Rich Pie Crust Recipe for Pi Day: A Tutorial

Today is ‘Pi Day’ or 3.14, a fun play on the date that a few of my (geek) Facebook readers pointed out last week. It just so happens that I’ve been meaning to share my fail-safe pie crust recipe, and so, propelled by a mathematical symbol and a calendar date, here it is!

Everyone needs a reliable pie dough recipe in their repertoire, for where would we be without strawberry tarts, spinach quiche, or deep dish apple pie? Store-bought crusts just don’t meet the mark in flavor or texture, not to mention they contain plenty of trans fats and preservatives. Nope, a pie crust should be made from scratch, and that’s what we’re going to take on in this post.

You already know that I’ve given you the best muffin ever, perfect roast chicken, and the best zucchini bread ever, so I hope that you find similar success with my favorite pie dough recipe.

I’ve always come back to this pure butter pie crust for a few reasons:

  • It holds up well. Whether it is supporting a jiggly quiche or runny fresh fruit pie, the bottom crust always cooks perfectly. Soggy crust is horrible; I like a nice browned bottom that holds together when a slice is transported from pan to plate. TIP: another key to a well-cooked underside is a Pyrex Pie Plate.
  • It freezes well. Raw crust can be frozen, in a well-wrapped ball, for up to five weeks. I also use this recipe for my meat pies and freeze the pies unbaked and whole. Pie crust in the freezer means an impromptu dessert is just around the corner!
  • It is rich and flavorful. Thanks to the addition of pure butter and egg yolk, this crust leaves all others behind. Forget about greasy and pale shortening-based pie crusts, this one colors beautifully, tastes buttery, and crisps just right.
  • It manages to remain flaky even after after manipulation. My boys love to get in on pie making, and goodness knows, they manhandle the dough to bits. Incredibly, it pulls through, and after a significant resting period, still comes out flaky.

If this is your first attempt at homemade pie dough, or whether you’re a seasoned baker, I’m confident that the recipe and the steps below will guide you to a perfect pie crust, suitable for a wide variety of uses including tart shells, hand pies, free-form galettes and classic pie shells.

Tips to perfect pie crust

  • Use butter. Just do it. It imparts a superior flavor, results in a flaky crust without greasiness, and is better for you than dough made with shortening.
  • Use an acid. In this recipe, lemon juice is an acid that helps break down the gluten and results in a tender dough. You can also substitute white vinegar, but I prefer the bright flavor that the lemon imparts to the crust.
  • Keep it cold. Butter and ice water should be chilled before commencing the recipe. When the butter gets too soft, the dough becomes sticky and difficult to work with. More flour may be needed, resulting in a tough dough.
  • Rest the dough. This step happens after the dough is made, before it is rolled. A chilled dough will come together better, be easier to roll and produce a flakier crust.

Recipe: Rich Pie Crust

The addition of egg yolk makes this dough rich enough for a king and also helps it hold up better without getting tough. It is similar to the more traditional French method for pie dough called pâte brisée. This recipe is adapted from James Beard’s recipe for Pâte Brisée.

Yields: pastry for two 9-inch pie crusts. One for today and one for the freezer.

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 cup (2 sticks or 1/2 lb) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 5 Tablespoons ice-cold water
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • (optional: 3 tablespoons sugar, for sweet dough)

Method

The directions below are for using a stand mixer to make the dough, which is how I make mine. A food processor also works well.

Pour water into a measuring cup and add egg yolks and lemon juice. Beat with a fork. Add salt and sugar, if using. Drop in an ice cube to chill the mixture while you prep your flour.

Sift flour into the bowl of a stand mixer and add butter cubes. Use the paddle attachment and beat for about a minute until butter and flour are partially smeared together. It’s okay to have some lumps.

With the mixer on ‘Stir’, slowly drizzle the egg and water liquid into the flour and butter. Mix for another 60 seconds until the dough starts to come together. Stop the mixer, remove paddle, and using your hands, gather the dough together into a ball.

Remove pie dough from mixing bowl and place on a lightly floured counter. Divide dough into two and flatten each piece slightly. Wrap each disc tightly in plastic wrap. Don’t worry if dough is slightly crumbly, it will come together in the chilling process.

Chill dough for at least four hours and overnight if possible. Your pie dough is now ready to be used!
Dough discs may be frozen for up to five weeks.

Links

What was the last pie made from scratch that you enjoyed?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites.

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Comments

  1. Omg, I think I can do this! Pie crust is my one constant kitchen fail.
    Amber|Bluebonnets & Brownies’s last post: Strawberry Banana Bread

  2. I’ve never tried to use an acid in my pie dough before, I’ll have to give that a try. Thanks for the tip!
    Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen’s last post: chocolate and milk toast when comfort is needed

  3. Happy pie day! My last homemade pie was cherry at Thanksgiving. Yum. :) By the way, your pie crust recipe is basically identical to my mom’s, which is the one I use. It makes lovely crust.

  4. I have issues with pie crusts. :( I’ll have to give yours a try!!

  5. The addition of lemon is so interesting. I’ve never tried that. Thanks for the tip!
    Rivki Locker (Ordinary Blogger)’s last post: Baking with Dorie- Honey Nut Scones

  6. Does this recipe make 2 double crusts or 2 single crusts?

    • It makes two generous single crusts. I usually have extra scraps which I let the kids play with :).
      You can also make a lattice crust with the extras.

  7. Yum. I have only ever made all-butter crusts except my recent foray into lard crusts, and I can’t believe how much better they are than store-bought crisco crusts. I think the milk solids in butter really kick it up a notch.

  8. I love that you use the mixer to make it because I don’t have a food processor.

  9. Can’t wait to give this a whirl! Thanks Amiee!
    Wenderly’s last post: An Evening with Orville &amp Sandra Dee and a Giveaway

  10. Awesome! I just told my husband (a huge math (and pie) nerd) that I would bake him a pie today. Last year, I made him an apple pie and instead of slits on the top, I carved the numbers 3.14 into it. He went crazy over it. This year, I’m doing blackberry; I made one at Thanksgiving and it was a big hit. Thanks!
    Jennie’s last post: Project- Simplify Week 1- Wardrobe

  11. I’ve never made a pie before. Never. But would love to learn baking my own crust. Thanks for this recipe Aimee, got to convince my friend to bake a pie with me soon :)
    Kiran’s last post: Lunch Box page

  12. What if I don’t have a mixer or a food processor?

    I’m always so disappointed when I buy a pie at the supermarket that I decided to start making my own crust. This recipe looks so easy!

    • Good question, Marion. Here’s the version by hand:

      Work the flour and butter together with your finger tips until the butter is mixed into the flour. It’s OK to leave some lumps. Use a fork and blend the cold liquid into the flour mixture. Cup the dough into a ball and bring together with your hands.
      Wrap in plastic and chill.

  13. Great post! So many people think pie crust is hard to do, but its really not. All the detailed information is so helpful.

  14. Thanks so much Aimee! First of all, I was looking at making a pie for pi day (we usually just buy one, but I have no vehicle today so I thought I would delve into making my own). Second, thank you for using your stand mixer and giving us the instructions! I don’t have a food processor, so this is fabulous. And last a question for you…what instructions would I need to follow to bake the crust for a strawberry filling that doesn’t need to bake?

    • Hi Cary,
      That’s called a blind bake- and I’m doing the same thing tonight for an onion tart.

      Roll out your dough, line your pie pan, trim the edges and chill for 30 minutes or so. Preheat oven to 375F.

      Line crust with tin foil and fill partially with dried beans. Bake for about 15 minutes until the bottom looks mostly cooked. Remove pie weights (your beans) and bake for another 5 minutes or so until the bottom completes cooking.

      Good luck! Strawberry pie sounds terrific!

  15. I look forward to trying your recipe! I made 4 pies yesterday for my hubby (math teacher) to take 3.14 pies to class today! :) Such a fun tradition!
    shilo’s last post: My Beautiful Family

  16. I’ve been wanting to switch from my go-to pie recipe that uses some shortening to an all-butter version. I can’t wait to try yours!

  17. This is a great pie crust tutorial, Aimee! I’ve always thought of it as more of a chore to make my own, but this looks very simple and straightforward. Thanks for sharing! You have a beautiful blog and I look forward to exploring your recipes!

  18. I have never made my own pie crust, but that is going to change asap, thanks to you!
    Jackie @ Crest Cottage’s last post: Granola Update

  19. Looks very interesting. I’m excited about the lemon!

  20. Simply perfect. Happy Pi Day!
    The Newlywed Chefs’s last post: Rustic Glazed Carrots

  21. Jennifer says:

    I love pie!! I recently started replacing half of the fat in my recipe with pureed white beans (yup, beans). It works ok for me, I’m not so sure what other people might think, but it’s a great way to slightly reduce the fat and add a little bit of fiber :)

  22. For those of us who have…um…never made a pie….could you link to some good filling recipes?

  23. I just discovered your blog a couple of days ago. Nicely done! I made the pie crust (without the sugar) that evening for a chicken pot pie. So easy and so yummy. Thank you! I love making pies of all kinds but hadn’t found a crust recipe that was delicious and easy to make. One suggestion: Could you please post the recipe in a printable form after your tutorial? I look forward to reading your posts!

    • Welcome Barbara!! I’m so glad you liked the crust.

      I know the recipe print format is a pain. So sorry. I’m not much of a coder, but we have hired someone to set us up with an awesome ‘print recipe’ option, so stay tuned and thank you for your patience!

  24. I just wanted to thank you for sharing this pie crust recipe with us! I made it last night as part of a mushroom, onion, broccoli, bacon, and cheese quiche and it was absolutely delicious! Thank you so much!

  25. I’ve always been afraid to tackle pie crust, but you make it seem so easy. Love that you use butter instead of shortening, which I never have on hand.

    I’d like to invite you to share this recipe on my linky, Sweet Tooth Friday. I hope to see you there. http://alli-n-son.com/2011/03/17/soft-chewy-chocolate-chip-cookies/
    Allison @ Alli ‘n Son’s last post: Sweet Tooth Friday- Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

  26. A fantastic post – pie crust is my personal bete noire, so I can’t wait to try this! I love the rich look of it and the fact that it’s all butter and no lard or crisco or shortening of any sort. Definitely bookmarking this page.
    Sofya @ Girls’ Guide to Guns and Butter’s last post: Why Keep Chickens

  27. oh thank you! I do not consider myself a baker, but definitely a “try to make it from scratch” girl. Used store bought pie crust for my chicken pot pie this week, and felt like I was cheating on my stand mixer. HA! Going to try this recipe this week. Thanks!

  28. Fabulous Post Aimee!!

    Thanks for linking up I featured your post in my wrap up! http://tidymom.net/2011/im-lovin-it-wrap-up-3-20-11/
    Happy Spring!
    TidyMom’s last post: I’m Lovin’ It Wrap Up 3-20-11

  29. Great post Aimee! I usually have issues with pie doughs two years, so I always end up buying store-bought dough instead. I should give your recipe a try. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
    Victor @ Random Cuisine’s last post: Apple Tarte Tatin – Pi Day

  30. thank you do much for the pie dough recipe! I’ve been looking for a perfect dough and I think I may have found it with you! thanks so much!

  31. Love this!! Katrina
    Katrina @ In Katrina’s Kitchen’s last post: A Cute Hoot!

  32. I made this the other day with a hand dough blender (and eventually just my hands) and it turned out excellent for my quiche!

    For anyone else who’s wondering how to do this without any special equipment, indeed use something like a dough blender or a fork to cut the flour into the butter as instructed in the comments above. You can do this on a flat surface and then transfer it to a bowl to pour in the egg mixture or just do it in a bowl from the beginning.

    Taking it out of the fridge, the dough was very hard and still rather crumbly. I had to wait a little while before it was malleable. It finally came together after some work.

    This recipe truly holds up! It makes for a delicious, buttery, flaky crust even though I’m pretty sure I overworked it a tad. I will be sharing this recipe with all my friends!

  33. How much white vinegar would you substitute for the lemon?

  34. For some odd reason, making pie crust annoys me.. I have no idea why that is.. only that it is what it is.. However, seeing how this one is made in a stand mixer, I think I might be able to tolerate it a little better. ;)
    Have you ever tried to double, triple, or quadruple your recipe at one time?
    I know many recipes dont adjust well, and wondered if this was one of them.
    I’d love to make a batch of them to freeze for those days I just cant be convinced to make a crust. ;)

  35. Tried the crust this weekend and was disappointed. Was not flaky and had a strange taste. I have always used crisco, water, salt and flour to make crust so that may be why I did not like. Made mini apple pies and iced them and it was better but still tough and not flaky.

  36. Does this recipe double well? I just made your tortiere filling (we all wanted to eat it out of the pot!!) and realized after making one batch of the dough that I would need another to finish making the tortiere! Can’t wait to bake this up in time for Christmas and New Years!

    • Tourtiere. YUM! This recipe is a bit too big to double in a food processor or mixer. I prefer to make two separate batches back-to-back, while I’ve got the mixer and everything dirty.

      Happy cooking!

  37. Wow~I’d like to learn how to cooking

  38. Michelle says:

    Could you substitute white whole wheat flour for all-purpose and have a good result? Thanks so much :)

  39. I have your pie crust recipe chillin in the fridge as we speak. I made one similar but with crisco and didn’t like it, so hopefully I found a new one. Can’t wait to try, I’m making an apple pie this evening! Thanks!

  40. I have just used your pie crust recipe for mini apple pies and it is delicious!!! Beautifully flaky and light. This will be my pie crust recipe from now on :-)

  41. I understand you prefer butter, but unfortunately.we have food allergy sufferers in our home who must stay dairy free. What would you recommend?

  42. Eve Harlowe says:

    I tried this crust last night for my butternut Squash pie, and it’s really delicious with a pronounced butter flavor! It’s very different from the traditional pie crust I usually make , and love, it’s very flakey!!! something akin to puff pastry the egg and acid change the texture not in a bad way at all just different than the norm. Very tasty, and I think fruit pies will shine with this crust in particular…especially apple! My 2cent’s!

    Thanks for sharing!
    Eve

  43. This recipe is so good! I discovered it just before Thanksgiving and have now made it for twice. I did double the recipe this second time with good results. I used my Kitchenaid mixer with the flour-shower-guard thing… yes, that’s the technical term ;)

  44. Excited to try your recipe but do not have a stand mixer or food processor. Can a regular portable beater be used?

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