Learn how easy it is to make a very basic pie crust recipe that is flakey and perfect with only 4 ingredients! This recipe makes enough for a double crust and can be reduced by half for a single crust.
I think a good basic pie crust is something everyone should have in their cooking/baking repertoire. Even those who claim to be cooks and not bakers probably run into the occasional need for pie crust. And there is just no reason why you should buy pre-made pie crusts. Homemade pie dough is so incredibly easy to make. And if you follow just a few simple steps you can make a pretty darn good one yourself. And I bring you this one today with only 4 ingredients and none of the mess of flour all over your kitchen! Pinky promise!
There are a lot of pie dough recipes out there. Often with little tricks to make them flakey. Like adding vodka or seltzer water. And while these things can be helpful, you can make really flakey and perfectly delicious crust without all of those tricks. This recipe is from my grandmother. She made pies all the time. It was probably what she baked most. And then my sister opened her own homemade pie business a few years back and this was the recipe she used. The crust comes out flakey and tender and I just love how simple it is to throw together.
There are just two key points that I really want you to understand in getting a good flakey pie crust. The first and absolutely the most important part of getting a tender pie crust is this:
DO NOT OVERWORK THE DOUGH!
This means. Handle it as little as necessary especially after the water is added. Don’t knead it and manhandle it and smack it around. This isn’t bread dough where I give you permission to get your hands in there and work it! We want to treat pie dough like it is your grandmother’s finest china! We’ll talk about this more as we go through the basic steps of creating this simple and perfect pie dough!
To make this basic pie dough recipe you only need 4 ingredients. All-purpose flour, shortening, salt, and cold water (preferably ice water). You are also going to want a big bowl to mix the dough in and a pastry cutter or fork. The pastry cutter will be used to “cut” the shortening into the flour. But if you do not have this, a fork or even two knives will achieve the same goal.
To start you are going to add shortening into the flour at a 1:3 ratio. For a double crust you will use 3 cups flour to 1 cup shortening. Before adding the shortening put a large pinch (or 2 large pinches depending on our savory preference) of salt into the flour and mix in. The salt really helps balance the sweetness of the filling. It gives the crust flavor and you don’t want to leave it out! If you really want a sweet crust, you can add a few TBSP of sugar at this point too. I never think it’s necessary. I love the savory flakiness of the crust in contrast to the sweet filling, but by all means, do it if you prefer it!
Use the pastry cutter or fork to “cut” the shortening into the flour until it looks like coarse meal. Ever wonder why biscuits and pie crust recipes always start out by “cutting in” or coating the flour with the fat first? The reasons for this is two fold. When fats coat the gluten strands in flour they shorten them and sort of protect them from over developing once the liquid is added. The more the gluten develops the tougher the product becomes and we are trying to avoid that. So by cutting in the fat we are giving ourselves a little insurance that we won’t accidentally overwork the glutens.
The second reason we cut the fat into the flour is to keep small pockets of the fat in the dough. You don’t want the fat completely mixed in evenly. A lot of the flakiness in a pie crust or biscuit comes from the pockets of solid fat. When the moisture in that fat begins to evaporate in the oven it creates steam and flakiness. By cutting the fat into the flour before adding the moisture you can keep these pieces of solid fat throughout the dough.
This part is where it is impossible to give you exact measurements. You are going to gently stir in water a few TBSP at a time until the dough can form into a ball. The amount that you will need really depends on where you live, the humidity that day, and how accurately you measured your flour. You want cold or ice water so that your fat stays solidified in those little pockets that you created. Be very gentle at this point and don’t stir too much or overwork the dough. We gave ourselves a little bit of insurance with the fat, but you can definitely create a tough dough by being too rough with it once the water is added!
I like to roll the dough out a piece of parchment or wax paper. I think it makes the rolling process much easier and I hate throwing flour all around my counter. I also thinks this eliminates the need for excess flour. You may need a little bit if you added too much water, but typically you won’t need any which will help keep your crust flakey. You want to roll the dough out to be a few inches larger in diameter than your pie plate. This way you can ensure that it will fit the depth of the plate and you can create an edge. You really don’t want to stretch the dough out once you put it into the plate. You want it to lay easily and fit into the plate. When rolling out the dough, start in the middle and move the rolling pin out to the side. Don’t roll back and forth and back and forth. Always go from middle to edge. Then pick the rolling pin back up and go from the middle to the edge. You are trying to be gentle here.
Gently pull the parchment paper up from one side of the crust and lay it into the plate then gently remove the other side. Pull up on the edges of the crust so that it lays into the plate without you stretching it out. I will typically pop the crust into the freezer for about 5 minutes before baking to make sure that the fat has solidified in case it has started to become too soft after working the dough. And that’s it! You can have a homemade pie crust in less than 15 minutes without all the mess!
I use this crust for fruit pies, hand pies, and even savory pies and quiche! Simple and perfect with only 4 ingredients!
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- kosher salt
- 1 cup shortening
- ice water
- Place the flour in a large bowl and add a large pinch or two of salt. Mix together.
- Add the shortening into the flour and cut in using a pastry cutter or fork until the consistency of coarse meal.
- Gently stir in water a couple of TBSP at a time until the dough can form into a ball.
- *This recipe creates enough for a double crust. You can keep the dough refrigerated for up to 3 days tightly wrapped or freeze for up to 3 months.