[Y]ou know what breaks my heart? Store-bough pie crust. It’s a tragedy. It’s a crime against good pie. It’s illegal in at least eight states. It’s not cool and I just can’t let you do it to yourself. See, store-bought pie crust is usually made up of unpronounceable fats that can’t possibly taste good. What does taste good? Butter in pie crust. Two syllables. Approachable and delicious.
Let’s talk about how to make the best pie crust from scratch. All it takes is a bit of confidence, a good amount of cold butter, tenacity, and a love of pie.
A pastry teacher once told me that ingredients can smell your fear. It’s true. Butter can sense your hesitation. With these tips, I hope you’re inspired to get in the kitchen this holiday season and make a pie. You can totally do it. I’m a believer… and also, I’ll know if you buy a store-bought crust. I have a sense about these things.
Here’s the lowdown on pie crust.
• Flour, sugar, and salt are whisked together.
• Cold, cubed butter is added and broken down into the dry ingredients.
• Buttermilk is stirred in creating a shaggy but moist-ish dough.
• With a wink and a prayer, dough is kneaded together, left to rest in the refrigerator, then rolled out into a buttery, sturdy, soon-to-be-flakey dough.
You can do it, here’s some extra know-how:
1. The first rule of successful pie crust: Keep your butter cold!
See, there’s a reason that our fat starts cold and needs to stay cold before the pie crust hits the oven. Butter is made up of milk solids and water. When cold butter hits a hot oven, the water in the butter evaporates quickly, helping to create a flavorful and flakey crust. When warm, soft butter goes into a hot oven, the butter weeps in the crust before it evaporates. No one wants a weepy butter crust.
2. Dough will be shaggy and that’s just right!
Pea size cold butter chunks dotting the flour mixture will create a shaggy and marbled dough. Keep in mind that your dough will be on the shaggy side of cohesive once you add the buttermilk. It’s not perfect and that’s exactly right.
3. An hour of rest in the refrigerator is essential!
After the dough comes together into a shaggy disk, wrap in plastic wrap or wax paper and refrigerate for 1 hour. This time is everything! It will allow the butter to rechill and allow the moisture to distribute through the dough.
4. Rolling out is a relationship.
Rolling out pie crust requires patience and intention. Once you get the hang of things, it takes about 4 minutes from start to finish ensuring that the dough doesn’t warm and ooze before it’s completely rolled out. Flour a large work surface well. Start in the center of the dough by rolling your pin back and forth with firm even pressure. Pick the dough up and rotate it around the floured surface to make sure the dough isn’t sticking as you roll it out. Don’t worry about making a perfect circle / Don’t worry if you have cracks around the edges / Don’t be scared. You can totally do this.
5. Chill out again!
My favorite pie tins are the small, thin metal pie tins. They house a humble pie and the thin metal heats up quickly in the oven allowing that magical butter/water/evaporation science to create the flakiest pie crust. Allow the pie crust to chill in the refrigerator while the pie baking oven preheats. Butter = Cold.
Let these pies into your heart this holiday season. I want you to want this.
• Bourbon Pecan Pie with Dark Chocolate // Rich and nutty with melted chocolate and bourbon, too! Maybe this pie instead of Thanksgiving turkey? Why not?
• Dad’s Perfect Sweet Potato Pie // No exaggeration when I say this is perfect. Creamy, earthy, not just pumpkin pie, super extra delicious just do it.
• Salty Honey Pie // Sweet, salty, and creamy.
• Creamy Pumpkin Pie Bars // A press-in crust with butter and oats if you’re still intimidated about the whole pie crust situation. I’m looking out for you.Print
Buttermilk Pie Crust
- Prep Time: 0 hours
- Cook Time: 0 hours
- Total Time: 0 hours
- Yield: makes 2 pie crusts 1x
- 2 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
- 1/2 cup cold buttermilk plus 2 to 3 tablespoons more if your dough is dry
- To make the crust, in a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and salt. Add cold, cubed butter and, using your fingers, work the butter into the flour mixture. Quickly break the butter down into the flour mixture, some butter pieces will be the size of oat flakes, some will be the size of peas.
- Create a well in the butter and flour mixture and pour in the cold buttermilk. Use a fork to bring to dough together. Try to moisten all of the flour bits. On a lightly floured work surface, dump out the dough mixture. It will be moist and shaggy. That’s perfect. Divide the dough in two and gently knead into two disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- To assemble the pie, remove one of the pie dough disks from the fridge. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out into about a 13-inch round. Roll the dough a few strokes, then use your fingers to move the emerging circle around the floured surface. This ensures that the dough isn’t sticking to the work surface. The circle won’t be perfect, that’s ok.
- Try not to get any tears in the rolled out dough, but if you do, they can be patched together with extra dough. When you roll the dough and you can see it start springing back, that means that the butter is warming and the crust shouldn’t be rolled out anymore. Gently lift the 13-inch round from the floured surface and center in a deep 9-inch round pie dish. Place in the fridge while you roll out the top crust.
- Roll out the top crust just as you did the bottom crust, moving the dough across the floured surface every once in a while, and creating a roughly 13-inch circle.
- Bake pie according to your particular recipe. Share. Enjoy!
I would love a future tutorial on pre-baking a pie crust. Every time I try I end up with a sagging butter-blob. I use kidney beans as my pie weights, is it time to invest in the real deal?
I have the same problem with pre-baking! I’ve used beans and ceramic pie weights, with no difference. I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong? Is it the pie container? I usually use an Emile Henry one. Could that be it?
Carolyn I’ve heard Joy say in a video that she doesn’t pre-bake the pie crust.
Try using a fork to prick holes in the bottom (venting) – nothing fancy, just rough stab about an inch and a half apart all around and maybe three spaced kind of evenly in the middle. No bubbles because air isn’t trapped under the dough. This works so well, I threw away my beans.
Sharana @ Living The Sweet Life Blog
Great Tips!! I definitely need to work on my pie making skills — these will come in handy!!
I initially read the sixth word in 4. as “tears” pronounced “teers,” as in the stuff that comes out of your eyes when you are really upset about your lopsided, crumbly pie dough situation. I will try not to get any tears or tears in the rolled out dough. Thanks, Joy.
Loll that’s exactly how I read that too! Not sure why pie crust is such an enigma to be…I can bake bread in my sleep, and creme brûlée with my eyes closed…but the elusive pie crust humbles me every time.
The Kitchen Snob
Well calling myself The Kitchen Snob I have to admit – it should be a crime to use store bought crust. But what about those (like me) whose countertops are circa 1990 ceramic tile? The thought of rolling dough into the grout grooves really freaks me out. :-) This is why I hope Santa brings me a giant butcher block board from Williams Sonoma!
Buy yourself a Roul’pat to roll out your pastry on. Best invention ever! I love mine. No more rolling on the counter.
Girl Named Allyn
I made salty honey pie last night (DROOL SWOON), and… I used store bought. DON’T HATE ME. I just didn’t have the butter or time! But I swear on my bottle of bourbon, next time I will make the crust!
Joanna @ Everyday Made Fresh
That is almost the same recipe that I use, and your right COLD butter is key to the perfect flaky crust! By the way, those pies looks delicious!
You are so right about fear– bread is the same way. There you have a craggy mass of dough on your board it can sense if you approach it with hesitation. You have to take control and not be afraid of getting your hands full of wet dough. Yep!! I am definitely going to try the crust. Have you ever made it with vodka? I read about that too but haven’t tried it.
Iclal | Passion & Paranoia
I have forever been looking for a pie crust recipe and I think I have finally found it! Thank you soo much! I use to make fruit tarts, but I would buy the little crusts from a bakery in NYC and ever since I moved I have been looking for a good one but have never found it. I’m going to try this recipe this week!
I totally agree Joy that store bought pie crusts are a CRIME! I have made it my mission to teach my friends how to make homemade pie dough. That being said I still hope to attend one of your pie making workshops at King Arthur flours someday! Can’t wait to try a few of these pies for Thanksgiving. Happy Holidays to you!
Alessandra // the foodie teen
Great tips, and I love those step-by-step photos! I always make a double batch of pie crusts and freeze half the dough for any future pie cravings!
This is such a usefull post! In a lot of recipes, people refer to premade pie crust, but you can’t buy that where I live, so I needed a good recipe for the crust. Thanks a lot!
Is there something I could substitute for buttermilk? I live in Thailand and you can not purchase buttermilk here?
You can substitute buttermilk by adding a tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice and topping up with milk to make 1 cup. Easy as pie! You could also make real buttermilk if you have heavy cream. The Internet has many options!!
you can do this: Stir 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice into 1 cup of whole milk, then let it stand for 3 minutes. Or google buttermilk substitute ;)
Good substitute for buttermilk is 1 cup of milk, 1 1/2 teaspoons of cream of tartar and 1 tablespoon of white vinegar. Just stir until thick and use
Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar
Making pie crust is so soothing! I really find it gets me into a good head space. This recipe is lovely joy!
one question… Can I use food processor? cutting the cold butter into flour sometimes requires a lot of strength…will it change the results?
Rhea Gupte (@TheGirlFromFUSS)
Aah your blog is so beautiful and well put together! Love the photos!