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Flaky Pie Crust (No Food Processor!)

This is my go-to flaky pie crust, made without a food processor. It’s buttery, tender and super flaky.

side view of flaky pie.

The flaky layers in a pie crust are made using cold fat cut into flour and mixed with a cold liquid to create a thick dough. When the pastry is baked, the water in the fat evaporates, creating little pockets of air throughout the pastry.

This recipe is made with no food processor, and the butter is cut by hand. This is great to control the size of the butter pieces in the dough to create an extra flaky crust!

Top tips

  • Keep the butter cold at all times. Adding ice cubes to the water used in the dough will help with this. If the butter melts into the dough while you’re making it, it won’t be flaky. The pastry is always easiest to make on a cool day, but if your room temperature is warm, you can place your pastry into the freezer or fridge each time you feel the cold butter warming up and softening.
  • Bring the dough together with just enough water without working it too much. Once it makes a rough dough that holds together when pressed, push it together into a mound on a floured bench. Roll it out into a small rectangle, then fold the dough into layers like a pamphlet. Repeat. This process is similar to lamination in puff pastry and makes a flakier crust. It will make it smoother without developing the gluten as much as kneading.
  • Rest the dough once this is done, in the fridge for at least an hour.
  • Bake the pie crust thoroughly, undercooked crust is gummy, while a properly cooked crust is crisp and tender.

How to keep pie crust from shrinking

To make a great pie crust, you must avoid too much gluten development in the dough. Gluten is developed in the dough when glutenous flour types are mixed with water. Glutenous flours are those that contain two proteins called glutenin and gliadin.

As they react with water they form strong bonds with each other which allow for an elastic dough. For bread dough this is a great thing, but not for flaky and tender pastry. For pastry dough you want to limit this gluten development as much as possible, otherwise, you’ll have a chewy pastry, and one that shrinks in the oven. There are a few things to do in order to keep a tender pastry.

No Shrink Pie Crust

  • Work the dough as little as possible. Kneading dough also encourages gluten development. In this recipe, the dough is rolled into layers instead of kneading.
  • Don’t add too much water. Water reacts with the protein in the flour to develop gluten. The pastry dough should have just enough water so that it holds together easily when pressed, but it shouldn’t be sticky.
  • In the same respect, if you add too little water the dough will be crumbly and you won’t be able to roll it out without it breaking.
  • Add some acid to the dough. An acid like lemon juice or vinegar helps to break down the gluten bonds that are developed. Discard sourdough starter can also be added to bring in some acid.
  • Let the dough rest. Once the pastry is mixed, let it rest in the refrigerator so the gluten can relax. This is going to help with rolling the pie crust and avoid shrinking in the oven. After rolling the pastry and shaping it, let it chill again before baking.
  • Some recipes use cold vodka instead of some of the chilled water in the pastry. This is a good idea, as vodka doesn’t encourage gluten development like water does. This means you can still add liquid to the dough to form a dough but it’s not going to make it tough. You can substitute half the ice-cold water for cold vodka. As the pie bakes, all the alcohol evaporates from the dough.
  • Use enough pie weights when blind-baking. When blind-baking a puffy pastry like this, ensure you’ve got enough weight to hold down the pie dough and stop it slipping down on the edges. The weights should fill up the whole dish. I use around 1kg of rice as my pie weights.

Method (with Pictures)

  1. Begin by chopping the butter into cubes. Add the cubes to a bowl and place them in the fridge or freezer for 10 minutes to ensure it’s cold.
cut butter cubes added to flour.
  1. To a large mixing bowl add the flour, salt, and sugar and mix. Add the cold butter cubes to the flour.
cutting butter into flour.
  1. Use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into small pieces into the flour, or use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour.
hand holding cut butter in flour.
  1. The end result should be like coarse bread crumbs with a few pea-sized butter pieces in the mix. If the butter is melting at any point, place the bowl in the refrigerator.
water poured over dough.
  1. Add the lemon juice to the iced water and drizzle around 3/4 of it over the flour.
hand mixing dough.
  1. Use a spatula or your hands to combine the dough and add in as much chilled water as needed.
a ball of shaggy dough.
  1. It should hold together easily when pressed but not be sticky. If the dough is crumbly, add a bit more water.
  1. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured bench and form it into a mound. Wrap the dough up tightly and place it in the fridge for 30 minutes before continuing with the next step.

Laminating

  1. On a lightly floured work surface, using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a rough 10-inch/25cm rectangle. There’s no need to measure it perfectly, just lengthen it to around 10 inches.
hand folding pie dough.
  1. Fold the bottom 1/3 of the dough up to the middle, then fold the top 1/3 of the dough over top to make a pamphlet shape.
laminating pie dough.
  1. Turn the dough a quarter turn and repeat this roll and fold process once more.
  1. Once finished rolling, cut the dough into two and use your cupped hands to gently shape each piece into a flat disc.
  2. Wrap the dough discs tightly using compostable plastic wrap or beeswax wrap, or place them in a fitted airtight container. Chill the container in the fridge for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days before using it. Alternatively, it can be frozen for up to three months.

Rolling pie crust

Roll one piece of the dough into a circle on a lightly floured surface so it’s around 1inch/3cm wider than your pie plate (and about 1/6 inch / 5mm thick.)

Lightly dust the top of the dough with flour, then gently roll it up the rolling pin like a spiral. Transfer it to a pie dish and carefully unroll it from the rolling pin until it drapes over the dish and overhangs the sides.

If your circle is uneven, cut off any excess dough around the pie dish to make it even, but make sure to leave around 1cm / 1/2 an inch of overhang. Fold the overhanging dough under itself and gently press together to make a thick border.

If the pie is a double-crust recipe, roll out the second piece of dough to the same size. Place it on top of the filled pie, and pinch together the top and bottom crust. Trim away any excess dough, but leave 1cm / 1/2 an inch of overhang. Fold the overhanging dough under itself and gently press together to make a thick border.

To flute, push a thumb from one hand into the dough edge in between the thumb and index finger and thumb of the opposite hand. Continue this all around the dough edges. Alternatively, you can use a fork to create rustic fork lines around the edges.

Baking

The baking of the pie crust is where all the magic happens. A delicious crust is crispy and flaky. The oven needs to be hot so that the water evaporates fast without the fat in the dough just melting.

The pastry should be baked thoroughly so it’s a deep golden brown and crispy. Under-baked pie crust is soft, pale, and soggy. It doesn’t matter how well you make the actual pastry. If it’s not baked well you will be disappointed.

Blind baking

Some pie recipes will require the pie crust to be baked fully or partially before filling.

When baking the crust on its own, it needs to be blind-baked first. Blind baking is a process where the unbaked pie case is covered with parchment paper and pie weights to hold down the bottom of the pie. This stops the bottom crust from puffing up in the oven as the water in the fat evaporates. The filling will hold down the bottom crust for pies that don’t require this pre-baking step.

Partially Blind Bake Pie Crust

Partially baked pie crusts are helpful for pies that don’t need as long in the oven, to ensure the crust is baked properly without overcooking the filling.

  • To blind-bake, prick the bottom of the pie crust all over with a fork.
  • Line the crust with parchment paper and fill it with pie weights. Ensure that you have enough pie weights to fill the whole dish and to push against the sides of the pie dish. I use around 1kg of rice as my weight.
  • Bake it at 425°F/220°C for around 15-18 minutes until the edges of the pie crust are lightly browned.
  • Remove it from the oven and lift off the parchment paper and weights. Place the crust back in the oven for another 2-3 minutes until the bottom stops looking wet.
  • Fill the partially baked crust with your filling and place it back in the oven. Because the edges are already par-baked, tenting the outer edge of the pie with aluminum foil will stop the edges from burning when it goes back in the oven.

Fully-Baked Pie Crust

For pies where the filling does not need baking, like old-fashioned lemon pie, you’ll need to bake the pie crust fully.

To fully bake a pie crust, blind-bake it as described above, remove the pie weights and parchment paper. Dock the dough with a fork again all over, as this puffy dough can sometimes rise up again.

Lower the oven temperature to 400°F (200°C), and return the pie crust to the oven for 15-20 minutes until it’s nicely golden brown and crisp-looking. You want to see some beautiful deep colour on the crust. A pale crust means it’s undercooked and it won’t be flaky.

flaky pie crust

Flaky Pie Crust No Food Processor

Elien Lewis
This is my go-to flaky pie crust, made without a food processor. It’s buttery, tender and super flaky. This makes two 9-inch pie crusts.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 20 minutes
2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 20 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American, New Zealand
Servings 2 9-inch pie crusts
Calories 278 kcal

Ingredients
 
 

  • 225 g unsalted butter cold
  • 315 g all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice or use apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
  • 150 g ice-cold water

Instructions
 

  • Chop the butter into small cubes. Add the cubes to a bowl and place them in the fridge or freezer for 10 minutes to ensure it's cold.
  • Add the flour, sugar, and salt to a large mixing bowl and mix them together with a fork or spatula. Add the cold butter cubes to the flour.
  • Use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into small pieces into the flour, or use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour. The end result should be like coarse bread crumbs with a few pea-sized butter pieces in the mix. If the butter is melting at any point, place the bowl in the refrigerator.
  • Add the lemon juice or vinegar to the ice-cold water. Drizzle around 3/4 of it all over the flour.
  • Use a spatula or your hands to combine the dough. Add any extra water slowly, 1/2 a tablespoon at a time. The dough should hold together easily when pressed but not be sticky. If it is crumbly, add a bit more water.
  • Tip the dough onto a lightly floured bench and form it into a mound. Wrap the dough up tightly and place it in the fridge for 30 minutes before continuing with the next step.
  • Push the dough Into a mound on a lightly floured work surface. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a rough 10-inch/25cm rectangle. There's no need to measure it perfectly; just lengthen it to around this size.
  • Fold the bottom ⅓ of the dough up to the middle, then fold the top ⅓ of the dough over top to make a pamphlet shape.
  • Turn the dough aquarter turn and repeat this process once more.
  • Once finished rolling, cut the dough into two and use your cupped hands to gently shape each piece into a flat disc.
  • Wrap the dough discs up tightly. Chill it in the fridge for at least an hour or up to 2 days before using.
  • See instructions on how to blind-bake or fully bake a pie crust in the above post.

Notes

The dough can be wrapped tightly and frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge before rolling.
For instructions on rolling and baking, see details in the post.

Nutrition

Calories: 278kcalCarbohydrates: 25gProtein: 3gFat: 19gSaturated Fat: 12gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 48mgSodium: 178mgPotassium: 41mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 562IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 10mgIron: 1mg
Keyword Pastry, Pie, Pie crust
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