This easy pie crust recipe without food processor yields a tender and flaky crust that pairs wonderfully with countless fillings. And if making pie crust from scratch feels overwhelming to you, I got you covered with this detailed step-by-step tutorial.
Okay, I have to tell you, I’m about to get geeky! If you just want the recipe, then feel free to jump right ahead. But if you’d like to understand every step of the dough making process, then stick around!
Let’s start with the ingredients. In its most basic form, pie crust is simply composed of 3 ingredients: flour, fat (butter/shortening) and liquid (generally water). Some common additions include sugar (for sweetness and color) and salt (for flavor).
Mixing the dough can be divided into two stages:
- Cutting the fat into the dry ingredients.
- Adding the water.
The way all those ingredients are combined determines the texture of the pie crust. The first step when making dough consists of mixing the fat with the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt). This is where you can decide how flaky or tender you’d like your crust to be.
Let’s talk about the main ingredient in a pie recipe: flour.
When making pie dough, you don’t want too much gluten to form. If the dough bounces back as you are rolling it out, shrinks in the oven or is tough and rubbery, there was likely too much gluten formed.
When choosing the flour, make sure you stick to the recipe. If it calls for all-purpose flour which has a protein content of about 10-12%, it’s best not to replace it with bread flour (12-13% protein). You would need to add more water to form a dough. More water means more gluten, yielding a tough crust.
To minimize gluten formation, you have several options:
- Don’t add too much water.
- Don’t overmix.
- Coat the flour with butter.
For a dough that is easy to roll out and yields a tender crust, mix the butter with the dry ingredients until you get a sandy texture with small pieces of butter. Make sure most of the flour is coated in fat by looking at the color. It should be slightly darker than when you started.
The more you coat the flour with butter, the more tender the crust will be. Now you might be tempted to mix the butter and dry ingredients until fully combined if you like a very tender crust. But if the flour is fully coated in fat, it won’t be able to absorb enough water. Not enough gluten will form making the crust fragile and crumbly.
On the other hand, if you stop rubbing the butter and flour mixture when there are still large pieces of fat remaining, you’ll get a flakier pie crust.
Flaky Pie Crust
The fat should be very cold when going into the oven. If you use softened butter for example when cutting the butter into the flour mixture, it will get incorporated into the dough. No bits of butter means no gaps in the dough during baking.
Flaky vs Mealy Pie Dough
If you cut the fat into the dry ingredients until it resembles coarse meal, you’ll get a mealy pie dough. Since most of the flour is coated in fat, this type of dough won’t absorb much water and will stay crisp for longer. It is suitable with wet fillings such as custard pies.
Since the flour isn’t coated as well with butter as it is in a mealy dough, it will absorb more water. You’ll need to add more water to bind the ingredients which can lead to more gluten formation. You’ll have to be more careful handling this type of dough so you don’t end up with a tough crust that shrinks.
It’s best to use this type of dough with drier fillings or just for the top crust. It can get soggy much faster. If you want to use it as a bottom crust with a wet filling that doesn’t need to be baked, seal the crust first to protect it from the moisture. You can brush a little bit of chocolate on the baked crust before filling it. Alternatively, brush egg wash on the partially baked crust and return to the oven until fully baked.
Once the butter and dry ingredients have been combined, it’s time to add cold water to form a dough.
How much water you can add to the dough depends on:
- The type of flour used: Flour with a higher protein content such as bread flour will absorb more water than all-purpose flour.
- Humidity: You might need to add less water on a particularly humid day.
- How much you cut the fat into the dry ingredients: A flakier dough with large pieces of butter will require more water than a mealy dough.
The liquid added should always be very cold, ideally ice cold so that the fat in the dough doesn’t melt. You can fill a small cup with water and ice cubes before starting the dough. When it’s time to add the water, weigh the correct amount into another cup and start drizzling over the dough.
Okay, let’s start making the pie dough together and I’ll share some more tips along the way.
How to Make Pie Dough By Hand
- Place the diced butter in the freezer for 10 minutes while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
- Briefly mix together the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl.
- Add the cold butter and coat it with the flour mixture by tossing with a spoon.
- Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour mixture until evenly dispersed and pea-sized (remove the butter that gets stuck in the pastry cutter occasionally). You can tell the flour is coated in butter from the color: it should look slightly darker than when you started.
- Drizzle about a tablespoon of cold water over the dough and stir with a spoon (or a fork, spatula) to distribute evenly. Drizzle a little bit more water over dry spots and gently press the dough against the edges of the bowl to combine. Try pinching the dough. If it comes together easily, stop adding water. Otherwise, keep adding a little bit more water on dry spots just until a dough forms. Don’t worry if it looks a bit crumbly at this stage.
- Transfer the dough to a piece of parchment paper. Flatten into a rectangle using the parchment paper then fold the dough over itself. Flatten and fold 2 or 3 more times until the dough can be gathered into a ball with no stray pieces. If you notice any dry spots, sprinkle a few drops of water (or use a spray bottle). Don’t overwork the dough which would lead to excessive gluten formation.
- Shape the dough into a disk. Roll the disk briefly across the parchment paper (or on a lightly floured surface) to round up the edges. This will make it easier to roll out the dough into a circle later on.
- Wrap tightly in parchment paper (or plastic wrap) and chill for 2 hours (or at least 30 minutes) or overnight.
How to Roll Out Pie Crust
- Let the (wrapped) dough warm up slightly at room temperature for 5-10 minutes or as long as needed until easy to handle but still cold. In the meantime lightly grease your pie dish with butter (if needed) and set aside.
- Unwrap the dough and place it on a lightly floured surface (you can use a silicone mat, if you have one that’s large enough). Lightly flour the surface of the dough and the rolling pin.
- Press down the dough with the rolling pin in a few spots to make it more pliable.
- Starting from the center of the disk, gently roll out the dough away from you avoiding the edges (so they don’t end up too thin). Lift the dough (with your hand or a dough scraper) and rotate it slightly. Don’t roll back and forth which could make the dough too elastic. Repeat this process (roll from the center out then rotate) until the dough is about 3 mm (1/8 inch) thick and 8 cm (3 inches) wider than your pie dish (a little wider for a deep-dish pan, about 10 cm/ 4 inch). Use a little bit more flour if the dough becomes sticky. If the edges start to crack, simply patch them up together. Don’t worry if you don’t get a perfect circle, we’ll fix it later when we trim the dough.
Lining The Pie Dish
- Brush off any excess flour if needed then fold the dough in half then again in half (so in quarters).
- Carefully unfold into your pie dish. Lift the dough to center it better if needed. Alternatively, roll the dough around the rolling pin then carefully unroll over the pie dish.
- Gently lift the dough and ease it into the pan so it fits nicely along the bottom and edges of the pan (don’t stretch to fit it). Lightly press against the edges and sides of the pan to ensure there are no gaps. If there are, the dough might slide down during baking.
- Trim the dough with kitchen scissors (or a knife) leaving a 2.5 cm/1 inch overhang.
- Fold the overhang under itself then decorate the edges as desired.
- Chill the unbaked pie for 1 hour so it doesn’t lose its shape or shrink during baking. Alternatively, freeze for 30 minutes if using a thermal shock resistant pie dish. Your pie is ready to use if you plan on baking it with the filling from the start. Note: I prefer to always blind bake the pie crust to prevent an undercooked, soggy bottom.
Depending on the filling you are using, there are two ways you can bake the pie crust:
- Bake it with the filling from the start.
- Blind bake the crust.
How to Blind Bake A Pie Crust
- Preheat the oven to 190°C (374°F, conventional setting).
- Crunch up a piece of parchment paper with your hands (for easy shaping) and use it to line the cold crust. Fill with pie weights or dried beans to the top, pushing them against the sides to keep the decorative design in place.
- Place the pie dish on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, if desired (not an oven rack, to catch any drips of melted butter or filling). Bake in the middle of the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the edges are lightly golden. Carefully remove the parchment paper and weights. Note: If you notice puddles of butter in the pie as you are removing the paper, return to the oven with the weights for 5 more minutes.
- Prick the crust with a fork to prevent it from puffing up and return to the oven (without weights). Don’t prick all the way through, especially if you plan on using a runny filling. I wouldn’t skip this step though as the dough might start to puff up and crack.
- For a par-baked crust (which will be baked again with a filling): Bake just until the crust is starting to look dry and slightly darker (about 10 minutes).
- For a fully baked crust: Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. If your filling doesn’t need to be baked, cool the pie crust completely on a wire rack (in the pie dish) before filling it.
- Keep the dough cold: Make sure the dough is cold at all times if you want the crust to be flaky. If your kitchen is very warm, you can chill all the ingredients first (including the flour). Use a pastry cutter (instead of your hands) to avoid handling the dough. You can also place a pack of frozen vegetables on the counter briefly before rolling out the dough (pat it dry before placing the dough).
- Don’t overwork the dough: It’s best to make this recipe by hand (not a food processor) and mix as little as possible after adding water.
- Use just enough water: If you use more water than needed, you might end up with a tough crust that shrinks in the oven because too much gluten formed. Stop adding water as soon the dough comes together when pinched.
- Give it time to rest: Don’t use the dough immediately. Let it rest in the fridge twice: once before rolling it out and once after lining the pan.
- Make sure the oven is hot: You should place the cold crust into a hot, preheated oven so the structure starts to set before the butter melts. If the oven isn’t hot enough or the butter is warm, your nicely formed crimped edges will quickly melt away during baking.
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1Suas, M. (2008). Advanced Bread and Pastry: A Professional Approach (1st ed.). Delmar Cengage Learning.