Learn how to make a flaky buttery pie crust from scratch that's so delicious. Learn the techniques to working with this crust, how to have your dough turn out perfectly every time. Find the step-by-step instructions, tips, FAQs and tools below.
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I love making pies and find that people love to ask about making pies. I hear a common refrain from folks when the subject of pie crust comes up: it's waaay too hard to make a pie crust from scratch, and they wouldn't dare try it.
I used to feel this way too, probably as the result of a few faulty attempts. People look forward to pie, especially at the holidays and no baker wants to let them down with a tough or flavorless pie crust!
It was after taking a pie making class at the King Arthur Flour in Norwich, Vermont that I finally stopped fearing pie crust. We were taught the few simple ingredients it takes to make a delicious pie crust dough, and the straightforward technique to rolling it out and making a pie.
Now I want to pass this pie crust magic on to you. I want to teach you how to make a buttery flaky pie crust from scratch, then fill it, bake it, and taste the exquisite layers. And most importantly? I want you to bask in the glory of your made-from-scratch pie!
Why you'll love this pie crust
A pie is more than just its filling: the crust cradles and complements the fillings with flavor and a lightly crisp and flaky texture. This is why I love an all-butter crust: it has the most impressive, flakiest layers and the best flavor... thanks to that butter.
This all-butter pie crust dough is the absolute best for any filling, sweet or savory. My pie crust dough recipe goes a step further with a hint of cinnamon and vanilla flavors - a perfect match to any sweet filling. Making a savory pie? Use my variation to swap the sweet spices for savory ones, and you're golden.
The steps to making this dough are easier than you assume. Just have your butter cold, ingredients ready, and ice water waiting.
Alright, here's what you need to know to make a flaky butter pie crust dough from scratch!
You need these for perfect pie crust
- Cold Butter: Repeat that: cold butter. This is the most important part of a successful all-butter pie crust. This does not mean you have to throw open the windows on a frigid day or work inside a walk-in freezer! Just get your butter into the fridge and keep it there until you need it. Once the dough is made it also needs to stay chilled. In my pie recipes, the dough and pie shells get chilled a few times before they're baked.
- Mise en place: This is the practice of having ingredients and tools in place before beginning your recipe. This is important for making pie crust dough with ease. Have a clean work surface where you can mix and later roll out the dough. Have your flour, spices, measuring cups, spoons, etc. at the ready.
- A light touch: Pie crust dough gets the very minimum of handling. It's not like a bread dough that gets a muscle-building long knead. Just squeeze this dough together a few times, knead it a few times, then stop. This light touch prevents gluten from forming and prevents the dough from getting tough.
My favorite pie tools
These are my go-to tools whenever I make pies.
- Pastry blender: For any recipe that asks you to "cut butter into the flour", this is the tool you need. A common tip in recipes is to use two forks to do this work, but a pastry blender is sooo much easier, faster, and fairly inexpensive.
- Bench scraper: A flat, wide tool to get underneath dough, this is another inexpensive item makes moving sticky doughs a cinch.
- Rolling pin: My choice is the long, tapered French rolling pin. A handled pin works great too.
- Pastry Guide: I really like this guide for cutting out a perfect circle of dough at just the right diameter for your pie pan.
- Metal Pie Pans: I prefer to use metal pie pans because they conduct heat more evenly and are more reliable for cooking the crust all the way through. No soggy bottoms! Glass pie pans are my second favorite because you can see the browning crust through the bottom.
- Pie weights or dried beans: Pie weights are a must for blind-baking a pie shell before adding the filling. You can buy metal or ceramic pie weights. Dried beans work just as well, and they're cheap.
Other tools to consider
- Pastry Wheel: These handled tools have a sharp wheel that lets you cleanly cut dough into strips for braids or lattice tops, with smooth or decorative edges.
- Pie Shield: Made from aluminum or silicone, the shield covers the edge of your pie to keep it from getting too dark during baking. However, regular foil works just fine as a shield, too.
- Pie Birds or Funnels: These little ceramic funnels sit in the center of the pie, poking up through the crust. They help vent the pie so the filling won't bubble over. I don't find them necessary, but have to admit they're dang cute: little birdie heads in the center of the pie!
🔪 How to make Flaky Buttery Pie Crust From Scratch
Step 1: Get your work space and tools ready
Have your work space ready - a large, clean surface where you'll combine ingredients and later roll out your dough. Set out your flour, seasonings, measuring cups and spoons, bowl, pastry cutter, bench scraper, and plastic wrap. Place a cup of cold water in the fridge and add a few ice cubes.
Step 2: Combine the dry ingredients
Measure the flour, salt, and cinnamon into a large bowl and mix them together.
Step 3: Cube the cold butter
Slice your cold, cold butter into small cubes. Add them to the bowl and toss them with the flour mixture.
Step 4: Cut the butter into the flour mixture
Use your pastry blender to work the butter into the dry mixture. Keep doing this until the mixture has a shaggy, crumbly look. The butter should be cut into tinier pieces now - if any larger ones remain, squeeze them between your fingers.
Step 5: Slowly add ice water and vanilla
Add in the vanilla, then get your ice water from the fridge and add it slowly to the bowl a tablespoon at a time.
Stir after each addition. As the ingredients begin to clump together, reach in and squeeze a handful of the mixture together. When it holds together with little to no dry crumblies, it's ready—no more water!
Step 6: Pull it together.
Pour out the bowl onto your work surface. Bring your hands around the pile and squeeze it together a few times, gathering up the drier bits from the bottom. Use your bench scraper to scrape it up and over, then press it down. Lightly knead it this way just a few times until the dough has come together.
Here's a video of this step!
Step 7: Divide the dough and chill.
Cut the dough in half. Shape each portion into flattened disks, and wrap them in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes. Then it is ready to be rolled for your pie.
- Puffing: This All-Butter Crust puffs up a lot during baking. Pies will have more of a rustic look, and you'll notice your crimped edge will puff up, too. This dough will work with simple cut-outs and lattice tops. However, very intricate cut-outs may lose their definition. For more intricate pie crust work, a dough made with all vegetable shortening or half shortening-half butter will be a better choice, though less tasty and flaky.
- Butter: Use good quality butter in this recipe. It's worth it! This is a recipe where the flavor of butter really gets to shine. I like Cabot and Kerrygold unsalted butters.
- Ice water: How much ice water you add to the dry mixture will depend on how dry or humid the day is. Start by adding four tablespoons, stir, then add water one tablespoon at a time until you can squeeze a handful of dough together. This will perfectly hydrate the dough while preventing a too-wet dough. On a dry, winter day I usually use between 10-12 tablespoons; on a humid, warmer day it will be less.
- Keep it cool: Remember to keep the butter very cold until you need it. If while working with the dough you notice it's getting too soft like the butter is warming up, cover it loosely with wrap and pop it in the fridge for 10-15 minutes to get it cold again.
Pro Pie Baking Tips
- Lower the oven rack: The bottom of the pie pan will be closer to the heat source. This helps your bottom crust cook through, preventing that dreaded soggy bottom that Mary Berry hates! It also keeps the top of your pie away from the heat source so it won't brown too quickly.
- Add an egg wash to the top crust: A simple wash of egg and water brushed onto the crust gives it a lovely shine. Some washes use milk or just yolks. These are fine for shortening crusts that need help browning, but an all-butter crust gets golden-brown without these.
- Sprinkle sugar or salt on the crust: Granulated or decorating sugar sprinkled over the crust of a sweet pie makes it look dazzling and delectable, not to mention the bit of extra sweetness and texture. For savory pies, try a sprinkling of flake salt like Maldon's sea salt flakes.
- Bake at a higher temp to start: For the first 20 minutes bake the pie at 400 degrees F, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F to finish baking. This hotter initial burst helps the crust puff up and build those beautiful layers.
- Use a foil shield: Check your pie as it bakes. if the edges or top are brown and there is still a lot of baking to go, cover them loosely with foil to keep them from over-browning.
Pie Crust FAQs
Is it hard to make pie crust from scratch?
Don't be afraid to make this crust from scratch! Prepping ahead of time to have cold butter, ice water, and all your ingredients set out on your work space will make it go smoothly. You can always pop the dough into the fridge for a short time if the butter is warming up. And remember that keeping butter and dough cold is the most important step to a successful pie crust.
Why do pie crust dough ingredients need to be cold?
If the butter gets warm it will start to melt into the dough mixture, leaving the baked pie crust tough and flat. Keeping the butter cold is what creates the flaky layers in the crust during baking, from the steam created by the water in the butter. The dough itself needs to be kept cold too, because it will be easier to handle, less likely to tear, and will resist shrinking once baked.
What should I do if the pie crust dough gets sticky?
First, make sure the dough isn't getting too warm—if it is, pop it in the fridge for a short time to firm it up. If your cold dough is sticking, add a light dusting of flour to your work space and rolling pin. Remember while rolling out the dough to pick it up and rotate it, so that it won't have the chance to stick. (See instructions for rolling out this dough below.)
My pie crust dough is crumbly, what should I do?
This means it needed a little more ice water during the mixing stage. Sprinkle some ice water over the surface and try rolling again.
This pie crust always brings in enthusiastic feedback from the hungry fans who get to try it. It's nice to have a pie crust that is as enjoyable as any filling that it may hold.
Make a Flaky Buttery Pie Crust with the recipe below. Here are ways to use it:
💬 Have you tried this flaky pie crust dough? What questions do you have for me? Scroll down to leave your comment and star rating.
How To Make Flaky Buttery Pie Crust From Scratch
- Large bowl
- Sharp knife
- Cutting board
- Pastry cutter
- Bench scraper
- Rolling Pin
- 2½ cups all-purpose flour, unbleached (10.63 ounces)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 8 ounces unsalted butter, cold (1 cup or 2 sticks)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Ice water
- Have your work area set up before beginning: you should have a clean area large enough to roll out the dough. Have your ingredients and tools set out ready to go. Keep the butter and ice water in the fridge until you need them.
Combine dry ingredients:
- Combine the flour, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl.
Cut in butter:
- Slice the cold butter into very small cubes - about ¼-inch sized cubes. I like to slice the butter lengthwise into 3 planks, then cut these into 4 sticks, and then cube them. Add these to the flour mixture. Break them apart and toss them until they're coated.
- Work the butter into the flour using a pastry blender until the mixture is shaggy and crumbly. If any larger pieces of butter remain, flatten them between your fingers.
- Add the vanilla extract to the bowl. Then add 4 tablespoons of the ice water to the mixture and use a spoon to toss it together. Add another tablespoon of ice water and stir it again. Continue adding ice water one tablespoon at a time and stirring until the dough is clumping together.
- (For me, on a dry, winter day this will take 10-12 tablespoons; on a humid, warmer day it will be less.) Squeeze a handful of the mixture: if it holds together with little to no crumbliness it's ready - stop adding water.
Give it a few squeezes:
- Turn the contents of the bowl out onto a lightly floured surface. Squeeze the pile together with your hands a few times, gathering up the dry bits from the bottom. Use your bench scraper to get under the pile, pull it up and fold it over the top. Flatten it with your hands and then repeat. Knead the dough this way 4-5 times until the dough has just come together.
- Do not over-work it - stop when the dough has just come together. There will still be pieces of butter visible in the dough, which is what you want: those pieces of butter are what will give flakiness to the baked crust.
Divide and chill:
- Divide the dough in half. Flatten each half slightly with the palm of your hand and wrap the disk in plastic wrap. Chill the dough disk in the fridge for 30 minutes or until firm.
- This recipe makes enough dough for 1 double-crust pie or 2 single-crust pies, about 24 ounces of dough.
OPTION: USE A FOOD PROCESSOR:
- After combining the dry ingredients pour them into the bowl of a food processor. Cube the butter and add this in.
- Pulse the food processor several times until the butter has been cut into the dough. It should have a shaggy appearance.
- Add the vanilla. With the food processor running on low, spoon the ice water in a tablespoon at a time. Continue adding tablespoons of water until the dough JUST comes together.
- Turn the dough out of the food processor and squeeze it together one or two times. Divide and refrigerate it as instructed above.
VARIATION: FOR SAVORY PIES
- For a dough that tastes wonderful with savory pie fillings, omit the cinnamon and vanilla. Add a teaspoon of crushed thyme to the dry ingredients before cutting in the butter.
HOW TO ROLL OUT THE DOUGH:
- Take a chilled disk of dough from the fridge. Set it on a floured work space and sprinkle a little flour over the top.
- Place your rolling pin in the middle of the dough and roll towards the outer edge. Pick up the dough and rotate it a quarter-turn. (Don't flip it: keep the same side up the whole time.) Dust a little flour under it if it's sticking. Roll the dough again starting in the center and rolling towards the outer edge.
- Continue rolling this way and rotating the dough after each pass, until you have a large enough circle and the dough is about a ¼-inch thick.
USING THE DOUGH
To fit the dough into your pan:
- Cut out a circle large enough for your pie pan. Gently drape an edge over your rolling pin, then use the pin to lift the dough up and into your pan. Press it in along the bottom and sides leaving an overhang all around. Lightly cover this with plastic wrap and pop it in the fridge while you prepare the top crust.
To blind-bake a pie shell:
- Once you have fit the bottom crust into the pan, roll the edge under and crimp it firmly down to the edge of the pan. Gently press a piece of foil or parchment paper into the pie shell and fill the shell with pie weights or dried beans. Refrigerate the shell for 30 minutes while preheating the oven to 375° F.
- Bake the shell for 20 minutes. Remove the pie weights and foil/parchment. Prick the bottom and sides of the shell all over with a fork. For a pie that you will bake after filling: bake the shell for 5 minutes longer, then remove from the oven and allow to cool. For a pie that does not get baked again: bake the shell for 10 minutes longer until it is golden-brown all over. Remove it from the oven and let it cool completely.
To add a top crust:
- Once the cooled filling has been added to the bottom shell, roll out the top crust using the same technique you did for the bottom crust (roll from the middle, quarter-turn after each pass.) Cut out the circle appropriate for your pan. Make any decorative cut-outs in the dough now. Use the rolling pin to gently lift up the dough and drape it over the top of your pie.
- Roll the edge of the top crust under the edge of the bottom crust, and do this around the entire pie. Firmly crimp the edge down to the rim of the pie pan. Lightly cover the pie with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 30 minutes before baking.
- The wrapped disks of dough can be kept in the fridge for up to three days. The dough will be very hard after a long refrigeration. To make it workable, bang it with a rolling pin to help soften the dough.
- To freeze, wrap the dough disks well and freeze them up to 1 month. Let frozen dough thaw in the fridge.
- The prep and chill times are for making the dough only. Remember to plan time for rolling dough, prepping fillings, more chilling and baking times based on your recipe.
- This all-butter crust puffs up a lot during baking. Pies will have more of a rustic look, and you'll notice your crimped edge will puff up, too. This dough does work with simple cut-outs and lattice tops. However, very intricate cut-outs may lose their definition. For this kind of pie work, a dough made with all vegetable shortening or half shortening-half butter will be a better choice, though less tasty and flaky.
- Cold butter is the most important part of a successful pie crust. Keep your butter in the fridge until you need it. Once the dough is made it also needs to stay chilled - take out only what you need for each step. If at any point the dough feels like it's getting too soft and warm, pop it in the fridge for 10-15 minutes.
- Use a good quality butter in this recipe. It's worth it! This is a recipe where the flavor of butter really gets to shine. I like Cabot and Kerrygold unsalted butters.
- Have ingredients and tools in place before beginning your recipe. This is important for making pie crust dough with ease. Have a clean work surface where you can mix and later roll out the dough. Have your flour, spices, measuring cups, spoons, etc. at the ready.
- How much ice water you add to the dry mixture will depend how dry or humid the day is. Start by adding three tablespoons, stir, then add water one tablespoon at a time until you can squeeze a handful of dough together. This will perfectly hydrate the dough while preventing a too-wet dough.
- Pie crust dough gets the very minimum of handling. Just squeeze this dough together a few times, knead it a few times, then stop. This light touch prevents gluten from forming and prevents the dough from getting tough.
- Based on techniques I learned at the King Arthur Flour Education Center.
This post and recipe updated 01/28/2021.