Don’t be intimidated by a homemade pie crust! This buttery, flaky perfect pie crust turns out great every time and is the perfect starting place for all your favorite pies.
Perfect Pie Crust
Pie is my favorite. I just love a good, flaky, buttery pie crust filled with wonderful seasonal fruit.
I am one of those people who would take pie over cake, any day of the week. My husband Paul is the opposite. He has started to come around to pie, but when we were first married he was just not a fan of anything other than banana cream pie, and even then he almost never ate any of the pie crust. So basically, he was a fan of banana pudding.
My handsome fella has come far in the years we have been married and now will fairly enthusiastically devour a slice of apple, or peach, or sometimes even strawberry rhubarb pie, although he still usually leaves his crust on his plate like a 4-year old (love you anyway sweetheart!). But an old-fashioned banana cream pie is still his favorite.
Many people are intimidated by pie crusts but this perfect pie crust recipe will solve all pie crust woes. And with a food processor, it is ridiculously easy. Just putting things in, pulsing it a bit, adding ice water, and then you are done. It’s only a little more work by hand using a pastry cutter.
Once the pie crust dough starts coming together with the water, you can shape it into discs and wrap in plastic wrap. The pie crust needs to chill in the fridge for an hour, which lets the fats that make a pie crust tender and flaky chill out and the moisture in the dough distribute evenly throughout so that when you go to roll it out your crust doesn’t fall to pieces.
I’m going to go a little nerdy here and delve into pie crust theory more than most people might want to know. Feel free to skip to the recipe at the bottom of the post if you would like.
There are varying schools of thought on whether butter or shortening makes the best pie crust. Shortening makes a flakier crust but it doesn’t have the flavor that butter does. A butter crust has better flavor, but it’s not as delicate and flaky as the shortening crust. So it only makes sense that the best pie crust is a combination of the two approaches!
This perfect pie crust recipe comes from the America’s Test Kitchen cookbook where they call it their “Basic Crust”. They experimented with a variety of combinations of the two and ultimately took the position that a proportion of 3 parts butter to 2 parts shortening is “optimal for both flavor and texture” and that a ratio of 2 parts flour to 1 part fat produces the a pie dough that is both easier to work with and results in a very tender and flavorful baked crust. I’m not going to argue with that.
When it comes to rolling out the dough, just make sure you have enough flour on your surface and that you use long strokes with your rolling pin, taking your time to work with the dough and not manhandle it into the shape you want. But also, don’t worry if you feel like you DO need to handle it more.
I know pie crust connoisseurs will recoil in horror when I say this, but honestly if your crust is falling to pieces, squash it back into a ball and re-roll it. Build a little confidence and with practice, you won’t need to do that again because you will learn by doing just how to roll your pastry dough out so that it doesn’t fall apart on you. Truthfully, this dough is such a good one that I doubt you will need to go that far, even on your first attempt.
Also, I find a pie scraper to be an invaluable tool in the rolling and fitting into the pie pan stage because it helps get the crust off the counter if it is sticking from not enough flour. I tend to roll a bit, then scrape the edges and sprinkle a little flour underneath and on top, then roll a little more, etc. until I get the crust to the right size for my pie dish. Plus I can use the scraper to scrape up scraps and flour after I’m done rolling my crust, which makes clean-up a breeze.
How to Blind Bake a Pie Crust
If you need to blind bake a pie crust, say for a Banana Cream Pie, no-bake pie, custard or cream pie, etc. that’s easy to do. Just roll out your pie crust and transfer it to the pie dish. Then there are 3 key tips for keeping the pie crust from shrinking while it bakes.
- I trim the edges but leave enough extra dough to fold under itself around the lip of the pie plate so that I can crimp the edges and have an extra thick crust. This helps prevent the pie crust from shrinking too much around the edges while it bakes.
- Poke the unbaked pie crust all over the bottom and sides with the tines of a fork. This is called “docking” and it will allow steam to escape from the crust while it bakes so it doesn’t puff up or shrink as much while the pie crust blind bakes.
- Use pie weights to help keep the shape of the crust while it bakes. I line my docked crust with a large piece of parchment paper then pour in some ceramic pie weights. If you don’t have pie weights, you can use dried beans or sugar instead.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F., then bake the pie for 15-18 minutes, just until the crust is starting to brown a bit around the edges. Remove the crust from the oven and carefully lift out the parchment paper and pour the pie weights into a heat safe bowl to cool down. Return the crust to the oven without the weights now and bake another 7-8 minutes for a partially baked crust or 14-16 minutes until golden brown for a fully baked crust.
I love how I caught Rose’s little fingers sneaking in to pinch a taste of pie dough in this photo. She’s a sneaky one, my Rose.
The perfect pie crust is easier to make than you think! I’ve included measurements for both single-crust and double-crust pies so you don’t have to do the calculations on your own!
Looking for more pie inspiration? Here are some of my favorites using this Perfect Pie Crust!
- Salted Caramel Apple Pie
- Homemade Blackberry Pie
- Southern Peach Pie Perfection
- Dutch Pear & Nutmeg Pie
- Glazed Apple Pie Cookies
- Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
- Classic Southern Pecan Pie
- Blueberry Sour Cream Custard Pie
- 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for the work surface
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 1/2 cup vegetable shortening, chilled
- 12 tablespoons butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces and chilled
- 6-8 tablespoons ice water
- 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for the work surface
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- 3 tablespoons vegetable shortening, chilled
- 5 tablespoons butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces and chilled
- 4-6 tablespoons ice water
Stir together the flour, sugar, and salt. Using a pastry cutter or a food processor (if I had one I would use it!), cut the shortening and butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. It is only about 10 pulses with a food processor but a bit more work by hand. One trick to make the process a little easier is to freeze your butter beforehand, then grate it into the flour mixture before cutting it in with the pastry cutter if not using a food processor.
Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the ice water over the mixture. Using a fork, gently stir the water in to the flour mixture, then repeat with the remaining water, adding only 2 tablespoons at a time, just until the dough starts to come together.
Divide the dough into two even pieces (if making a double-crust recipe). Turn each piece of dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and flatten each into a disc and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour, then allow the chilled dough to sit on the counter to soften slightly for 10 minutes before rolling out.
Recipe from America's Test Kitchen.
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