie or two 9-inch pie shells.

It's also important to use the exact same ingredients every time until you've mastered it. The same brand of flour, butter, etc. I use organic unbleached all-purpose flour and organic unsalted butter. A lot of excellent pie makers use lard or shortening in their pastry, but I always use butter (except for those occasions when I've been called upon to make a pie at someone else's house and used whatever they had on hand--including a wine bottle for a rolling pin!).

I've still not tried the recipe that calls for vodka in place of some of the water. It might work, it's just that I've never had the problem that the method is supposed to solve, so ... And then there are recipes that call for an egg or sour cream, milk or buttermilk. You might want to try them all eventually. But, as I said, it's best to master one before branching out.

I always use glass pie plates, the classic 9-inch Pyrex pie plate to be precise, for which you need to roll the pastry out to 13 inches for the bottom crust and 11 inches for the top. The easiest way to roll it out is between two 12-inch squares of parchment paper. Always roll from the center to the outer edge, doing quarter-turns to make it round. There are three different types of rolling pins: the kind with handles and ball bearings, the straight (or baker's) pin, the tapered (or French) pin. I have one of each, all wooden, and can't quite decide on a favorite. There is a fourth kind--handles but no ball bearings--and I'm looking forward to trying one of those soon. (Tried it--fabulous--read about it on Pie Crust By Hand tutorial.)

Pastry for One 9-Inch Double-Crust Pie or Two Pie Shells (food processor* method)

2 1/2 packed cups (12.5 ounces/354 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 sticks (8 ounces/226 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and frozen for 15 minutes
2 tablespoons lemon juice or cider vinegar
Ice water to make 3/4 cup (6 fluid ounces) liquid


1 With metal blade in place, add flour, salt and baking powder to work bowl of food processor. Turn on for three seconds to combine. Add half the frozen butter and pulse for six 1-second pulses or until the frozen butter is the size of large peas. Add remaining butter and pulse for three 1-second pulses.

2 In cup, combine lemon juice or cider vinegar and ice water. Pour 1/2 cup of liquid over all of flour mixture and pulse for three 1-second pulses. If needed, add a tablespoon at a time, over all of flour mixture, doing a 1-second pulse after each tablespoon, or just until dough forms large clumps; do not over-process. (The amount of water you will need depends on your climate and the moisture content of your flour.)


3 Turn dough out, dividing onto two pieces of plastic wrap and flatten each slightly into a 4-inch round disk; wrap; refrigerate for 30 minutes. If you're making two pie shells, make the disks the same size; if you're making a double-crust pie, make one disk a little larger for the bottom crust.


4 Place a disk of dough on a lightly floured 12-inch square of parchment paper; save the piece of plastic wrap as you'll be using it again. Lightly flour the top of the dough and top with second 12-inch square of parchment paper. Roll the dough into a roughly 12x9-inch rectangle. If it is too crumbly, sprinkle it lightly with a teaspoon or two of water. Using a bench scraper or just the paper, fold the dough into thirds like a letter (it won't look neat), then fold it into thirds the opposite way, to form a rough square. Wrap it well with the reserved piece of plastic wrap and refrigerate again for at least 30 minutes or up to three days. Repeat with second disk of dough. If you've chilled dough for just 30 minutes or so, you can roll it out without waiting. You'll need to let thoroughly chilled dough stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes before rolling.




Note: You can even freeze the dough at this point, wrapped well, for up to a month. To defrost dough, move it from freezer to refrigerator for one day before using it. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before rolling.

5 When making a two-crust pie, save the plastic wrap again (yes, again - I'm pretty fanatical about using as little of the magic stuff as possible) and roll out the bottom crust between two 12-inch squares of parchment, rolling from center to edge a few times and rotating by quarter-turns to attain round shape. (And you don't really need to worry all that much about getting it perfectly round as you'll be trimming off the excess anyway and can make it round then.) It should be 13 inches in diameter and about 1/8 inch thick. Remove the top paper and transfer dough to pie plate, paper side up; remove paper, cover with reserved plastic wrap and refrigerate. Roll out top crust (again, save the plastic wrap) and place it on a rimless baking sheet; cover with reserved plastic wrap and refrigerate. Make pie filling. Then assemble pie and bake as directed.



6 When making a single-crust pie, roll out and transfer to dough to pie plate, pressing dough (but not stretching it) to fit pie plate with a half- to one-inch overhang (trim with knife or scissors), crimp edge, cover with  reserved piece of plastic wrap and chill until ready to bake. If blind-baking crust (baking the empty pie shell), preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put a pie tin inside the pastry-lined pie plate and bake for 25 minutes. If partially baked crust is needed, remove pie tin and proceed with recipe. If fully baked crust is needed, remove pie tin and continue baking another 10 to 12 minutes until golden brown.

* I've had my Cuisinart DLC-10E since I was a girl, so as you might imagine, it was discontinued long ago. Check out the Cuisinart 11-Cup Food Processor I have now; the other one is still going strong in a friend's kitchen! 

32 comments:

Richard Sheppard said...

This is great, illustrated information Jean, Thanks! I had been using your cobbler recipe to make pies, even my pumpkin pie I made over Thanksgiving. I like your idea of using parchment paper while rolling the dough out. It probably helps to keep it from pulling back and also uses less flour that way. I know there's a pie in my future sometime soon!

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Thanks, Richard! And within the next couple weeks I'll be posting the handmade version. Even if you plan to use a food processor, that next post might still have some useful tips for you. You can do it!

Cranberry Morning said...

Looks just perfect! I always make my own crust, but have never used only butter, always a combination of butter and shortening. I'm going to try this - AND try the food processor! Thanks, Jean. I'm pinning this. :-)

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Thanks, Judy! And thanks for the Pin! Let me know how this turns out for you.

Marina@Picnic at Marina said...

Your dough looks perfect! What a great tutorial. It is not easy to work with the dough and take photos at the same time...

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Marina, thank you. And you're so right about the photos - I was trying so hard to not get flour and dough all over my camera!

Angie's Recipes said...

Now that's a perfect crust recipe. Thank you, Jean, for the detailed instructions.

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Thanks, Angie. I do love the flavor of an all-butter crust. And this is a pumpkin-pie-for-breakfast kind of day!

Sippity Sup said...

Simply beautiful. But you knew that. GREG

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Aaw, Greg, you're too kind!

Pegi said...

Jean! Your Stewie has been buying Marie's from the store because he wanted it so badly! (Please don't scold...I know, I know.) I'll be a better wife now and make it for him. See how good you are to us? Thanks again! Pegi

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Thanks, Pegi! I hope you guys like it - let me know.

Yenta Mary said...

That is gorgeous! It took me a long time to get the hang of pie crust - always a bane of my existence. Now that I've got the knack, though, I'll never buy one again ....

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Thanks, Mary! And don't the packaged ones have a lot of chemicals?

Thomas "Sully" Sullivan said...

Now, here's a survival skill I definitely want to learn. But what, pray tell, problem is the vodka supposed to solve? (No, Sully...don't go there.) :-)

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Whenever you're in the neighborhood, come on over for a lesson!

Charles said...

Hi Jean - call me a heathen but I have to say I'm not a huge fan of all butter pastry. I find it... *too* buttery, and that's saying something because I sure love my butter. I usually use a half/half mix of butter and vegetable shortening as it reduces the richness a great deal!

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Hi Charles - I understand what you're saying. Maybe I'm just used to all that richness because I've been making and eating all-butter pastry for soooo long.

Karen Downie Makley said...

Thanks for this! I've had to make these alternative crusts for work for so long (no saturated fats, GF, whole grain, etc) that I never quite mastered the original. Perhaps I'll make a savory pie or tart for dinner this week and give this crust a go!

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Thanks, Karen. I know what you mean! I know so many "special dietary needs" people, which is why I've developed so many gluten-free recipes. And I tell a cute Julia Child story about whole wheat crust in my Vegetable Quiche post.

Southerner said...

Ah Jean you can't beat good pastry and this pastry looks very good.
I see you have a granite kitchen top. Where do you source granite from in North America? We get granite from all parts of the British Isles, especially in the South West on Dartmoor and in the Scottish Highlands. Aberdeen is built of granite.It's called the granite city. The Volcanic outcrops that dominate Edinburgh are granite too. I love the choice of colours you get with granite, pinks, blacks and greens depending on the mineral composition. I should imagine it is ideal for kneeding, rolling and cutting pastry on. It's cool, solid and very very hard.No pastry is going to stick to a granite surface like glue!!!!!
Probably the best pastry is made on a granite surface would you say,Jean? All the best, Tony

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Tony, thank you! Pastry is one of the main reasons I chose a solid countertop (also called quartz or engineered stone) when we remodeled the kitchen 6 years ago. At one time I had a beautiful tile countertop (4-inch square ceramic tiles) that did not work for rolling out pastry. AND I was forever bleaching berry stains (love blackberry pie) out of the white grout!

Brooks at Cakewalker said...

Jean, your pie crust is beautiful in every way...flaky, golden and presumably delicious! I also use an all-butter crust recipe, however I've bookmarked this for my next pie to see for myself how it rolls, bakes and tastes. I'm definitely looking forward to it. Thank you for sharing the recipe!

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Thank you, Brooks! I hope it turns out well for you. Isn't butter the best!

Jenn said...

Love this step by step post, Jean! I'm really not much of a baker outside of cookies and brownies, but pie crust is something I would like to master one day.

LANA said...

I have always found pie crust to be THE most challenging part of baking. Thanks for the tips!

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Thanks, Jenn! You can do this - definitely. I wish *I* wasn't a baker - would make it easier to eat right all the time!

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Lana, thank you. I hope the tips will work well for you.

Joy Weese Moll said...

That looks like my food processor -- 26 years old. I've made pie crust in it, too, but not recently. Thanks for the link to a recent Cuisinart. Mine is losing bits and pieces. One day, it's going to lose a bit that will prevent it from working and I'll have to replace it.

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Thank you, Joy! If I ever have to replace mine, it will be with the one I linked. I just don't need one of those huge ones - I think some are 14-cup capacity.

a-boleyn said...

Your finished pie crust in the plate looks perfect especially the triangular points on the edge. Mine are more rounded and with having doubled over the 2 layers on the edge of cherry pie I made today, a lot thicker. I have to work on that. :)

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Thanks, a-boleyn. You'll get it, don't worry. But yours looked fine! Pies are like puppies, they're all pretty!

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