Guest Editors

Four & Twenty Blackbirds' All-Butter Pie Crust

By • November 11, 2013 • 68 Comments

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For #PieWeek, our guest editors are Emily and Melissa Elsen, the pie mavens behind Four & Twenty Blackbirds in Brooklyn, NY. They will be sharing recipes all week from their first cookbook, and giving away a copy each day!

Today: We start at the very beginning. With crust.

All-Butter Pie Crust on Food52

A mutual passion for executing the perfect pie crust was probably what truly started us on our journey into pie making. While Emily had gotten excited about making pies from a sculptural, hands-on perspective, it was Melissa who would take our crust recipe and tweak it (over and over again) to perfection with the addition of cider vinegar for tang and tenderness.

To this day you might still find us arguing about perfect crust execution, but we definitely agree that to work in our kitchen, you must have the ability to make a good crust, no matter the size or temperature of your hands. In our opinion, when it comes to baking pie for yourself and your friends and family, it's all about how you, the pie maker, handle it, and not what a machine can do for you.

All-Butter Crust

Makes one single-crust (9- or 10-inch) pie; double amounts for a double-crust pie

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/4 pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup cold water
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 cup ice

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photo by Gentl & Hyers

To win a copy of The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book, tell us in the comments: What's your go-to pie crust recipe? We'll pick winners at random at the end of the week! (Unfortunately, we can only ship domestically.)

Jump to Comments (68)

Tags: pie, pie crust, baking, pie week, four & twenty blackbirds, emily elsen, melissa elsen

Comments (68)


2 months ago rhubarb! rhubarb! rhubarb!

Does anyone find this way too moist? Most pie crust recipes use a few tablespoons of ice water until the dough comes together, but this recipe has an almost 1:1 flour to water ratio?


11 months ago Peggy V

I learned to make pie crust from my aunt who lived to be 107! She was the official pie maker for our family. She would 'dance' around to roll it was always very flakey. She used lard "Not too much ice water and cut the dough until it is the size of peas" she would say.


11 months ago Bex Kramer

Tupperware has a pie crust recipe that you shake in a tupperware bowl (from the 70's)


11 months ago SEASPRAY

My go to pie crust recipe is using lard instead of butter, so flaky


11 months ago laci scott

dorie greenspan has been pretty dang good to me!


11 months ago Lisa A. Babbitt

America's Test Kitchen's Foolproof Pie Dough has worked for me. Vodka instead of water is used.


11 months ago sarabclever

I've been using the chez pim recipe. But always all butter (maybe some lard)--no margarine for me.


11 months ago Melissa Estell Poppert

My grandmother's recipe from Mexico which is mainly used for super flaky empanadas.


11 months ago Marygrace

I use Martha Stewarts pate brisee recipe. Always a winner


11 months ago Tenaya

I always use Alice Water's crust from the Art of Simple Food. It's just butter, flour, salt and water, but the addition of cider vinegar sounds like an amazing idea!


12 months ago E Garcia

Dorie Greenspan's Good-For-Almost-Everything pie crust


12 months ago hemlockcreek

the delux butter crust recipe from the joy of cooking - with local butter and local half-white flour


12 months ago garsleat

flour, colder water, dash of salt, cubed chilled butter and by hand feel.


12 months ago Lil Rinaldi

I use both Martha Stewarts pate brisee and a whole wheat recipe from Hungry Tigress. Love them both.


12 months ago Fabiola

My pie recipe comes from the book "The Art and Soul of Baking", Cindy Mushet. Soooo flaky and light. This book is actualy my under the arm book for all base recipes


12 months ago Ashley-Marie

I have to admit I've only made pie a few times, so this cookbook would teach me A LOT. I've always used a basic pie crust recipe actually from Food52 that you blind bake. I've read a bunch of recipes lately that use pate brisee, so I'd be willing to try that since people have said it's not a fussy recipe. Obviously, I'm dying for new inspiration in the pie department! Thanks for sharing Emily & Melissa's pie crust recipe!!



12 months ago Patricia Copeland

The James Beard piecrust that has both AP flour and cake flour in the ingredients is super flaky.


12 months ago Laura Shubert

I use emily nichols grossi of em.i.lis oil based crust. So much like my moms...Primo!


12 months ago Boulder Butter

Bouchon Bakery's pate brisee has never failed me. I am definitely going to try this out though. I have long dreamed of going to this bakery, and sign me up for an all-butter crust any day :)
P.S. the black bottom oatmeal pie! Goodness, I just stared at my screen with a wide open mouth for about 5 minutes.


12 months ago beckster51

Cook's Illustrated vodka pie crust recipe. It is forgiving, and I am a pie crust klutz. I love pie, but I can never seem to improve my pie crust skills, dang it!


12 months ago Jean

Simply Recipes: All Butter Crust for Sweet and Savory Pies (Pâte Brisée)


12 months ago aspics

Jim Dodge's recipe from Baking with Julia. All butter with proportions as for this recipe (without the cider vinegar). You use a rolling pin to incorporate the butter into flour. Makes lovely, flakey crust.


12 months ago meagan.lane

I use a combination of smitten kitchen and martha stewart's pie be honest, the recipe sounds a lot like this one :)


12 months ago sticksnscones

My "go to" crust is from Cooks Illustrated. It uses vodka in the dough. It is a fairly wet dough & I usually don't need to add all the liquid. It freezes beautifully


12 months ago hadleyinparis

My favorite pie crust recipe is from the Franco-British cookbook, Rose Bakery. I love their pate sablé and pate brisé!


12 months ago cookinginvictoria

My favorite pie crust is Dorie Greenspan's "Good For Almost Anything Pie Dough" recipe from Baking: From My Home To Yours. The only modification that I make is that I substitute leaf lard for vegetable shortening. this recipe is wonderfully flaky and very easy to roll out.


12 months ago missfats

I go for Smitten Kitchen's Foolproof Pie Dough! So easy.


12 months ago andie

My mother-in-law always tells me to use lard, but I stick to European cultured butter. I use Deborah Madison's recipe from her Seasonal Fruit Desserts book. She also uses a little vinegar and an egg yolk. It's perfect every time.


12 months ago KimmyV

I use my mother in laws old recipe. It calls for shortening. Her pies always look amazing, mine could use some work...


12 months ago HelloMyNamesJen

The pie crust in Millicent Souris's "how to build a better pie" -/ took her class at Brooklyn Kitchen. It's never let me down once! Great, great educational cookbook too, for the novice baker!


12 months ago Hillary

I'm still searching for my go-to pie crust recipe. Maybe this will be it!


12 months ago MaggieMay

I've relied on the Cook's Illustrated/Best Recipe version for years, but I'm becoming more curious about all-butter crusts. My recipe is very similar technique-wise to this one and the Smitten Kitchen version but it includes shortening. It works really well, but I'm sure the flavor would be even better with butter.


12 months ago Carol

I have a similar recipe - however I love making savory pies. So in place of cold water, I have used cold soy sauce, cold citrus juices or chicken broth. Omit the sugar of course!


12 months ago Nothing in the House

My go-to recipe is very similar to 4 and 20 blackbirds-- all butter with a little dash of apple cider vinegar for tang and flake, and everything COLD! Recipe right here: http://www.nothinginthehouse...


12 months ago Kathryn

Smitten Kitchen has a fantastic pie crust recipe that has been my staple for the past year or so. It's called "All Butter, Really Flaky Pie Dough." It really is really flaky.


12 months ago Crystal Conway

Must say I cheat and buy mine but have really wanted to make them from scratch this season.


12 months ago Rebecca

Have not made a lot of pies, but did recently make an apple pie which I used the recipe from America's test kitchen book. But this recipe sounds good, especially with the acv.


12 months ago Davis Bliss

Jacques Pepin's recipe for pate brisee. Works every time.


12 months ago Robin O'D

The only pies I usually make are mince pies at Christmas. I use Nigella's recipe which has orange juice in it.


12 months ago Tonya

OH the fear... the fear of making pie crust- I desire the perfect flaky perfect crust but have not conquered it yet- so I make crisp:(.... I will try....


12 months ago gay judson

Julia Child's: 1 3/4 flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 chilled stick butter
2 TBS chilled shortening
1/3 to 1/2 cup ice water
Made in food processor. Works great for me everytime.


12 months ago Mona Davies

My mom made a beautiful pie crust...shattering crisp and flaky. I've been trying to replicate it for many years, but alas. I need ll the help I can get!


12 months ago Rock and Roll

Chez Panisse pie crust


12 months ago Laura

I like to use the crust recipe from The Pie & Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum.


12 months ago Sylvia Carroll

60 yrs old and never made a pie crust. Looking forward to trying this recipe


12 months ago Meg Roosa

For years I used my grandmother's "secret" family recipe, which uses crisco shortening. More recently I've enjoyed Martha Stewart's all-butter pate brisee. Excited to see what cider vinegar does for a pie crust!


12 months ago PieceOfLayerCake

While I can't divulge my actual ratio…I use a very basic all-butter crust for all sweet pies. Its not really the ingredients, but how I bring them together (hint: I borrow from lamenated dough). For savory pies, other than quiche, I use beef suet or leaf lard…depending on the delicacy, or lack thereof, of the filling.


12 months ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

I like weighing and scaling according to need, so my go-to since discovering Ruhlman's "Ratio" has been to use the CIA instructor's ratio for pie crust included in that book. Before that, I used a James Beard all-butter recipe more than any other. Since high quality leaf lard has been available in recent years, I've added a good portion of lard for crusts used in savory pies. Just yesterday I went the part butter/part shortening route while making/freezing for Thanksgiving mrslarkins' Truly Scrumptious Apple Pie. ;o)


12 months ago ALW

The all-butter, really flaky pie dough from Smitten Kitchen is my go-to, but I'll be giving this a try!


12 months ago foodertoire

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
splash of ice water
1 teaspoon sugar
2 sticks cold butter


12 months ago chrissyb

The recipe that came with my cherry berry crumble pie that was adapted from a Taste of Home recipe. It uses butter but I can substitute shortening in it.


12 months ago Kim Curtis

I will for sure be trying this one, I have been using the Pate Brisee from MS for many years. Love the use of food proc. as I make alot and then freeze. Thanks for this at a Great time of the Year!


12 months ago K cooks

I use the pie crust recipe from Barefoot Contessa Foolproof. It's easy to make in the food processor and easy to roll out.


12 months ago Christopher

I tend to use Smitten Kitchen's most often (


12 months ago Breakfast at Tiffony's

Martha Stewart's Pate Brisee recipe - but I am definitely trying this for Thanksgiving!!


12 months ago anntruelove

I don't have one, which is a big problem. I hope this all butter recipe will be it!


12 months ago Maddie

I like the vegan pie crust recipe from Babycakes, although I went to Four and Twenty Blackbirds this weekend and loved it! Can't wait to make some pies from their cookbook for Thanksgiving!


12 months ago Miss_Mary

I'm looking for the fool-proof method of knowing when I have added enough liquid to the dough. I don't seem to be able to nail that one reliably.
p.s. the book is beautiful! I would love to win a copy!


12 months ago JJ Goode

Hi, Emily and Melissa! It was so lovely to see you guys at the farmers market on Saturday. Thank you for signing my book! Can't wait to make my first pie crust.


12 months ago cristinasciarra

Lately I've been using Saveur's method ( with good results.


12 months ago Matilda Luk

I used to be very loyal to J. Kenji Alt-Lopez's easy pie dough at Serious Eats but the last couple of times it hasn't turned out as well as it has in the past (I think my cooking mojo is off). Maybe it's time to try the vinegar.


12 months ago Lara

I tend to use a blend of shortening and butter -- love to change things up with a splash of rye flour, though!


12 months ago heyjude

I use leaf lard and butter to make the perfect crust I learned at Kate McDermott's Pie Camp.


12 months ago juleeclip

My go-to pie crust is also an all butter grandma hand me down. I like an all butter crust as pies are my favorite baking project so I like the simplicity and knowing that I always have the ingredients on hand. This has convinced me it's time to finally try adding vinegar for Thanksgiving.


12 months ago Libbi

my go to crust is alice water's all butter pie crust. but i just got the four and twenty blackbirds cookbook, used their crust recipe and made their salted caramel apple pie. it was amazing.


12 months ago SoICook

My go to pie crust comes from Baking With Julia. It's a beautiful and reliable all purpose crust that also happens to make something like four crusts at a time which is awesome! The recipe calls for part butter and part vegetable shortening but I've subbed in everything from duck fat, lard and even just more butter instead of the shortening- it always works.


12 months ago Ashley

My go to pie crust recipe is from my Grandma, but it never turns out as good as hers!


12 months ago Heather

My go-to pie crust is the 3-2-1 crust from Ruhlman's Ratio (well, honestly, from before then - it's an old idea) using all unsalted butter and adding salt. Also adjusted for humidity. One day I'd like to get a hold of some good lard and give that a try, but the stuff from the store does NOT give a flavorful crust