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Perfect Pie Crust – An Essential Recipe

Despite the old saying “easy as pie” many people are reluctant to make their own pie crust. Even people who do lots of baking often buy pre-made dough. I have no idea if packaged pie dough is any good because I’ve honestly never used it. But I am sure that homemade Perfect Pie Crust is not really difficult. It just takes a little finesse and, most of all, patience.

rhubarb pie

Rhubarb Pie with Perfect Pie Crust

Choosing a favorite food is like choosing a favorite child. It’s impossible. My favorite food is pizza, or roast chicken, or a summer tomato sandwich, or Burmese tea leaf salad (a new obsession!), or etc., etc., depending on my mood and appetite.

But I can say that my favorite dessert is pie. Bake a sweet filling into a crust and I’m a happy camper.

So what’s the secret to a great pie? Well, it’s the crust, of course.

The secret ingredient for a flaky pie crust recipe

I had been making pie dough for years and I was happy with the results. I used all butter or a mixture of butter and shortening until I discovered leaf lard. 

Leaf lard is the highest grade lard and makes the nicest pie crust. I have a good friend who gets lard from her cousin’s butcher shop so I always keep a container in the freezer. You probably won’t find it in the regular grocery store, but if you have a butcher shop or farmer’s market in your area you might find it there. You can buy it on-line.

I think it’s worth seeking out leaf lard, but if you can’t find it you can substitute vegetable shortening or use all butter. If you’re vegetarian or vegan you can use all vegetable shortening.

How to make a Perfect Pie Crust

A Perfect Pie Crust is a thing of beauty. Because there are so few ingredients in a basic pie dough, how you mix those ingredients is crucial to achieve just the right texture.

Whichever mix of fats you use, add them in two stages to get a crust that is both tender and flaky.

First, mix the lard or shortening into the flour. This coats the flour proteins and prevents the gluten from developing and making the crust tough. (You can learn all about how the protein in flour works in the Flour class .

After the lard/shortening is mixed in add the cold butter. When I add the butter I kind of just toss the slices through the flour. They’ll break down just a little bit but will mostly stay intact.

Those flakes of butter melt in the oven forming spaces in the dough. The spaces help form layers as the dough bakes, giving the crust a flaky texture.

perfect pie crust

Those bits of butter in the dough will form flakes as the crust bakes.

Some more helpful hints for making Perfect Pie Crust

  • Make sure to mix in the water just until the dough comes together. Don’t worry if it looks a little shaggy and there are some dry bits. Gather up the dry bits and wrap them up with the dough. The water will redistribute while the dough rests in the refrigerator.
  • Speaking of the dough resting, this is one of the most important steps in making a good pie dough. I can’t stress enough that you’ve got to have patience! You must be patient and let the dough rest before you roll it and you must be patient and let the dough rest after you roll it. There is no way around it.

I’ve been a baker my whole life, but I don’t think I became a good baker until I learned to have patience. There are some things that just can’t be rushed. If you learn to let that dough rest, or let that bread dough rise slowly and fully, or let the butter come to room temperature before making cookies, you’ll transform the way you bake.

Relax, have patience and  enjoy the process.

Watch the recipe video to see how to make perfect pie crust.

 

a slice of rhubarb pie on a plate

Perfect Pie Crust

Yield: 2 crust pie
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Chilling Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 10 minutes

A Perfect Pie Crust is a thing of beauty. Because there are so few ingredients in a basic pie dough, how you mix those ingredients is crucial to achieve just the right texture. Add the fats in two stages to get a tender and flaky pie crust.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (10 oz, 285g) all purpose flour (see note)
  • 2/3 cup (3.5 oz, 100g) cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz, 115g) leaf lard (or vegetable shortening), cold
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz, 115g) butter, very cold and sliced into 1/4" thin slices
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz, 118 ml) ice cold water
  • 1/2 tsp cider vinegar

Instructions

  1. Combine the all purpose and cake flour with the salt and sugar. Whisk together to mix the ingredients evenly.
  2. Using your fingers, cut the lard or shortening into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse corn meal. Using your fingers, toss the butter into the flour mixture. Allow the slices of butter to break up into slightly smaller pieces into the flour. Work quickly so the butter doesn't get warm. Don't break the butter down completely. There should be some large flakes remaining.
  3. Mix the water and the cider vinegar. Pour the water onto the flour all at once and toss to combine. Gently press the dough just until it comes together. It will look a little dry in spots. The water will redistribute in the dough as it rests.
  4. Wrap the dough and refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours before using.

Notes

This recipe uses a mixture of all purpose and cake flour to mimic pastry flour. All purpose flour will give the dough enough structure so it can hold the flaky texture and a small proportion of cake flour will help keep it tender. If you have pastry flour you can use that in place of the flour mixture.

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Did you make this recipe?

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Dorothy moreau

Monday 7th of December 2020

Delicious recipe, thank you. Can the recipe be doubled for 2 double crust pies?

Eileen Gray

Monday 7th of December 2020

Yes, certainly.

Allison

Saturday 19th of September 2020

I should have commented here but left my praise over with the maple glazed apple pie. This is the best pie crust I have ever made. Forget the vodka, egg, or whatever ‘granny’s secret’ you have. Follow this recipe word for word and rest that dough in the fridge for the recommended time. Perfect roll, no raggy edges or cracking. Tender and flaky. Perfection. In Canada I use the Tenderflake lard with the butter and get great results.

Judy

Monday 20th of January 2020

Eileen, This is for sure the perfect pie crust. For some reason, my husband accreditation it to me telling family that I make the best pie crust. You're spoiling him. I make the lemon meringue from your cookbook and it's his favorite. We have a tree loaded with Meyer lemons, so many we have to give them away, but I freeze a lot of juice and peel for pies. My only problem is the pie crust cracks around the edges when I'm rolling it out. What causes that and is there a fix. It doesn't ruin the final product, but I'd like to rollout a perfect round.

Eileen Gray

Tuesday 21st of January 2020

Hi Judy. Thanks so much for the feedback. The cracking can happen when the dough is cold. I tend to use the sides of the hands to scootch the edges back together as I roll. Also I find that if I gradually roll around the edges and keep moving the dough as I roll there is less cracking. You are so lucky to have a Meyer Lemon tree. I'm very jealous!

Lynn Drake

Tuesday 26th of November 2019

I would like to have some working tips. 1. After chilling for the required time, can it be rolled right out of the refridgerator? 2. Is flour added to the working surface? 3. Does the rolled dough need to rest in the pie plate at room temperature or in the refridgarator? And if so, how long? 4. Is the pie dough baked before the filling is added? (I hope not) 5. Do you have more working tips?

Eileen Gray

Tuesday 26th of November 2019

Hi Lynn. 1. Yes it can be rolled right from the refrigerator. If you watch the video, you'll see that I gently press down on the cold dough to soften it a bit before rolling. 2. Yes, lightly flour the work surface. 3. Always rest the dough in the refrigerator to keep it cold. Rest it as along as you need for the particular recipe you're making. 4. It depends on the specific pie recipe. Follow the directions for the recipe you're using. 5. Just what's included in the post/recipe/video.

Tim

Friday 7th of September 2018

Can it set overnight in the fridge? I don’t have time to do itt all in one night.

Eileen

Friday 7th of September 2018

Absolutely. It can stay in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for weeks.

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