Flaky Pie Crust
The secret to a flaky pie crust? Keeping the ingredients really cold, and working in the butter just enough so that there are still visible pieces of butter in the dough. When you use really cold butter and ice cold water in the dough, it keeps the butter from “melting” into the dough. Then, when you bake your pie, those visible pieces of butter melt and release steam to create tiny pockets of air in the dough, which creates those wonderful flaky layers of pie crust.
Until very recently I always used my food processor to make pie dough. I loved how fast and easy it was, letting the processor do all of the work. Those pie crusts certainly tasted good, but they were definitely not as flaky as when I do the work by hand, using my pastry blender. Another perk of using the pastry blender is that it is so much easier to wash than the food processor (isn’t it terribly annoying washing all of those parts, and the dough gets stuck in the crevices…).
Below I’ll show you step by step how to make a delicious, flaky pie crust using a pastry blender and your own two hands. If you want to know how to make a delicious (but not as flaky) pie crust using your food processor, click here. But, I promise that it is incredibly satisfying to make pie dough by hand, and it only takes a minute or two longer (especially if you account for the time you’ll save by not washing that food processor!).
Flaky Pie Crust
Makes enough dough for a single crust pie. If you are making a double crust pie, double this recipe.
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold, unsalted butter
- 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
- Ice-cold water
1. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes and place in the freezer while you get the rest of the ingredients ready. Also make sure that you have ice cold water ready, by placing a few ice cubes in a small cup of water, and placing the cup in the refrigerator.
2. Whisk together the flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl to combine.
3. Use a pastry blender to work the butter into the dough. You want to end up with approximately pea-sized pieces of butter, but don’t worry if the pieces are not all the same size. You want to be careful not to work the butter in too much, so that you’ll get those nice steam pockets when the pieces of butter melt as the pie bakes.
4. Add 3 Tablespoons of ice cold water to the dough, and use a fork or spatula to mix the water in. Continue adding water, a teaspoon at a time, until the dough begins to clump together. Your goal is to gather all of the dough together into a ball. Use your hands at the end to clump the dough together into a ball.
5. Flatten the ball into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap.
6. Refrigerate for at least an hour before rolling out the dough to make the pie crust.