Pie Crust isn’t Scary

I can’t tell you how many people have told me that they are afraid of making pie crust. Trust me, you can do it. Even if you have never baked much before, you can make your own pie crust. It can seem tricky, but stick with me and you can leave the dough boy’s ready-made crusts at the store and make your very own, from-scratch pies.

The most important thing to remember when making pie crust is to keep everything cold. If things start to get sticky (literally), throw the crust in the fridge and take a break for a while. If you start to lose your cool, stick the crust in the fridge and put your feet up until you regain your equilibrium. And maybe don’t try your first pie on a hot day when the A/C isn’t up to par. Other than that, as long as you take your time, you will be successful in your pie endeavors.

One more thing. Repeat after me – I will not make my first pie crust for company. Don’t do it. Just don’t. Try this when you have all the time in the world. When you are baking for company, or to take to a party, you worry about what people will think of your results. You don’t need that pressure. Make the first pie for just you and your supportive family. And if your family isn’t supportive, play Little Red Hen and eat the whole pie yourself.

I made a freeform pie on a cookie sheet for this series of posts. I have never done one before, and I have no idea why not. It worked beautifully. If you have never made pie before, I encourage you to make a freeform pie. There are no worries about fitting the pie into a pie plate, or getting the crust rolled out even close to round. If you want to make a pie in a pie plate, go for it, but you will have to wait for another pie post to get specific directions and pictures for a traditional pie.

I am only giving you the recipe for pie crust today. If you have made pies before, use the crust to make your favorite pie. If you have never made crust before, read the directions and look at the pictures today. If you get ambitious, make the crust through to the chilling step and leave it in the fridge until tomorrow. Otherwise, read, absorb and get ready to make pie soon!

Butter Pie Crust
from The Cook’s Life
Makes 2-3 9-inch pie crusts

I use all butter for this crust, and a lot of it. The high ratio of butter to flour makes for a nice flaky pie crust that tastes fabulous. The directions look long, but I tried to cover every detail, since I can’t be in the kitchen with you.

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
6-8 tablespoons ice water, approximately
Flour for rolling

Mix flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl.

Add butter and cut in with a pastry blender. This is a great tool for making pie crusts, but you can also use two knives, one in each hand and cut from the middle of the bowl to the edges, cutting the butter into smaller and smaller pieces. A food processor also works.

Blend with the pastry blender or pulse in the food processor until the butter is cut into pieces a little smaller than peas. There will be various-sized pieces, which is fine.

Sprinkle 4 tablespoons water on the mixture and mix with a spatula or pulse in the food processor once or twice. Add more water, a tablespoon at a time, until most of the dough comes together. There will still be dry-looking pieces. Move the dough and all the little bits to a piece of plastic wrap spread on the counter. Using your hands, try to press the dough into a ball. If it really is too dry, sprinkle water on the dry parts, a teaspoon at a time, until it comes together.

The dough should be buttery, but not wet. Don’t panic if you get it too wet. You can fix it later.

It will leave your hands greasy, which is what you want.

Once you have a ball of dough that will hold together, cut the ball in half. Form each half into a flat disk and wrap with plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of 30 minutes, or up to a week. You can also freeze it for longer, but put it in an airtight container or plastic bag. Thaw overnight in the fridge. This makes 2 very generous pie crusts. If you are an experienced pie maker, you can make 3 crusts. Otherwise make 2, which will give you lots of extra to cover mistakes – and enough to make some tasty baker’s treats.

While the dough chills, get your rolling out space ready. Make sure you have enough room to work without bumping the rolling pin into anything. If you don’t have enough counter space, try the kitchen or dining room table. I roll my dough directly on the counter, but use a rolling mat or really large cutting board if you like. Put a damp towel or some rubber bands underneath your board or mat to keep it from slipping. Sprinkle your rolling surface with flour, rub flour on your rolling pin and get your pan ready. I used a baking sheet lined with parchment paper for my freeform pie. You can also use pie plates, of course.

Remove one dough disk from the fridge. If it has been chilling for more than 30 minutes, let it warm up on the counter for 15 minutes or so. Otherwise, get ready to roll!

Place the dough on your floured surface and sprinkle the top of it with flour. If your dough was too wet before the chilling, sprinkle the flour on heavily and be ready to add flour the instant it starts sticking.

Start rolling, gently, but not too timidly. Roll from the middle of the dough, directly to 12 o’clock. Then roll from the middle to 6 o’clock. Pick up the edges of the dough and slide it around 90 degrees, adding flour underneath if it sticks at all. Even if it doesn’t stick, add a little flour underneath the dough each time you turn it. Roll from the middle to 12 o’clock again and from the middle to 6 o’clock again. The minute it starts to stick to the rolling pin or the counter, sprinkle on flour – don’t finish the rolling stroke, get the flour. Flour is your friend in this process. This dough has enough butter in it that you aren’t going to hurt it with sprinkles of flour.

If the dough does stick and tear, you are fine. Scrape the stuck bits off and press them back into place. If they won’t stick together, wet your fingers a bit and use the water like glue. Then sprinkle flour on any sticky spots and keep rolling.

Your pie crust is not going to be round. It just isn’t. I have been making pies since I was ten, and after thirty years (yes, this year is the big 40), I still only roll mostly round crusts. This is why I wrote the recipe to make generous crusts. You will have enough crust to make any repairs or adjustments you need.

Keep rolling, turning and adding flour when you need to, until the dough is pretty thin. For a free-form pie, you want it a little thinner than 1/8-inch, but don’t go so thin that you have holes, if you can help it. Make sure you have enough flour under the dough, so that it slides over the surface and doesn’t stick when you turn it.

When you have the dough thin enough, sprinkle the top with flour. Carefully pick up the back edge of the dough and fold it in half. Use a dough scraper, spatula or knife, along with more flour, to help lift the dough it if does happen to stick, which mine did. Once you have it folded in half, sprinkle the top with flour again and fold one side over the other. Now you can carefully move your folded pie crust to the parchment lined baking sheet or pie plate. Position the point of the dough in the middle and unfold, brushing off any extra flour with your fingers.

You are now ready to fill and bake your first pie crust! Baking directions to follow tomorrow.

Download or print recipe here.
Download or print recipe with short directions – if you have made pie crust before.

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7 thoughts on “Pie Crust isn’t Scary

  1. I have been using store bought crusts for years. I didn’t have the patience to make pie crust when I was younger. Your blog has given me newly found inspiration! Thanks!

  2. Thank you so much for the thorough instructions! I’m new to pie making and have been using your recipe for the past year. I find that when I put my dough into a ball and then later when I roll the dough that it separates in multiple places. It’s just not as cohesive as I would like. Is this a matter of more water to glue these piece together?

    Thank you!

    • So glad the pie recipe and instructions work for you! I hope we can troubleshoot your issue so it will work even better.

      Are you rolling the crust out right after you take it out of the fridge? Or are you letting it warm up just a bit before you roll? I would recommend letting it warm to room temperature for 10-15 minutes before you roll it out, if you aren’t already.

      If the temperature isn’t the problem, then the dough might be too dry. Try adding a teaspoon or so of water to the dough before chilling it. Is it dry and crumbly before chilling? Are you wrapping it tightly in plastic wrap or a plastic bag for the chilling step? You want to make sure it doesn’t dry out in the fridge.

      Can you press it back together when it separates? It might just be a matter of gluing the parts that break back together with a little water.

      Lots of questions. Let me know if any of the tips help.

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