The best pie crust recipe ever. That’s a bold statement, I know. But my Mom said it was the best pie crust ever, and she’s like George Washington when it comes to lies, so it has to be the truth.
After a flood of Facebook posts and Tweets about struggles with pie crust, I figured it was past time for me to put together a post about my obsession with consistently delivering pie crust heaven during the holidays. You see, I love pie. Not like a normal, healthy person likes a good pie. More like the way a crazy, OCD person loves something.
My Grandma made great pie. But she used lard (and later shortening) and I’m totally not going there for a variety of reasons. So I use butter. I won’t lie and say this pie crust is easy, or for beginners, because there’s a reason the title of this post is Best. Pie Crust. Ever. and not Easiest. Pie Crust. Ever.
So if you’ve made a few pie crusts in your time and are ready to try to achieve true pie Nirvana, read on!
My recipe comes from Joy of Cooking and is really simple with a total of four ingredients. But I’ve included pictures that I think help you visualize how this dough should look as you make it and prevent you from ending up with a tough crust due to over-working the dough.
Mix the following dry ingredients in the bowl of your mixer or food processor*:
2.5 cups of all-purpose flour (I often use whole-wheat pastry flour)
1 t sugar
1 t salt
Add 2 sticks of cold unsalted butter, cut into teaspoon-sized pieces and blend until the mixture looks like this:
The French call this sablé because it looks sandy. The fat should be evenly distributed through the flour and the largest pieces should be smaller than a pea. You can mix as much as you need to here without harming the dough, but a Kitchen Aid mixer or a good food processor will do this in under a minute.
Next, drizzle 1/3 c plus 1 T very cold water over the dough and mix on the very lowest setting (or pulse if you’re using a food processor) until the dough just begins to come together. Out here in Colorado where it’s very dry, I often add an extra tablespoon of water, but if you overdo it, your crust will shrink when you bake it. So add as little water as you can until the dough looks like this:
Now turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and pack it into a ball with your hands. It’s OK if there are some loose pieces. Mash it into a ball and wrap it tight. Throw it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, but up to 2 days, before you roll it out. While it’s in the fridge, the water will disperse more evenly through the dough and will help it hold together.
Depending on what you have your fridge set to, you may need to let the dough warm up just slightly for a few minutes before you can easily roll it out. Do not set the dough somewhere warm to warm up. If the butter starts to melt, you get a greasy mess that is impossible to work with. Direct sun–no. Countertop over the dishwasher–no. Next to the stove–no. You get the picture.
I have stone countertops and think they’re great for pie dough, but I made this recipe for 10 years on non-stone counters, so it’s not required. What I do love is my marble rolling pin, because it’s heavy enough to do some of the rolling work for you and cold enough to help keep that butter from getting greasy.
The recipe above will make two 9-10 inch crusts (i.e. 2 open-topped pies, or 1 covered pie). So divide the dough (putting the other half back in the fridge), roll it out, and place it in the pie pan. Return it to the fridge while the oven preheats. This will help prevent shrinkage. So will pre-baking it for 10 minutes with a piece of foil in it weighted down with beans or pie weights. I do this for my pumpkin pie or any custardy pie that might end up too soft without pre-baking.
That’s it. 30 years (and two generations) of pie crust knowledge condensed down to one 800-word blog post. But my Mom swears it’s the Best. Pie Crust. Ever.
* No, I do not recommend mixing this recipe by hand unless you are a fairly experienced pastry chef. Seriously. Have you ever seen the arm muscles on a real pastry chef? There’s a reason. Let electricity help you on this one.