How to make pie dough

November 25th, 2008 by megan · 6 Comments

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It takes just as long (or longer) to go to the grocery store and pick up a pre-made crust. Plus, when you make your own, you know exactly what’s in it. Here are a couple of pie-dough making and rolling tips:

  • The kind of fat you use (i.e., butter, lard, shortening) will affect the texture of your crust. Butter makes the least flaky crust, shortening the most flaky. I most often use butter because I think it has a lot more flavor than shortening, and I’m willing to sacrifice a bit of flaky texture for flavor. I just don’t like the concept of shortening. Sometimes I use a combination of non-hydrogenated fresh lard (a lot of commercial lard on the shelves is hydrogenated, just like shortening) and butter. You can get non-hydrogenated fresh lard at some Farmer’s Markets.  It smells amazingly porky while it’s cooking, but the finished product doesn’t end up tasting like pig. Lard adds a bit of flakiness to the crust, similar to shortening.
  • How you cut the fat into the flour also affects the texture of your crust. I use a food processor. I only pulse the machine a few times – just until the fat and flour form little pea-sized bits. You can also use a pastry cutter or your fingers (rub the fat pieces into the flour), but you must work fast to keep the fat from melting.
  • Make sure your fat is very, very cold and is already cut into small bits. This will keep the fat from melting or softening while you’re pulsing it in the food processor or working it with your fingers.
Make sure your fat is in small pieces

Make sure your fat is in small pieces

  • Don’t use too much water. The more water you use, the denser and tougher the crust will be. Only use enough ice water to make the dough just come together. This is just one of those things that you have to get a feel for, because too little water will make the dough dry and crumbly when you try to roll it out.
  • Chill your dough thoroughly before you roll it out. About 1/2 hour will do the trick. If it’s too hard when you take it out of the fridge, just let it sit on the counter for a few minutes to soften up.
  • I sometimes use parchment paper when I roll out the dough, to keep it from sticking to the counter. Wax paper works, too.
  • Relax. And have fun.

The recipe below is for a single pie crust (i.e., just the top or just the bottom of a pie). Double the recipe for a double pie crust. You can use any combination of fat – for example, half butter, half fresh lard. Just make sure your fat is very, very cold and is cut into small pieces.

You’ll need:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar (for sweet pies only – omit if you are making a savory pie)
Large pinch of salt (kosher)
1/2 cup (one stick) unsalted butter (I like cultured butter), chilled and cut into cubes
3-4 tablespoons ice water

A food processor or a pastry cutter (or your fingers)

Procedure:

1. Whisk together the flour, the salt, and the optional sugar together and add to the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and pulse just until the mixture has a course, sandy texture but still has chunks of fat about the size of a pea.

Flour and fat pulsed together

Flour and fat pulsed together

2. Add the ice water one tablespoon at a time, and continue pulsing. Stop adding water when the dough just comes together (you may not need to add all of the ice water).

Dough mixture after adding ice water.

Dough mixture after adding ice water

3. Remove the dough bits from the food processor and pat together to form a ball. Flatten the ball into a disk shape, then roll the disk’s sides on the counter to smooth (this will keep your dough from forming cracks when you roll it out).

Disk of dough

Disk of dough

4. Wrap the dough disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least a half an hour before rolling.

5. To roll: put a piece of parchment or wax paper on the counter and flour very lightly. Using a rolling pin, roll out, starting from the center of the disk and working your way around the dough circle. Most pie recipes call for rolling the dough about 12 inches in diameter (measure from edge to edge) – this is so you can have a lip of dough to flute. If your dough rips, don’t worry – just pinch it together and roll your rolling pin over to smooth.

6 comments

shijima Dec 14, 2008 at 4:27 pm


Very nice! I followed this recipe to make pecan tartlets and the flake was crispy and a bit flaky, just the way I like it.

Thank you again!

katiek Mar 13, 2009 at 12:51 pm


I just made one from the pie and pastry bible book for a banana cream pie. They didn’t include how long and at what temperature to pre-bake the shell at. Do you have an idea?

megan Mar 13, 2009 at 1:52 pm


Yeah, I usually blind bake at 400F w/the pie weights and liner for 10 min. or so, then remove the pie weights/liner and keep baking until the crust is golden brown – time will depend on how big your pie is though.

Winter Vegetable Crostata with Goat Cheese and Thyme | Brooklyn Farmhouse Mar 15, 2009 at 11:03 am


[...] How to make pie dough [...]

sarah karenju Mar 5, 2010 at 10:16 am


very tastey,i followed step by step and it was flaky and crisy

shannon Oct 21, 2012 at 9:11 pm


I used this recipe for the crust of my home made pumpkin pie. It turned out great! Thanks so much!

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