This all butter pie crust is so flaky and easy to make if you know just a few simple tricks! Who doesn't love a buttery, flaky pie crust topped with all the delicious things like blueberry pie or strawberry peach pie or even pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving? Pie is so versatile and the perfect vessel for all the summer fruits and berries.
There are tons of things to consider when making a butter pie crust, but it's not difficult when you first give it a go. In this post you can read why I prefer to use just butter, tips on how to keep the dough cold, how to avoid shrinkage and overworking the dough. It may take some practice, or you may nail it on the first try!
Just like with macarons and pavlova, it is not difficult, but it takes some getting used to the various processes.
Recipe for both 9 and 10.5 inch pies
This pie crust recipe makes a double pie crust that fits both 9 inch but also a 10.5 inch, which is more common in other parts of the world. I have looked and looked and LOOKED for 9 inch pie pans in Norway, with no luck, so I am thinking others may be in the same boat as me.
Fret not; if you have a 9 inch pie pan, you can and SHOULD use this recipe still. The flavor and texture are impeccable, and if you find yourself with just a little too much pie dough, make some mini galettes on the side!
Classic blueberry pie
A basic pie crust only has 4 simple ingredients (5 if you also use shortening). And those are:
- Cold butter
- Ice water
You may notice a theme here, that both butter and water needs to be cold at all times. More on that in the next paragraphs. There are other ingredients you could add to pie doughs, like egg yolks to make it more pliable, or lemon juice to make it more tender. But I'm using just the basics in this recipe, as I think that is enough for a flaky, butter pie crust.
Butter vs shortening
I am a flavor girl. And butter = flavor. Butter also melts quickly, which can be a problem when it comes to making pies. Shortening keeps its shape for much longer considering it has a higher melting point. That makes it easier to shape the dough and roll it out, without the fat melting. This also means that if you use shortening, the pie will keep its shape better when it bakes, which makes it possible to create intricate patterns.
However, shortening doesn't taste like much and it has a greasy mouthfeel. And butter, butter tastes amazing.
Butter is a pain to work with sometimes, but you just can't beat that flavor. It is also the butter that gives the pie its flaky layers. That is because the water in the butter is evaporating as the butter melts in the oven. That creates air pockets aka delish flaky layers.
You can of course use a combination of shortening (or oil) and butter to get the best of both worlds, but I'm here to tell you that you don't need to compromise on flavor if you don't want to.
Look at all those layers!
How to keep it cold
So you want to make an all butter pie crust without shortening and I don't blame you. In order to keep things cold for as long as possible, there are a few tricks you could (and should) try.
- Freeze the butter for 45 minutes before making the dough (especially if using European butter)
- Work quickly so it doesn't have time to melt (food processor is great here)
- Shape into flat discs for easier rolling
- Put the discs back into the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours
- Again, work quickly when rolling the dough
- Put the pie pan with the dough in it in the freezer while you pre-heat the oven
- Add prepared filling (if you're not blind baking) and bake.
It boils down to (get it?) working quickly and keeping it chilled in-between stages. It isn't that hard, but it does take a while!
Pie shrinks when it bakes
Shrinkage of the dough when it bakes is also a common problem. That can happen when air pockets try to escape the dough, but in order to avoid this you can prick the bottom of the pie with a fork. Now you will let the steam out while it bakes and it will hold its shape better.
I also like to have a little extra dough over the edge to have some room for shrinkage. When shaping the edges of the pie, just leave an inch extra overhanging the outside of the pie pan. This will help keep the edges to maintain their shapes.
I like to shape this part of the dough with my knuckles. On one side of the dough, keep your index and middle finger knuckles apart, and on the other side of the dough, fit your index knuckle on your other hand inside your other hand, gently pressing the dough in-between.
When blind baking, baking without filling (more on that below), you should use pie weights to force the pie down. Pie weights can be actual pie weights or it could be dry beans or peas as I use here. Cover the unbaked dough with parchment paper or aluminum foil and then fill the pie with weights.
It can also happen because you have overworked the dough and developed the gluten. Gluten is what makes doughs elastic and springs back into shape when you pull it. However, as opposed to bread and buns, you don't want to develop gluten when making flaky pie crust.
Other things to consider
Yes, keeping the butter cold is not the only thing to consider when making flaky pie dough. Too warm butter in pie dough will blend too well with the flour. That in turn makes the final pie crust tough. You should be able to see large specks of butter in the dough when you roll it.
The other thing to consider when making pie, is avoiding to overwork the dough. In some sense this also comes down to the butter, as you blend it too well with the flour, developing the gluten. An overworked dough will become tough and that can also shrink too much in the oven when you bake it.
That is why I like to use the food processor. I know a lot of people don't like it, but I think that is definitely the fastest way to get walnut halved sized pieces of butter in the dough. It's important that you only pulse for 1 second intervals or else you will overwork the dough.
When using two forks (I don't have a pastry cutter... which I probably should own, yes), I tend to keep on forever in order to get those same pieces, and sometimes I even cave in a use my warm hands to squeeze the butter. I know, not a good call. So I recommend a food processor.
To make butter pie crust from scratch
First, take cold butter right out of the refrigerator, cut it into 1 tablespoon ish size pieces and place the pieces in the freezer for 30-45 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix flour and salt in a food processor and get a bowl of ice water (when the 45 minutes are up of course). When you take the butter out, add them to the food processor and pulse in 1 second intervals until the largest pieces of butter are walnut halves sized. Now add 1 tablespoon of ice water at a time, pulsing in-between. It is done when it looks crumbled, but when you press it, it keeps together. About 8-9 tbsp, no more than 10.
So the clue is to work fast. Dump the content of the food processor on to a floured work surface and press it together into a ball. Then cut the ball in 2 and shape them quickly into 2 flat discs. Cover them in foil and put them back in the refrigerator. A minimum of 2 hours to firm up the butter and rehydrate the dough.
You could leave it the fridge for up to 4 days or you could even freeze it and save it for later. This is great if you want to make a crumble pie and you only need the bottom pie crust.
When you're ready to take it out of the fridge, add it to a lightly floured surface and start to roll it gently with a floured rolling pin. Shape it to 13.5 inches (34 cm), or about 3 inches (7 cm) more than your pie pan. Carefully transfer it to the pan. Lift the edges of the pie and press it into the corners (are there corners in a round pan?) so that it fits snugly into the pie.
Shape the excess pie dough with your knuckles as mentioned above, and prick the bottom all over with a fork. Now place it in the freezer for 30 minutes while you pre-heat the oven (and roll the second disc if you are using a double crust).
If you want to know how to lattice the top, I have included some instructions in the recipe card, but for a more detailed explanation and step-by-step photos, check either the blueberry pie recipe or the strawberry peach pie recipe.
Bake with or without filling?
So the next question is, what kind of pie are you making? If you are making a pie with a thicker filling, like a blueberry pie, you will bake the pie with the filling inside. Pre-heat oven to 350F (170C) and bake with the filling (and top crust - for how to lattice the top, see strawberry peach pie recipe) and on the bottom-rack for 35-45 minutes. The last 7 minutes, I change to the middle rack and increase the temperature to 400F (200C) to get that beautiful golden crust.
However, if you are filling the pie with for example a lemon curd or mango curd, custard or something very runny, you should fully bake the pie crust first. This is known as blind baking. To do this, you have to keep the dough down with pie weights as mentioned above. Pre-heat oven to 375F (190C) and bake with weights for 15 minutes. Remove pie weights and foil and then bake for another 20 minutes or until it is golden.
If the edges brown too quickly, you can cover the edges with aluminum foil while it bakes.
Now you should be perfectly equipped to make this easy flaky pie crust made with just butter. What will you make first? Tell me in the comment section below or hit me up on instagram at @thegingerwithspice. Can't wait to see what you will do with it. Enjoy!
Did you like this back to basics baking recipe? Here are more I think you will like:
- How to make macarons
- How to make no-churn ice cream
- Sweet buns from scratch or savory pizza rolls
- Classic pavlova
- Homemade cordial - like berry cordial or elderflower cordial
- Brown butter buttercream frosting
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Comment below or tag me @thegingerwithspice on Instagram. And don’t forget to Pin it for later! To make sure you’re never missing another recipe, please feel free to subscribe to my newsletter. As a thanks you will receive a free e-cookbook Travels Through the Seasons, with many delicious recipes from around the world that suit different seasons of the year.
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Thursday 22nd of July 2021
Thank you for these tips! Nana, my paternal grandmother was a professional baker but it she wasn't the most patient teacher. I'm going to practice my crust making skills this weekend.
Stine Mari | Ginger with Spice
Tuesday 27th of July 2021
I see that in a lot of professional people in all lines of work! Hopefully these tips will help you, and let me know if I can help with something. Good luck and happy baking!
Monday 12th of July 2021
I'm always so afraid to make my own pie crust! But, you make it look so easy. There is nothing better than flaky, homemade pie crust. Must try!
Stine Mari | Ginger with Spice
Wednesday 14th of July 2021
Thank you! It isn't so difficult once you try it. :)