Making a pie crust from scratch can be intimidating (which is why we make it easy for you with our ready-to-bake crusts, of course!), but it can also be so satisfying to slice into a golden-brown crust that you made all by yourself.
The following tutorial will deliver a flaky, buttery double-crust pie (one crust for the bottom, one for the top). If you’re only making a single-crust pie or a pie crust shell for no-bake fillings, simply cut the recipe in half.
Sprinkle with ice water (1 tablespoon at a time), while mixing and tossing lightly with a fork. Add water until dough is just moist enough to form a ball when lightly pressed together. Too much water causes the dough to become sticky and tough; too little causes the edges to crack and the pastry to tear when rolling.
Expert tip: Pie pastry gains its characteristic flakiness from careful handling. The ingredients should be mixed well enough to hold together, but not so much as to melt or break down the fat entirely. Visible bits of fat are a good thing!
Step 2: Shape the Dough
Shape dough into two balls. Flatten each gently into a disc shape, wrap in plastic wrap or waxed paper and refrigerate. After at least 30 minutes, remove the dough and let it stand outside the fridge for 5 minutes before rolling. (You don’t need to chill the dough if you’re in a rush, but it does help maintain the quality of the crust.)
The Butter vs. Shortening vs. Lard Pie Crust Debate
What kind of fat is best? It’s all about personal preference, guys! But there’s a bit of science to it as well.
Butter makes a lighter, flakier crust because butter has more water in it. In the oven, the water in the crust turns to steam, pushing up the floury dough and creating tender flaky layers. The downside to butter is that it melts quickly when handled, so you have to be quick!
Oftentimes, you’ll want a sturdier crust for cream pies or pumpkin pies that would otherwise become soggy-bottomed. Shortening has a higher melting point, so it’s a little easier to work with than butter — and a shortening crust will also maintain it’s pretty fluted edges and lattice better than an all-butter crust.
You can make a nice, tender crust with lard as well. It has a little more flavor than shortening does, but won’t melt as quickly as butter so it’s easy to work with. It’s kind of a middle-ground between the two, but not as easy to find as butter or shortening.
And still others swear by a combination of fats like half-butter and half-shortening, as pictured at the beginning of this tutorial.
Pie Crust Variations
Cheese Pastry: Omit the salt and add 1/2-1 cup of cheddar cheese. This is a great tip for quiches and apple pies!
Extra Flaky Pastry: Add 2 teaspoons of sugar (mixed with the flour) and 2 teaspoons of vinegar (mixed with the ice water).
Whole-Wheat Pastry: Substitute half of the total flour for whole-wheat flour (1 cup all-purpose and 1 cup whole wheat). You may need to add extra ice water when mixing the dough.
Vodka Pastry: Instead of using only ice water, use a mixture of chilled vodka and ice water. The vodka doesn’t leave any trace of flavor, the alcohol cooks away and you’re left with a super tender, flaky crust. This dough may require a little more flour when rolling it out.
Graham Cracker Crust: Made with crushed graham crackers, this type of crust is often used for cheesecakes or cream pies like our Creamy No-Bake Strawberry Pie.
Cookie Crust: Nobody is going to argue with a crust made out of cookie dough. Our Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Pie has the five-star reviews to prove it.