Homemade pie crust is easy if you know a few simple secrets! This easy pie crust recipe is slightly sweet, and makes enough for one standard double-crust pie, two standard single-crust pies, or ten 6-inch hand-pies.
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My mother made the best pies: berry pies of all kinds, pumpkin pies, and of course, her famous cherry-rhubarb pie. The secret, she always said, was in the crust.
It was magic, watching Mama make a pie crust, like a dancer on a stage. I can still see her – bending over our shiny yellow Formica kitchen table, dusting the surface with a sweep of her hand and flouring her rolling pin in one graceful motion. Then leaning forward, she would roll out the dough in smooth, perfect strokes.
Mama’s crust was always even and flawless. Once rolled, she turned the pie plate upside-down on the dough and cut a clean circle with her paring knife exactly two inches away from the edge, all the way around. Then, lifting the edge of the pastry circle, she would roll the dough up onto the pin and then gently roll it out again over the righted pie plate, forming it to the dish’s curves; her delicate hands deftly fluting the edges with perfectly practiced pinches.
Three Secrets to a Perfect Pie Crust
Mom taught me three simple rules for making pie crust.
- Keep everything COLD. – Refrigerate or freeze everything you are using to make your pastry dough, including your mixing bowl! The colder you can keep things, the more successful your crust will be. If your dough starts feeling melty or too soft to work with, immediately put everything back in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes. You will never ruin your crust by taking some extra chill time.
- Incorporate fats by hand. – This allows you to keep the bits of shortening and butter bigger, up to the size of a cooked butter bean. One of the leading causes of tough crust is that bits of fat in it are too small. (This is why I avoid using a food processor for making pastry crust.) I do, however, always grate my butter. (I usually chill it in the freezer for about an hour first.) I find that this allows me to distribute it quicker, therein keeping everything colder.
- Do not overmix. – The more you mix the dough, the more gluten strands are formed. Gluten formation in pastry dough results a tough, chewy crust, and is to be avoided whenever possible. DO NOT, under any circumstances, knead your pastry dough.
There are plenty more tips and tricks out there to help you achieve that perfect pie crust, but in my experience, the three guidelines above are the ones that make or break your pastry crust.
How long should I bake pastry dough?
Standard Pastry Baking Times
These are general guidelines only. Please consult the recipe for which you employ the pie dough for specific baking times and temperatures.
- Single Crust Pie [Filled] • 400 – 425°F [205-218 °C] • 30-40 minutes
- Pie Shell Only [Unfilled] • 400°F [232°C] • 15-17 minutes (blind bake) | 28-30 minutes (fully baked)
- Double-Crust [Uncooked Filling] • 400 – 425°F [205-218°C] • 45-55 minutes
- Double-Crust [Cooked Filling] • 425 – 450°F [205-232°C] • 30-45 minutes
- Turnovers & Hand-Pies [Cooked Filling] • 425 – 450°F [205-232 °C] • 20-22 minutes
Sweet & Easy Homemade Pie Crust
- 1/2 cup shortening chilled for one hour
- 1/2 cup butter chilled & coarsely grated
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 Tablespoons white sugar
- ¼ cup ice water
- ¼ cup vodka* [Optional: If omitted, use an additional ¼ cup ice water.]
- ½ teaspoon table salt
- In a medium bowl, whisk flour, sugar, and salt together with a fork.
- Using a pastry cutter, fork, or your fingers (my personal choice) work the cold shortening into the flour mixture until the texture resembles that of strudel crumble.
- Add grated or cut ice-cold butter to flour mixture.
- Work butter in using a pastry cutter, fork, or your fingers. It's OK to leave large pieces of butter (balls up to the size of a lima bean): this is what makes your pie crust flakey!
- [Optional] Cool flour mixture in freezer 5 minutes before proceeding.
- [Optional] If you are using vodka, mix ice water and vodka together.
- Sprinkle ½ cup ice cold liquid (ice water, or ice water+vodka) over the top of the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until a ball begins to form. IMPORTANT: Do not pour liquid onto flour mixture: sprinkle it.
- Turn dough out onto counter.
- Press together into a large ball or disk.
- Divide dough in half. (This will make it easier to work with later.)
- Press each half into a disk. (Do not overwork the dough. Just press it together.)
- Wrap each disk tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate prepared dough for at least one hour, and up to two days.
- Roll out and bake according to directions for whatever you are making.TIP: I like to roll pastry dough out between sheets of parchment. It allows me to flip the dough easily, and place it without concerns over tearing.
Standard Pastry Baking Times
- Single Crust Pie [Filled] • 400 - 425 °F [205-218 °C] • 30-40 minutes
- Pie Shell Only [Unfilled] • 450 °F [232 °C] • 12-12 minutes
- Double-Crust [Uncooked Filling] • 400 - 425 °F [205-218 °C] • 45-55 minutes
- Double-Crust [Cooked Filling] • 425 - 450 °F [205-232 °C] • 30-45 minutes
- Turnovers & Hand-Pies [Cooked Filling] • 425 - 450 °F [205-232 °C] • 20-22 minutes
Looking for a savory pie crust recipe? Try our delicious Herbed Pie Crust – perfect for pot pies and other savory baked treats!
Does your recipe call for pre-baking or blind baking the crust? Here are some great tips for successful blind baking!
Does vodka in pie crust really make a difference?
I first read about using vodka in a pie crust recipe in a long-forgotten issue of Cook’s Illustrated. The science behind it is that the alcohol in the vodka adds moisture to the dough without encouraging gluten formation, since gluten doesn’t form in alcohol. Also, the vodka evaporates more efficiently than water during the baking process, removing more moisture and resulting in a flakier and crispier crust.
I wanted to know if the theory plays out in real life, so I did a side by side comparison to see if there was any noticeable difference between crust made with vodka and crust made with plain ice water.
The hand-pie below on the left has vodka in the dough; the dough on the right was made with ice-water only. They were baked at the same time on the same baking tray.
I expected there to be a more noticeable distinction, but there really wasn’t any significant differences in taste or texture between the two pastries once they were baked. (You cannot taste any alcohol, of course, because it has all cooks out.)
There were, however, a few differences in the dough before baking. The vodka dough was a bit softer than the all ice-water dough, and while it did require slightly longer chilling time, it was also more supple and easier to roll out.
Final Thoughts: The vodka in this recipe is optional, and using the all ice water method will still result in a delicious, flaky crust as long as you keep everything ice-cold. However, if you have the vodka and want to give it a try, I encourage you to do so; you may find that this is just the trick to raise your pastry making to the next level.
Can I freeze this pie dough?
Absolutely! Pie dough keeps very well in the freezer. Wrap it tightly in freezer-weight plastic wrap and seal it in a freezer bag. (Or do what I do and suck-n-seal it with a FoodSaver.) Tightly-wrapped dough should keep up to six months in the freezer.
For even easier use later, roll the dough out ahead of time and freeze pie crusts in the pan.
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