basics: butter pie crust

It’s once again proper baking season – cool enough outside to warrant turning the oven on during the day. As such, having an easy, flaky, buttery pie crust recipe up your sleeve is worth something. Having a block of flaky, buttery pie dough hanging out in your freezer ready to go is worth even more. This crust can be used for sweet or savory fillings, and if you make a double batch the extra dough will last for a couple months (well-wrapped) in the freezer.

Very basically, the key to a beautiful flaky crust is poorly distributed butter. This makes for less work for the cook, yes? You want to under-process very cold ingredients so you end up with little balls of butter intact in the dough. When you roll it out, there will be layers of butter throughout the crust which makes for very flaky and delicious pie.

Butter pie crust
adapted from Starting with Ingredients: Baking
makes dough for one double-crust or two single-crust pies

12 ounces (generous 2-3/4 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon sugar
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter
6 tablespoons very cold water
1 teaspoon mild vinegar (white and cider both work well)

Prepare your ingredients: Whisk together the flour, salt and sugar. Cut the butter into small chunks and dump into the flour bowl. Put the bowl in the freezer. Combine the water and vinegar and place in the freezer as well. After 20 minutes, when all ingredient are very cold (but not frozen), you’re ready to begin.

Mix the dough: Using a pastry blender, a fork or your fingers (my favorite method), work the butter into the flour until the pieces are pea-sized or smaller. Add the liquid one spoonful at a time, mixing with a spoon or your hands. When the dough begins to clump, dump it onto a clean work surface and knead by hand just until all the flour is incorporated and the dough forms a (mostly) smooth ball. The dough may seem far too dry at first, but it will come together.

Chill the dough: Cut the dough ball in two. Press each half into a small rectangle. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap to keep safe from fridge odors and chill for at least one hour and up to a week before using. Very well wrapped, dough will last a couple of months in the freezer. Defrost in the fridge for a day before using.

lavender + vanilla peach pie


About Karen

Texas transplant


  1. Jelena

    I hate a a soggy, doughy bottom crust, and often have trouble with that in fruit pies. Are you an advocate of double baking (baking crust partially first, then baking some more with the filling? Or is there a better way to avoid sog? I’d appreciate any suggestions!

    • I usually double bake. Also, try spreading dry cookie crumbs on top of the crust before pouring in the filling. The crumbs will absorb some of the pie liquid and help the crust stay flaky. And it’s delicious – gingersnaps are amazing. Good luck!

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