For buttery, flaky, tender pie crust, this perfect homemade pie crust recipe is foolproof! It's the best tasting pie crust I've ever eaten, AND it's also the easiest pie crust I've ever worked with. The all butter (no shortening) pie crust dough is made using a food processor, vodka, and a secret family ingredient to create a delicious dough that's easy to roll out and ideal for creating lattice or other decorative tops. Keep reading for the recipe and all of my tips and tricks for how to make perfect pie crust!
About three and a half years ago, I got really fed up with homemade pie crust. Up until that point I had only ever used my grandmother's pie crust recipe, which always tasted amazing but could be SO difficult to roll out, and I was tired of making ugly pies. So, I set out to create a recipe of my own that would produce homemade pie crust that's tender and flaky, tastes delicious, and can be easily rolled out without making you want to pull your hair out.
After some trial and error, I discovered the secret to perfect pie crust and shared the recipe here on ALWAYS EAT DESSERT. It was a quick hit, and I've heard from so many readers that it's become their go-to pie crust recipe!
Then recently I was reading about pie crust and learned a new trick (more on this in a minute!). Wondering if it would make my perfect pie crust even BETTER, I gave it a whirl and was thrilled with the results. So here I'm sharing my (ever-so-slightly) updated recipe, which I'm calling Perfect Homemade Pie Crust 2.0!
What Makes Pie Crust "Perfect"?
If you ask me, perfect pie crust should be four things:
- Tender: Tender (rather than tough) pie crust can be achieved by limiting the amount of gluten that forms in the crust and by being careful not to overwork the dough.
- Flaky: Great pie crust has lots of little layers separated by air pockets, creating that coveted flaky texture. This is a result of solid fats (like cold butter) being cut into the dough and then melting away as the crust bakes, creating air pockets. The bigger the pieces of solid fat in the crust, the flakier the crust will be (but also the more difficult it may be to work with).
- Delicious: Butter gives pie crust its rich flavor, and I prefer the taste of all-butter pie crust (as opposed to pie crust that uses a mix of butter and shortening).
- Easy to Roll Out: This is a must for beautiful pies, especially if you want to create a lattice top or other decorative crust.
How to Make Perfect Homemade Pie Crust from Scratch
- Chill Your Ingredients: Cold ingredients, especially cold fat, are essential to the texture of the pie crust, so be sure that the fat and any other liquids added to the dough are cold. Prep these ingredients in advance and place them in the fridge, taking them out just before adding them to the dough for optimal coldness.
- Cut Butter into Flour: Cutting cold butter into the flour has two benefits. 1) The butter coats the flour, helping to limit the formation of gluten (too much gluten will yield a tough crust). 2) Small pieces of butter will remain, which create air pockets as the dough bakes and gives us a flaky crust. Using a food processor makes this step quick and easy.
- Use the Right Amount of Liquid: Not using enough liquid will make the dough crumbly and impossible to work with. Adding too much liquid will allow too much gluten to form in the dough, leading to a tough crust. Getting the amount of liquid just right is so important!
- Don't Overwork the Dough: As with many baked goods, overworking the dough when mixing will yield a tough crust. Be careful to mix the dough just until it's come together and resist any urge to keep mixing.
- Bake the Pie in a Glass Pie Plate: Unless the recipe you're using specifies otherwise, I recommend baking your pie in a glass pie plate. This allows for even heat distribution and lets you see the crust as it bakes so that you can avoid the dreaded soggy pie crust. This glass pie plate is my go-to because of its perfect size (standard 9 inch diameter) and no-frills design.
- Bake the Pie in the Bottom Third of the Oven: Unless the recipe you're using states otherwise, place the oven rack in the bottom third of the oven (I use the second lowest of 5 rungs in my oven) to bake your pie. This will put the bottom crust closer to the heat source to help ensure a well cooked (and not soggy) bottom crust.
- Shield the Pie Crust as it Bakes: If the crust begins to brown before the pie filling is finished baking, a pie crust shield really comes in handy. About 20 minutes after the pie goes into the oven, quickly but carefully open the oven and reach in to place a silicone pie crust shield or a bit of aluminum foil around the edges of the pie to keep the crust from burning while the pie filling continues to bake.
Why This is the Perfect Homemade Pie Crust Recipe
- Mixing Flour and Butter in Intervals: Mixing part of the flour (about 2/3) with the butter before adding the rest of the flour creates a dough that's easy to roll out. Doing this in the food processor makes it super simple. The bits of butter in the dough will be smaller, which creates a lightly flaky crust.
- All-Butter: Butter gives this recipe its rich flavor, and mixing butter and shortening would dull that delicious buttery flavor. Shortening is often used in pie crust to add stability to the dough, but I find it unnecessary for this recipe.
- Orange juice: Orange juice lends a bit of acidity to the crust, boosting flavor without making the crust taste like citrus. This was my grandma's secret ingredient in her delicious pie crusts!
- Vodka: Yes, really! This is the new-to-me pie crust trick I mentioned above that differentiates this recipe from my former favorite pie crust recipe. Here's why vodka is the secret ingredient to perfect pie crust...
Why You Should Use Vodka To Make Pie Crust
As I mentioned above, the amount of liquid that you add to your dough will make or break your pie crust. It all comes down to gluten. Water helps with gluten formation, and we need some gluten to form in order to hold the dough together. Too little water in the crust means not enough gluten formation, which means a crumbly crust that cracks and tears when you try to roll it out or place it in your pie plate. Adding more liquid to the dough makes it more pliable and easy to work with, but too much water means too much gluten formation, which means a tough pie crust that's anything but tender. This is where the vodka comes in.
Unlike water, alcohol does not encourage gluten formation. And since vodka is 40 percent alcohol, using vodka in our dough means that we can add 3 Tablespoons of liquid without adding 3 Tablespoons of water. Essentially we can add a bit more liquid (to help with making an easy-to-roll dough) without risking too much gluten formation (to create a flaky crust). The alcohol evaporates as the pie bakes, so there will be no alcohol in the finished pie crust.
(Note: If you don't want to use vodka in your pie crust, you can substitute 2-3 Tablespoons ice water for the vodka in this recipe. The resulting crust will not be quite as tender, but it will still have a nice, tender texture.)
Video: How to Make Perfect Homemade Pie Crust
Step-by-Step Homemade Pie Crust Recipe Photos
Note: The numbers on each image correspond to the numbered steps in the recipe.
This updated pie crust recipe has quickly become my new go-to recipe, and I use it for all pies that I make, no matter what pie filling or topping recipe I may be using. I can't wait to see your pie creations using this crust!
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