No Fail – Tender and Flakey Pie Crust

DSC_9098Pie Crust..  I have noticed over the years that just saying these words have freak out even the most talented cooks.  Responses like, I can cook but I can’t bake.. or pie crust scares me.  If this is you then these pie crust tips are will help you get past your pie crust paranoia. This recipe has been no fail for me and I know it will be for you.  Pie crust contains no leavening agents (baking soda, baking powder) so it will not puff up.  Getting a puffy flakey crust depends on the fat.  Fat coats the flour to inhibit gluten formation and to create layer between

My recipe is  a mix of the two recipes my mother used with my own tweaks.  One recipe used egg and vinegar and water and the other a small amount of water making  a shortbread style crust  (pate brisee).  This crust is perfect for sweet or savoury pies, tarts, and quiches.

When I was younger and visiting my Grandmother on the farm,  I recall my Nan using rendered bacon grease in pie crust.  I assume she used it when she was out of shortening.. Seriously.. the flakiest pie crust ever.  No, her delicious apple pie didn’t taste of  bacon 😉

Did your grandmother save bacon grease in a special can on the stove or counter like mine did?

No Fail Tender & Flakey Pie Crust

  • Servings: 2 (9-13 crusts)
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 2-3/4 cup (352 grams) all-purpose Flour
  • 1 cup (225 grams) COLD Butter unsalted or salted, shortening, lard or a combination.
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup of ICE cold water
  • 1.5 tsp of cider vinegar, or lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt if using unsalted butter (1/2 tsp)  if using salted butter

I use a food processor when I make this pastry dough.  It saves time by mixing the all the ingredients together very quickly.  It’s main job however is that it coats the flour with butter.  This prevents the gluten formation in the flour.  It is very important that this step is finished before adding any liquid.  Can you mix by hand using a pastry cutter?  Most definitely.  If you do it right, your pie crust can be just as flaky and tender, maybe more so.  IF you don’t over mix the crumbed and pea sized butter/flour with the water.  The problem l find is that most people start over mixing and kneading because they think that it’s not combined enough.  *Using your hands is a no no as it heats up the butter.  Keep the ingredients to make this pastry dough cold.

DSC_4596Add the cold butter, flour and salt to a food processor or to a large bowl.  To keep my butter cold I cube the butter place in a bowl and put back in the refrigerator until all my ingredients are ready.

Butter in this pastry is a little smoother in texture and has a that melt in your mouth buttery taste.  IMO.. Lard or shortening can have a slight grainy texture to the finished pastry.  DSC_4597 Pulse the food processor until the flour and butter are joined to a large crumb texture and pea sized pieces of butter mixed together with the flour.  Also use a pastry blender or chopper to mix the butter in by hand.DSC_9720Measure 1/4 cup of ICE cold water add the egg.

When comparing different recipes over the years, I noticed that using an egg in the dough helps with the elasticity while rolling and the finished crust had more of a golden color once baked.    DSC_9723Add the cider vinegar.  Vinegar is an acid which helps keep the gluten from forming in the dough. A toughness inhibitor.  You could also use fresh lemon juice if you do not have vinegar.  Do not worry you will not taste or smell vinegar or lemon juice in your finished crust.DSC_9725Whisk until combined.DSC_9730_2Add the wet ingredients slowly through the pour spout while pulsing until just combinedDSC_4601Take care not to overprocess the dough. Remove when the dough just starts to clump together to form a ball.  It should look crumbly but if you squeeze the dough it will clump together to form a dough.  It is ok if some of the flour is not completely combined, it will blend in when rolled.  Take care not to overwork the dough as this can lengthen the gluten strands in the flour and will likely cause the dough to be tough.  DSC_9736Pour the dough on a sheet of parchment, waxed paper, or plastic wrap.DSC_9738Divide into two portions and gently press the dough into a round and slightly flatten.  Do not over handle the dough.  Quickly shape and press flat once wrapped in plastic wrap.  Butter melts between 90-95°.  Once the butter melts you can get it back and it changes the consistency of the dough.  This recipe is all about keeping the butter cold.  Hot kitchen? Place your bowl in the refrigerator for 5 minutes and then continue working on the dough.DSC_9739Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour before rolling.  This is an important step in making pie crust.  It gives the dough time to which makes rolling much easier, and keeps the fat in the dough cool, important for flaky crust.

 This dough freezes well.  I like to double the batch and then freeze the dough after I wrap in plastic wrap, and then place in large zippered freezer bags.  Date the bags as they are best used within 3 months.  Pull out a disk and defrost in the refrigerator for  4-6 hours before needed.   Never defrost frozen dough in the microwave.DSC_9098Place the pie crust on a flour dusted piece of parchment paper.DSC_9099Add more flour to the top of the dough.DSC_9101Place another sheet of parchment or waxed paper on top of the dough.  I like to roll with parchment or waxed paper as I can turn the dough instead of my body to get the shape that I want more consistently.  For a round dough think of a clock and start by rolling from the center out releasing pressure as you get toward the edge.  I teach my children to start at the center and roll toward out 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock points.  Then start turning the dough to achieve a round thin crust about 1/8-1/4″ thick.   Working on parchment allows you to easily turn the dough without adding too much flour.  It helps to pull the parchment paper away from the dough to release it,  sprinkle a little more flour, place the parchment back in place and flip to repeat on the other side.  Don’t worry if you don’t have parchment or wax paper, you can roll using flour  only.  pie crustMake sure to keep turning the dough and lifting and adding flour if the dough starts to stick.  Dust any excess flour off you dough once place in the pan.  I like to fold my dough in half then in half again and gently lift to the pan and unfold.  This dough is strong and pliable enough and will not fall apart while lifting.  It’s still important to keep the dough cold.  Place the finished pie crust in the refrigerator until you are ready to fill and place in the oven.  IMG_5556Can you see the butter in the dough? This is what you want to see as you are rolling out the dough.  Those little bits of cold butter are creating little layers which increases the level of tenderness and flakiness.DSC_9102

I place my dish on top of the crust, center and make sure that I have enough excess dough outside the perimeter to make up for the height of the dish or pie plate I am using.DSC_9103Remove the parchment or waxed paper from the top of the dough
DSC_9104Using the bottom sheet as a lifting aid flip the dough over on the  pie plate.  You can also roll the dough around your rolling-pin and then re-roll on the pie plate and then remove the parchment
DSC_9107Gently press the dough into the pan or plate
DSC_9114Using a sharp knife cut the excess dough away from the panDSC_9115Place in the fridge (20 min) or freezer (10 min) to firm the dough before adding the filling and bake according to your pie recipe.  Before baking if pre-baking for shells adding foil and then dried beans, or pie weights is encouraged.   Bake in a pre-heated 375° oven for 16-18 minutes until the sides of the dough are set and then quickly remove the foil and pie weights and make a few piercings with a fork and continue baking until golden.  12-14 minutes longer.DSC_9743When using a tart pan/dish I like to place the sheet of parchment back over the top once the crust is pressed to the plate.  I then roll the roller firmly over the edges of the dish and this action will cut off the excess dough.  This makes for a nice clean edge of dough
DSC_9749Remove excess dough from the sides and chill before using in recipes in sweet or savoury pies, tarts, or quiche recipes



2 thoughts on “No Fail – Tender and Flakey Pie Crust

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