This is the classic all butter pie crust, with some tips on how to make it work for you.
Making your pie crust is very easy and takes only a few ingredients. Yet a lot of people find it intimidating and are more likely to go to the store and pick up a frozen crust. That is what I used to do, it was better that way rather than having to make a crust and it being less than spectacular.
There is some technique to making pie crusts work, but it doesn’t have to be hard.
Making classic all butter pie crust
There are 4 ingredients to this pie crust: flour, butter, water, and sugar. Each one plays an important roll.
The sugar is probably the least important and is sometimes skipped. I use a small amount of sugar depending on the type of pie. Sugar will interfere with the gluten development and can help your pie crust be more tender. However, a pie crust in general is not meant to be sweet, so the amount is kept low.
The flour is what makes the pie crust, for the most part. This recipe works with all purpose and whole wheat. You can also use a mixture, it holds its shape better the more all purpose flour you use.
The butter and flour are the entire body of the crust. The butter is responsible for all the flavour and the flakiness. It is important that the butter is added in cold. I recommend using unsalted butter as salted butter tends to be too salty for a pie crust.
Chop the butter up and add it in, cutting it into the flour more. I like to use my hands to break it up into small pieces. Break them up until they are about pea sized, it is ok if there is some variance. The cold butter will not blend entirely into the flour and instead it’ll create pockets that will eventually make the layers of your flaky butter crust.
The water is what holds everything together. It gets added last, only a little at a time. The ice water is to make sure the butter stays cold and doesn’t start to melt. You want enough water to hold everything together, too much and your pie crust will be hard.
Judging the right amount of water is probably the trickiest part of a making a pie crust. Add in some water to start, usually 1/3 or 1/2 cup. Mix it in with a fork or your hands quickly. Add in another couple tbsp of water and mix again. Keep doing this until there is enough water that there isn’t much loose flour left. The flour and butter mixture should start to form small clumps. Test them by squeezing them together, if they stay then that is enough water. Your dough will look dry and shaggy at first, try to press it into a ball. If it is really crumbly then try adding more water by wetting your hands with cold water and continuing to press the dough together. Be careful not to over work during this step. You really only want to form it into a ball and stop there, the ball doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to stick together.
Working the dough
This is where a lot of the mistakes can happen. When you are making bread you knead the dough to activate the gluten for a springy elastic dough that will hold onto the air bubbles created by the yeast. This is what you don’t want in a pie crust. The more it is worked, the more elastic it’ll be. This makes it hard to roll out and maintain its shape. It’ll also get harder since we don’t have any yeast action creating bubbles to separate the gluten strands.
Only work the dough enough to form it into a ball. Cut it in half and form it into two balls. Wrap them up and chill them for 2 hours or more. This chill time will harden the butter back up preventing melting once you roll it out. It’ll also help it roll out easier.
Only roll the dough out once if you can help it. If you have to ball it back up and try again it will be much harder the second time. The process of balling it back up will increase the gluten development and it will start to fight you.
Making a pie
Roll out your bottom crust while leaving the other in the fridge, that way it won’t be sitting there warming up while you wait. Roll out to about 1/8 inch thick, make it larger than your pie plate. Place it in and gently press it into the corner of the plate and then trim around the edges. If this is a single crust pie then press the edges down a bit to stay them in place. You can make it fancy or just go for the classic fork press.
For a two crust pie, roll out the top and cut it into strips for a lattice pie, or any shape you’d like. Place the top and press around the edges.
Egg wash and Bake
Egg wash the top of the pie before it is baked to get a really nice golden brown finish. Bake at 350F for about 20-25 minutes, bake time will depend on the pie you are making. Bake it until it is an inviting golden brown.
My favorite way to use this pie crust is with my home-canned sweet cherries. Check out my recipe for cherry pie Here.
You can use the extras for hand pies, future pies or anything you’d like. However because it has to be reworked it will be harder to use. I suggest cutting it into smaller pieces while still rolled out, sprinkling with sugar and cinnamon then give it a little twist. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for about 15minutes at 350F for a fun snack. Do you have a special way to use extra pie crust? I would love to hear it!
Simple Butter pie crust
- 2 1/2 Cup All purpose flour
- 1/2 Cup Unsalted butter chilled
- 1/3 + Cup Ice water
- 1 tbsp. sugar *for sweet pies, 1 tsp for savory
- Egg wash
- Prepare a cup of water with an ice cube or two and set aside.
- Mix flour and sugar together.
- Cut butter into slices or more manageable chunks and add to flour mixture.
- Cut butter into flour mixture into roughly pea sized chunks.
- Add ice water starting with 1/3 cup mix gently. Continue to add water by the tbsp. until the dough starts to come together.
- Press dough together until it forms a ball, do not over work it.
- Cut dough in half and wrap, place in the fridge for 2 hours at least.
- Roll out on floured surface, egg wash the top before baking.