That perfectly flaky pie crust can seem pretty elusive even with your best efforts. Or to some, it just seems too intimidating to try.
I’m not claiming to be a pie crust expert but I have researched the subject and had plenty of practice.
I put together this post to help you understand what makes a pie crust flaky and share some of the tips & how-tos I use.
Notes: These tips are for an all-butter pie crust. Some use a combination of butter and shortening and some use lard. I only use butter because that’s what I always have on hand and I like how the crusts turn out.
WHAT MAKES A CRUST FLAKY
In order to make a flaky pie crust, you need to understand what causes the flakiness. Having this understanding has helped me make better crusts.
Pie crust is basically flour and fat. Since I only use butter, that’s what I’m going to talk about. The key to flaky crust is all in keeping the butter cold during the crust-making process.
Why is it so important for it to be cold? Butter is made up of milk solids and water and when cold butter hits a hot oven, the water evaporates quickly creating little pockets in the dough aka the flakiness.
Have you ever bitten into a croissant and noticed the large spaces between the layers? Same concept. The quick water evaporation creates those huge pockets. This is similar to what happens with your pie crust.
If the butter in your dough gets too warm, when it hits the oven the water doesn’t evaporate as quickly and just seeps into the dough. Warm butter = no flakiness.
TIPS & HOW-TOS
– As I just explained, probably the most important tip is to keep your butter cold. If you’re prepping ingredients, cube the butter and put it back in the fridge until you’re ready to incorporate it in the dough.
– Make sure the water you use is cold as well.
– When you’re incorporating the butter either with your hands or a pastry blender, work the butter until the butter is in pea-size chunks. You can want to see chunks and flecks of butter in the dough.
– Once you add the water, the dough can seem shaggy (meaning rough, like it’s not coming together) and that’s okay. You should be able to bring the dough together with your hands. If not, you may need to add a splash of more water.
– Once the dough is together, I do a quick fold of the dough to help create extra layers of butter aka extra flakiness. I borrowed this concept from puff pastry. On a floured surface, I flatten out the dough a little, then fold it over, flatten it out again, and fold it over once more. Then I shape it into a small disc.
– Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and store it in the fridge for about an hour. Or you can store it in the fridge for a few days or put it in a freezer bag and store it in the freezer for a few months.
– Roll out the dough on a floured surface. Roll in one direction and then turn the dough to roll the next direction. Turning the dough ensures it’s not sticking to the counter.
– To transfer the dough to the pie pan, I do what my grandma taught me. I fold the dough over on itself in half and then half again, leaving a triangle. I put the folded point in the center of the pie pan, then unfold carefully and gently press the dough into the pan.
– Make sure the oven is completely preheated before putting the pie in.
– I think pie crust is meant to look rustic so if you get tears, just patch it up with extra dough from another spot on the crust and keep going.
And lastly, don’t worry too much about it. The more you make pie crust, the more comfortable you feel. It’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t come out right; just try to learn from it and get better and better.
Ready to put these tips to use? Try this Peach Blueberry Pie.
All-butter Pie Crust
*double the recipe for 2 crusts
- 1 1/4 c. all purpose flour
- 1/2 t. salt
- 1 t. sugar
- 1 stick (1/2 c. unsalted butter, cold & cubed
- 1 t. apple cider vinegar
- cold water (about 5-7 T.)
Whisk together the flour, salt, and sugar. With clean hands or a pastry blender, work in the cold butter until it resembles coarse crumbs with pea sized chunks of butter. Add the apple cider vinegar and 5-7 T. of cold water, just until the crust comes together. It’s okay if the dough is shaggy, mold it together with your hands. On a floured surface, flatten it a little and fold it in half, then in half again and shape it in a disc. Wrap with plastic wrap and store in the fridge until you’re ready to roll it out.