Four Ingredient Flaky Pie Dough
Pie is an American favorite food! It is incredibly rare that I meet someone that honestly does not like some type of pie. We all have a favorite, and many of us (myself included!!!) love the rich flakey pie crust just as much as what makes the pie filling.
I have to admit that I cannot pick a favorite filling between: a cinnamon-y apple pie, a well spiced pumpkin pie, and a sweet (canned) cherry pie. Sometimes what you like is what you grew up with, and I have never made a cherry pie I preferred over the canned-to-last-forever cherry pie filling from the store.
Regardless of your favorite pie, a great filling alone wont make the worlds best pie. You also need a fantastic pie crust recipe! Here is a super easy one that I grew up making with my mom! (Secret Time: growing up, if we had leftover pie, my Mom sometimes let us have it for breakfast since it had ‘fruit’ LOL-Thanks MOM!)
To start, you need a whopping four ingredients for a great flaky pie dough. And two of them are ice water and salt, so I promise this is an easy recipe! Total, you need 3 cups all-purpose white flour, 1 cup of fat (I prefer shortening for pie, but butter or lard are also work), 1 teaspoon salt, and approximately 10 tablespoons of ice water (optional: egg wash or milk to brush the crust before baking-assists only with the browning of the dough). This recipe will make enough dough for either two bottom crusts, or one bottom and one top crust. I almost always ‘lattice’ my pie crust and this dough works really well for it!
Once you have gathered your ingredients, you want to start by cutting your shortening into smaller pieces and spoon measure/knife level your flour. This is also where you want to add the salt (oops, I forgot a picture of this!) but you DO NOT want to add the water yet!
- I personally prefer the extra flakiness that shortening adds to this dough once baked. I also have never tried the ‘butter flavored’ shortening. Actual butter is absolutely an easy swap that can be made if you don’t have shortening! If I don’t have enough shortening (I almost exclusively use it for pie dough) then sometimes I do half shortening and half butter.
- The idea behind spooning the flour into your measuring cup then using a knife to level it out is this method makes precision easier for you. Scooping the measuring cup into the flour itself can overly compact the flour and affect the results just as not leveling the measuring cup can by having you add too much flour into the recipe.
I use a pastry blender to cut the flour into the shortening, but you likely have a few other items in your kitchen that can easily substitute for this unitasker. If you do not have a pastry blender, you may also be able to use a potato masher or a larger serving fork. Basically, you are trying to combine the shortening and flour into equal, small sized pieces–say the size of a green pea or smaller. By hand, this is at most a five minute activity. If you do not mind cleaning extra dishes (a pet peeve of mine) then your standard food processor can also do this job very quickly–about 30 seconds using the pulse setting!
Now that the first three ingredients have incorporated into a loose floury mixture, you may add the water. The water is a hard bit to measure and say with 100% confidence how much you will need until you start working the dough. I typically use around 10 tablespoons in this recipe, but sometimes 8 is enough, sometimes I need 12 or 13 tablespoons. What you want to do is start with 5-6 tablespoons, then hand mix and add more as needed until the dough comes together and you are able to form a dough. You want the dough to be firm enough to stay together without flaking (we don’t want flaky dough until AFTER it has baked!) and the dough should be soft enough to roll with a rolling pin. Tip: if the dough becomes sticky at any point, you may have added a bit too much water and can counterbalance by adding a tablespoon or two of flour.
Yes, you will get a bit messy doing this, so it might be a good idea to roll up your sleeves and take off any nice rings and/or bracelets before you start hand mixing 🙂
One of the secrets to that super yummy flaky pie dough is the temperature of the dough when it goes in the oven. We want to ensure the shortening is still cold when the baking magic starts, so after we have hand mixed (and warmed the dough) it needs time to rest and chill in the fridge. I recommend 2 hours minimum, but overnight is perfectly fine too!
When you are ready to continue, you will flour your rolling mat and start rolling half of the dough. Remember, the full recipe is enough for two bottom crusts–for a pumpkin pie or any pie you want with a streusel topping–or for one bottom crust and one top crust. I use a nine inch pie plate and make sure that the dough is rolled to about 11 inches diameter, or enough to fill the dish bottom/sides with a bit of extra over hang, which will be trimmed before baking.
Now you may fill your pie with your desired topping and bake! Or alternatively, bake the pie crust empty for a yummy cold pie, such as a chocolate pudding pie or a peanut butter delight pie! Look for an upcoming post with more info about how to lattice a pie!
Four Ingredient Flaky Pie Dough
- 3 cups all-purpose white flour
- 1 cup of fat (I prefer shortening for pie, but butter or lard are also work)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- approximately 10 tablespoons of ice water
- (optional: egg wash or milk to brush the crust before baking-assists only with the browning of the dough)
- Gather and measure your ingredients
- Cut your fat of choice into smaller pieces. Measure flour using spoon and level method. Add salt.
- Cut the flour/salt into the shortening using a pastry blender (or large serving fork or potato masher) until mixture is crumbly and biggest pieces are the size of a green pea or smaller
- Add 5-6 tablespoons of water, incorporate by mixing with hands, then add additional tablespoons as needed until dough forms.
- Form dough into a ball, wrap tightly, and refrigerate minimum 2 hours.
- Dust your workspace with flour, roll only half of the dough out at a time
- Either fill the pie shell and use 2nd half of dough as the topping and bake (optional egg wash) at 425 degrees
- Or bake empty at 400 degrees if using for cold pies
- The optional fifth ingredient is your choice of an egg wash or a bit of milk to brush the finished pie with prior to baking. What it will do for you is help the crust get that pinterest worthy soft brown finish as it bakes!
- If your dough is too sticky, you may have added too much water. Counterbalance this by adding one tablespoon of flour at a time.
- At this time I do not recommend using alternative flours with this recipe. I know from experience that coconut flour will make for a crumbly and dry dough. Check back and maybe I’ll have the answer for you here one day!
- A useful example of lard could be leftover bacon grease–I would only use it in a pie recipe if you first strained the bits of bacon out of the grease before you store it. Otherwise your pie might taste a bit too salty and/or like bacon, which could be a happy surprise depending on your filling.
- Dough scraps? Bake them with a bit of cinnamon and sugar for an easy and quick treat!