There’s no comparison: butter beats shortening for pie dough. This all butter really flakey pie dough is THE BEST recipe out there and you won’t believe how easy it is to make!
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, you’ll understand why there is such a paucity of pie recipes on this site. Oh sure, there was this strawberry rhubarb pie a few years ago and this sour cream apple pie as well.
But pies themselves? I don’t know. I feel like it’s a two-fer that can go wrong – both the filling and the dough need to be great, right?
So that’s where this all butter really flakey pie dough recipe comes in. After all of the dough I’ve made in the past, this one was, by far, the absolute best.
It’s an all butter dough made with cold water – no vodka here – and contains just 4 ingredients (plus water). And now that I’ve seen the super flakey results of this easy pie dough, you’ll never be able to convince me that shortening in pie dough is better.
This dough yields such a flakey crust that my mom thought I used puff pastry to make the apple slab pie I made for my parents over the weekend.
And she’s been around the dessert block once or twice.
Pie crust that looks like puff pastry? Put your hands together, friends!
Get Your Hands Dirty
The reason for this is the big, fat chunks of butter suspended throughout the dough, a result that can only happen from making pie dough by hand.
Use your fingers, two knives, a pastry cutter – whatever! Just skip the food processor or stand mixer, as tempting as they may be.
I Like Big Butter and I Cannot Lie
Not only do I find it amazingly gratifying to make such a simple and timeless kitchen staple like a pie dough recipe by hand, but I have complete control over how big I leave the chunks of butter; whereas machines often over process the butter.
And bigger chunks of butter = really flakey pie dough. This is why pie dough without shortening will always be the king of pie doughs. I’ll explain this a little more below!
How to Make Really Flakey Pie Dough. Really!
The only other thing to consider, which you would already know if you’ve ever made any kind of pie dough, is that you need to keep the dough extra cold before you bake it.
If that means that you stick your unbaked pie or tart in the freezer for a few minutes before baking it to chill a warmed dough that you’ve just rolled the heck out of in order to firm up the butter again, then do it.
When the oven heat hits the cold butter, water in the butter evaporates, creating pockets in the dough and that gives you your flakey crust. And you want the butter in the dough to be COLD so that it holds up well to the heat and doesn’t slump in the oven or slide off the edge of the pie plate and onto your oven floor
Trust me on this one!
Why Butter Leaks Out of Pie Crust
This “slumping” happens when too-warm butter leaks out of the pie dough. And slumping can make an incredible mess of burned butter on the bottom of your oven!
In order to prevent this, you’ll want to make sure your butter is REALLY cold before you bake your pie.
If the dough loses its butter, it also loses the ability to create that flakey crust.
Why is My Pie Crust Tough?
There is one reason why your pie crust may be tough: You’ve overworked your dough.
Flour has proteins in it called gluten, which gives the flour “structure” in recipes. When flour is mixed too much or overworked with your hands while kneading or rolling, it can result in a tough crust.
This is one of the reasons why bread recipes are left to proof. In addition to the yeast needing time to “wake up” and help the bread dough rise, the gluten proteins in the flour need time to relax after being tightened up when you kneaded the dough.
You know when try to roll out a pie dough and it just won’t roll out, but keeps springing back into a smaller shape? This is why you need to let your pie dough rest in the fridge before rolling it out. The gluten in the flour needs some time to relax!
And so when making pie dough, you want to first, make sure that you don’t over-mix or over-roll the dough and second, allow the dough at least 2 hours to rest in the fridge before rolling.
These 2 keys will prevent you from having a tough pie crust!
So go on! Make a few batches of this all butter really flakey pie dough recipe for your next pie or your upcoming holiday celebrations!
Make-Ahead Pie Crust
Even if you make the dough early and freeze it (up to 2 months in advance) for your summer, Thanksgiving, or Christmas pies, you’ll be ahead of the game. Which means you’ll have more time to bake cookies.
And nobody ever complained about having more time to make cookies, have they?
To freeze this pie dough, simply shape the dough into a 1-inch disc, wrap it in double layer of plastic wrap, and drop it into a zip-top bag before freezing. Freeze the dough for up to 2 months.
When you’re ready to use the dough, place it in the refrigerator the night before to allow it to thaw.
PRO TIP: Don’t try to thaw the dough on the counter. It will thaw unevenly and it will be difficult to roll out. Thawing the dough this way will also cause the butter on the outside of the dough to warm faster than on the inside of the dough. So, when you roll the dough, you’ll end up smooshing the warmer butter into the dough and you’ll lose the “visible butter” that’s necessary for those really flakey layers.
How I’ve Used this Pie Dough:
Want More Pie?
- 2 ½ cups (315 grams) flour
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp table salt
- 2 sticks (8 ounces or 1 cup) unsalted butter, cut into chunks and kept very cold before using
- ½ – ¾ cup very cold water
- Measure the flour into a large, wide bowl. Whisk in the sugar and salt. Toss in the butter cubes and coat them all with the flour. Using your first 3 fingers of both hands, mash up the butter into smaller pieces, just bigger than the size of peas. You can also do this with two knives or a strong pastry blender. I prefer using my fingers.
- Once the mixture looks sort of uniform, slightly crumbly, and the butter is broken up, stir in a ½ cup of water with a rubber spatula until the water is absorbed and the dough starts to come together. If the dough is still dry and crumbly, add the remaining ¼ cup of water. Bring the dough together with your hands until it forms a soft and almost loose ball.
- Divide the pie dough in half and transfer one half to a sheet of plastic wrap and mold it into disk, about 1-inch thick. Use the plastic wrap to help bring the dough together, if needed. Repeat with the remaining dough.
- Chill the dough disks in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before using. You can keep this dough in the fridge for up to a week or up to 2 months in the freezer before using.
- Roll the dough directly from the refrigerator (do not allow it to come to room temperature – remember you need to keep the butter really cold) or if frozen, allow the dough to rest in the fridge for one day before rolling. Proceed with the instructions for your pie recipe, including the recommended baking temperature and time for that recipe.
If you want to make the apple slab pie recipe shown in the photos above, you can find the full recipe HERE. That recipe includes details for adjusting this pie dough recipe to fit the jelly roll pan you'll use to make a slab pie. The pie dough recipe shown above will only yield 2 9-inch pie crusts and you need more than this for a slab pie.
The 2 keys to getting lots of really flaky layers with this pie are:
- Use cold ingredients while keeping your dough super cold before baking, and
- Visible butter chunks in your pie dough from cutting the butter into the flour with your fingers. Food processors mulch the butter up to pieces that are too small to create lots of flaky layers.
Keep these keys in mind as you make this pie dough and you can’t go wrong!
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
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- Norpro Stainless Steel Scraper/Chopper
- OXO Good Grips Mixing Bowl Set with Black Handles, 3-Piece
- Spring Chef Dough Blender, Top Professional Pastry Cutter with Heavy Duty Stainless Steel Blades (Black-Medium)
- Farberware Classic Wood Rolling Pin
- Non-slip Silicone Pastry Mat Extra Large with Measurements 28''By 20'' for Silicone Baking Mat, Counter Mat, Dough Rolling Mat,Oven Liner,Fondant/Pie Crust Mat By Folksy Super Kitchen (2028, red)
- Pyrex Glass Bakeware Pie Plate (9-inch)