Pie crust can make or break a pie in my opinion. This Easy Homemade Pie Crust Recipe is flaky and light yet firm enough to keep your pies and tarts from falling apart. It is a recipe my Grandmother shared with me and it is the pie crust recipe that will be passed down for generations to come.
I am a pie crust snob. I can tell a good pie crust from a mile away. Pie crust needs to be the perfect balance between being firm enough to hold the gooey contents of a pie but also flaky like hell. I mean I want my fork to go into that pie and the pie crusty crackle just a little bit and piece of flaky pie crust to fall to my plate like pieces of Mica (see link for info on this strange flaky mineral).
Yes, I have a weird obsession with pie crust and have given this a lot of thought.
Pie crust is easy to make so long as you follow one rule and that is to not overdo it or like I like to scream sometimes when watching baking shows “Stop Touching The Dough Already”. I know I have a problem. Making pie crust is all about the rule “Less is More”. The less you need to touch the dough the better.
Side note… shortbread is the same. Less is more! Here is the recipe for my Grandma’s Shortbread. Flaking and buttery just like shortbread should be.
Ingredients To Make Homemade Pie Crust
Lard: I like to use lard my pie crust vs butter because it is the most forgiving. With lard the possibility of over mixing is reduced because lard doesn’t break down with heat as quickly as it’s alternatives, butter or shortening. You want to have pearl size or slightly larger pieces of fat in the dough. When the fat heats in the oven these pearls of fat release steam and this steam is what lifts the crust to create the flaky layers dreams are made of.
Flour: I like to use pastry flour in my pie crust because it is much lighter than all-purpose flour. Pastry flour has less protein than all-purpose flour and more than cake flour. I know what you are thinking… who cares about protein when I am about to eat pie, right? Well, it has to do with the absorption of water and gluten development when water is added. If your pie crust is tough it is likely because there is too much protein in the flour. Check out this article for more about pastry flour and when to use it.
Eggs: These are the glue that holds it all together. Eggs are a binding agent that works to create the structure to baked goods.
Vinegar: Inhibits the gluten development in the flour which makes for a more tender and flaky pie crust
Cold Water: Keeps the little pearls of fat from melting prematurely. Remember, we want the fat to stay intact until we get that pie crust in the oven.
How To Make Pie Crust
Making pie crust is much easier than people believe but I will say it again and again. Know when to stop touching the dough! Your end game is to trying to make the dough as quickly as possible with as little mixing and kneading as possible. The more kneading and mixing you do the tougher the dough will become.
Don’t worry though this pie crust comes together so easily I have never ever had a problem getting this recipe just right every time. I’ve got you with this recipe!
First, cube the lard and add it and the pastry flour to a large bowl. Then using a pastry cutter or two knives put together cut the lard into the flour until it forms an oatmeal-like texture with pearl size or slightly larger pieces of lard throughout. You don’t want to mix the lard completely into the flour because it is these larger chunks of fat that create the flaky pie crust you are going for. The two knife trick is how my Grandma taught me. Just get two dinner knives and hold the handles. They automatically will separate a little and form a similar like instrument to a pastry cutter.
Then in a medium-sized bowl or large measuring cup add 1 cup of COLD water and egg and one tablespoon of vinegar.
Mix up with a fork until the egg is combined well into the water.
Then gradually add the egg mixture to the flour mixture combining with a fork just until the dough comes together. I find that once all the liquid is in the bowl that I press the little crumbs of flour at the bottom into the flour to minimize extra mixing and then push and roll the dough into one large ball.
The dough will be a little sticky so I recommend wrapping in plastic wrap and letting it rest in the fridge for about a half-hour before attempting to roll out. If you are short on time and need to use it right away make sure you use parchment paper and a little dusting of flour on the rolling surface to keep the dough from sticking. I also like to add a little bit of a flour dusting to my rolling pin or if you have a marble rolling pin you can always pre-chill in the fridge to help keep the dough from sticking to the rolling pin.
When ready roll out to about a 1/4 inch thickness. The trick is getting the pie crust into the pie plate without tearing or breaking it. To do this you have two choices. You can roll the pie dough around the rolling pin and then gently lift and roll out over the pie plate. Or if you have parchment paper under the dough, you can put the pie plate over the top of the dough and gently flip it and the pie plate over with the parchment paper so that the parchment paper is now on top of the pie plate and then peel it off from the dough gently. I prefer the rolling pin method.
Once the dough is over the pie plate, gently ease the dough into the bottom of the pie plate and gently press around the bottom of the plate to ensure that the dough is snuggly on the bottom and against all edges. There should be excess dough hanging out over the edges of the pie plate. If not take the dough out of the pie plate and roll the dough again to make it bigger. Use a knife to cut along the edge of the pie plate to trim the excess away.
Fill the pie to just over the top of the ridge of the pie shell edge.
Now for the top of the pie. You can do this in a number of ways and get real fancy but for simplicity let’s just stick with the basics. A full pie crust top. Start with rolling more dough out to about a 1/4″ thickness. For this, I like to use another pie tin the same size and then I flip it upside down and use a knife to draw a circle about an inch bigger around the pie plate edge. This piece is much smaller so you should be able to gently peel it away from the rolling surface and lift to be centred over the filled pie.
To seal the edges you can use a fork and gently press around the edge of the pie plate. Or use your two index fingers and press down and together to pinch the edges of the pie plate for a pretty fluted look. When done use the knife to cut small slits into the top of the pie crust to allow the steam from the filling to escape.
Bake at 400ºF for about 40 minutes or until the crust looks golden and flaky. If baking a fruit pie insert a toothpick into the centre to ensure the fruit has softened. If not and the pie needs a little longer you can also cover the top of the pie in tin foil to keep it from over-browning.
- If the pie is not sealed well the inside of the pie may bubble out or over the edge. Avoid a mess in your oven by placing the pies on a baking sheet when baking to catch any spills
- Bake the pie on the second to the bottom rack of the oven to help the bottom of the pie cook more evenly. The bottom of the pie will take a little longer to brown than the top. Being closer to the heat source helps.
Can You Freeze Unbaked Pie Crust
Absolutely! This recipe makes enough pie dough for two pies so I recommend splitting the pie dough into half. Roll each half into a ball and freeze what you don’t need. To freeze, wrap the pie crust dough tightly with two layers of plastic wrap. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw by placing the frozen dough in the night before. Bring the dough to room temperature when you need it so that it is easier to roll out.
Easy Homemade Pie Crust
- Measuring Cups
- Measuring Spoons
- Large Bowl
- Two Knives or a Pastry Cutter
- Rolling Pin
- Pie Tin
- 1 lb lard chilled
- 6 cups pastry flour
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 egg room temperature
- 1 cup cold water
- 1 tbsp white vinegar
- In a large bowl add 6 cups of pastry flour and 1 lb of lard cut up into cubes. Sprinkle in 1 tbsp of salt
- Using two knives held together or a pastry cutter cut lard into pastry until the mixture begins to resemble a lumpy oatmeal texture. Stop cutting when the flour mixture starts to show pearl size lumps of lard or slightly larger throughout. You do not want to blend lard into flour mixture completely. These small pieces of fat are what create the flaky crust you are aiming for.
- In a medium bowl or measuring cup add 1 cup of cold water, 1 egg and 1 tbsp of white vinegar. Mix thoroughly.
- Gradually pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and mix with a fork until the flour mixture forms a dough. Mix as little as possible and when there is only a little bit of flour mixture left work to press it into the dough working to form a ball.
- You will have enough pie dough for two pies top and bottom or 8 mini pies. Cut dough in half for one pie and form two separate balls of dough. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes before attempting to roll. If you do not plan to use all the dough you can keep remaining dough in the fridge to chill for up to a week or double wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 3 months.
- To roll the dough lightly flour the surface and/or line the rolling surface with parchment paper. Dust the top of the dough with a tiny bit more flour and lightly flour your rolling pin. Just a dusting because you don't want to add much flour to the dough itself.
- Roll the dough out to about a 1/4 inch thickness. To move the rolled dough to the pie tin gently roll the dough around the rolling pin to lift and then roll out gently over the pie tin. Gently press the dough into the bottom of the pie tin ensuring that the bottom is tight along the bottom and all sides. Allow for some dough to hang over the edge of the pie plate. Then using a knife trim the edge to the edge of the pie plate.
- Fill the pie tin with the desired filling
- Repeat the rolling process adding a second layer of pie pastry to the top. Trim edges as before.
- Seal edges of pie crust with a fork by pressing around all the edges or a pie plate or use both index fingers to pinch the dough while gently pressing down to seal the pie crust with a fluted edge. Cut slits in the top of the pie crust to allow steam to escape while baking.
- Bake at 400F for 40 minutes or until pie crust is lightly browned and crust looks flaky. Insert a toothpick into the centre of the pie to ensure centre is hot and that the fruit in a fruit pie has softened. If the pie needs more time but is starting to brown too quickly simple drape the top of the pie with a piece of aluminum foil to prevent further browning.
- When done remove the pie from oven and let rest for 30 minutes so you don't burn your mouth. The inside of the pie especially a sugary pie will be very hot.
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