Perfect Homemade Flaky Pie Crust
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The key to any good pie is a perfect, flaky pie crust. This all-purpose pie crust is buttery and flaky and goes great with both sweet and savoury pies. And it’s as easy as pie to whip together from scratch;)
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I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like pie. Apple pie, cherry pie (my personal favourite), blueberry pie, pumpkin pie, strawberry rhubarb pie… All delicious options. But the fact is, it doesn’t matter how good your filling is if your crust is too tough, or cooked unevenly, or (gasp!) soggy!
Luckily, making a perfect, flaky pie crust from scratch is easy to master by remembering a few simple rules.
Three rules for perfect, flaky pie crust
First of all, keep your butter (or lard) as cold as possible. The colder the better when it comes to pie crust. This is especially true when it comes to the fat source you’re using (ie. butter, lard or even coconut oil), because you want the fat to stay solid until it melts in the oven. Then when it does melt, little air pockets will remain in the pie crust, which makes for a delicious layered flaky crust.
I put my butter in the freezer right before I cut it into my flour to keep it as cold as possible right up until it’s ready to go in the oven.
Second, keep the fat content as high as possible. Fat equals flavour, and also helps keep crust light and flaky. To up my fat content, I use cream (or whole fat milk) instead of water in my pie crust.
Also, don’t allow too much gluten to form. Gluten causes pie crusts to become tough and dense, and that is definitely the opposite of what we’re going for here! One way to prevent gluten from forming is to add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to your pie crust, as you’ll see in this recipe. Vinegar helps to inhibit gluten strands from forming, which will help you keep your pie crust light and flaky.
Finally, don’t overwork your dough. The more you mix and work your pie dough, the more gluten will form. Remember, i’s not bread dough, it’s pie! And the less you touch it, the better.
That being said, I’ve found it’s pretty hard to overwork pie dough when forming it by hand. I usually spend a good minute or two working my dough into a dough ball and my crust always turns out nicely. However, if you’re using a food processor, you need to be more careful not to overwork it.
How to make homemade flaky pie crust from scratch
This recipe is for a double pie crust, so you’ll get a bottom and a top crust out of this.
The first step to a perfect, flaky pie crust is to start with cold butter or lard. Never use room temperature butter to make pie dough! Always start with butter that’s been in the fridge (or even the freezer!)
Cut one cup of cold butter or lard into ½-inch cubes and set the cubes aside in a bowl. Transfer to the fridge or freezer until you’re ready to add it to your flour.
You can use butter or lard in this pie crust recipe. If you’re vegan, you could even use coconut oil (although full disclaimer, I’ve never personally tried using coconut oil in my own pie crusts). I find butter adds a little more flavour to pie crust, but lard really helps to make it extra flaky. Either one is a good option.
Next, in a liquid measuring cup, add one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to ½ cup of cold cream or whole milk and set it in the fridge until ready to use.
In a large mixing bowl, mix together three cups of all-purpose flour and one teaspoon of salt.
Using a pastry cutter, cut in the cold butter or lard by hand. (You can also use a food processor if you prefer).
Cut in your butter or lard until the chunks are roughly the size of peas.
Slowly drizzle your milk/vinegar mixture over your flour/butter mixture and then mix together with your hands or with a wooden spoon until the dough begins to stick together. Then turn dough out onto a floured surface and work the dough into a ball with your hands.
The dough will be crumbly. That’s okay! Just keep working it until it forms into a ball. However, if you feel you need to add a bit more liquid, add a little more milk but just add one tablespoon at a time. You really don’t want your dough to be too sticky or wet, so err on the side of crumbly as long as it holds together.
If using a food processor, pulse a few time to cut in the butter and then drizzle the milk/vinegar mixture in as you run your food processor. Turn your food processor off as soon as you’ve poured all the milk in, then turn dough out onto a floured surface and work it into a ball.
Once you’ve shaped your dough into a ball, wrap it with plastic wrap or place in an airtight freezer bag and pop it in the fridge for at least an hour before rolling out.
* If you want to make your dough ahead of time, it can be stored in the fridge for up to three days or in the freezer for up to three months.
Rolling out your dough, assembling and baking your pie
When you’re ready to assemble your pie, remove pie dough from the fridge, remove wrapping and transfer to a floured surface. Cut pie dough in half to form a bottom and a top crust.
Roll out your bottom crust to about 11 inches in diameter to fit a 9-inch pie plate, then transfer dough to the pie plate.
To make transferring easier, fold dough in half once and then in half again. Then place in the pie plate and unfold.
Press pie dough into the bottom and sides of the pie plate and trim off any excess dough around the edges.
Scoop filling into bottom pie crust and set aside. Re-flour your surface and roll out the other half of your dough to form your top crust. Either cut into strips to form a lattice crust or fold in half twice (just like you did with the bottom crust), place on top of your pie and unfold.
Cut off excess crust and use fingers or a fork to crimp around the edge or the pie.
Brush some egg wash on your pie crust (and a little raw sugar, if you’re making a sweet pie), and use a sharp knife to cut a few vent slits in the top.
Place in the oven on the bottom rack and bake at 375ºF for one hour.
Blind-baking pie crust
If you’re blind-baking your crust (pre-baking) for a cream, custard or pumpkin pie, line your bottom crust with a little parchment paper or aluminum foil and place some sort of weights on top to keep your pie crust weighted down so it doesn’t shrink or deform in any way. You can use pie weights or dried beans also work well since they distribute weight evenly and won’t burn.
Blind bake your crust at 375ºF for 30-40 minutes.
For more detailed instructions, check out this tutorial on blind-baking pie crust.
Want more pie???
Check out the following posts for more pie-related goodness:
- Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
- Whipped Pumpkin Pie
- Traditional Christmas Tourtière (Meat Pie)
- How to Can Blueberry Pie Filling
- How to Can Cherry Pie Filling
- Rustic Apple Crumble (not quite pie, but close enough to substitute in a pinch!)
Oh, and make sure to print out the recipe for this all-purpose pie crust below. You’ll want to keep a hard copy on hand in your recipe box to pull out quickly whenever you find yourself in the mood for a good pie:) (Always).
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