Genius Recipes

This Genius, Super-Flaky Pie Crust Changes Everything in Piedom

August 16, 2017

Whether you've made zero pies in your life or hundreds—or thousands!—this dough will change your life.

The recipe comes from Stella Parks, a.k.a. the baker, science whiz, and sugar historian behind BraveTart the blog (and the spectacularly genius baking cookbook that dropped yesterday). Her all-butter crust is not only one of the flakiest and most fun to make, but it also stands to make the biggest difference for a budding pie baker.

Because have you ever thought about what “till the mixture resembles coarse crumbs” means to a first-timer? Not really. Even when authors say the butter should be pea-sized, it’s never all pea-sized, so what proportion of pea-ish-ness are we talking about there?

I don’t mean to overcomplicate and scare you away from other recipes—none of this needs to be precise. But Parks' technique proves an unexpected, weed-whacking offroad path that’s easier for us all to understand without prior knowledge or intuition.

Instead of divining peas, she has us simply pinch big cubes of butter flat in the flour, then stir in exactly half a cup of very cold water (not a varying amount depending on humidity/feel/which house the moon is in). Because the dough is so moist and worked so little, you can then use as much flour as you need in rolling and it all evens out.

But how are you able to leave the butter pieces so massive? And what about all that flour that doesn’t get to rub about with butter, as it would in most other methods?

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Because you then roll it roughly into a rectangle and fold it like a T-shirt, the butter is distributed into biiiig flakes (an act similar in spirit, but not in intensity, to making puff pastry). Ta-da!

The crust is among the flakiest I’ve ever had, and yet a child could make it without having to watch a YouTube video or google “coarse crumbs.”

I asked the Food52 staff—from our pastry-pro co-founders to one generous spirit who’d never made a pie before, and everyone in between—to help me test this dough in all sorts of ways: at high heat and low heat, in slab galettes and latticed double-crust numbers. It worked beautifully every time, for every one.

I've been noticing a growing horde of the Food52 community already in love with this dough, too—join us?

Photos by Julia Gartland

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • ann myssiorek
    ann myssiorek
  • Rosalind Paaswell
    Rosalind Paaswell
  • Diane
  • Rprp
  • Jaye Bee
    Jaye Bee
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


ann M. November 22, 2019
Can I make this ahead without freezing it? How many days?
Kristen M. November 25, 2019
Here are Stella's instructions from the recipe page, step 4 (so for anything longer than overnight, I would freeze and thaw): Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight. Alternatively, the crust can be frozen for up to 3 months and thawed overnight in the fridge before baking.
ann M. November 26, 2019
thank you. that's what it seemed t say. was just wonderjng if any one had personal experience with making the dough ahead. made mine yesterday. it's in the freezer for wednesday.
Rosalind P. June 22, 2019
I'm kinda late coming to this, so for what it's worth: the first thing that struck me, before the technique, was that the flour/fat proportions are pretty much those for quick puff pastry -- (the kind where you DON'T make a dough first (the trompe) and then fold it a zillion times to incorporate a with a big block of flour-coated butter). Standard flaky pie dough proportions are 3 flour:2 butter:1 water. This 1:1. -- a big difference. I do like the butter/flour pinch technique, and plan to try it with the standard flaky dough 3-2-1 proportions. And I also have my emergency go-to if the dough won't come together: the vodka method, from Cook's Illustrated. (Vodka is 60% water and 40% alcohol, so while it gets the dough wet, you can use two tablespoons of vodka in place of one tablespoon of water. The result is wet enough to help the dough come together but not enough water to make the pastry tough. A mediocre baker's (me) best friend.
Diane June 6, 2019
I made this yesterday. I have to confess I did not add the sugar but otherwise followed this exactly. It turned out amazing!! The crust is so incredibly flaky and light. I'd say this is the best I've ever made (in terms of pie crust). Thank you.
Rprp November 23, 2018
Help, please. My crusts shrank terribly. Dough rested in fridge twice, once after mixing and again after rolling and shaping. Any hints?
Kristen M. November 24, 2018
Hi there, I'm so sorry to hear it. Did you see the post with 5 tips for success that I put up the day before Thanksgiving? I'll link to it below, but the most likely culprits would be using higher-protein flour (bleached flours, like Stella's recommended Gold Medal, are lower in protein, so less prone to forming gluten and therefore make more tender and relaxed pie crusts) or kneading or otherwise working it a bit too much.
Rprp November 25, 2018
Thanks for getting back to me. I already use bleached flour for pie crusts, precisely for the protein level. BUT: I use 1/3white whole wheat and 2/3 bleached all-purpose. And I do tend to overhandle but I assume overnight resting will counteract that. Not so? THANKS again for your help.
Kristen M. November 25, 2018
Not necessarily so—this technique likely gives more opportunity for gluten to form, with the large amount of water and exposed flour that hasn't had butter worked in, which is why Stella recommends bleached low protein flour and a long rest after rolling out and crimping right away (or as close to it as possible). I'd recommend giving her guidelines a try again! There is quite a lot of butter, so they'll still shrink a bit and not hold their shape as well as a shortening crust, for example, but the flavor and flakes are worth it!
Jaye B. September 18, 2018
Is this pie crust recipe in both the Bravetart and Genius Recipes cookbooks?
Kristen M. September 19, 2018
Yes! In BraveTart and Genius Desserts—two spectacular, must-own baking resources ;)
cosmiccook August 8, 2018
Stella uses (tested) GM rather than King Arthur or Lily White as the PROTEIN % is different, which will affect the final pie. explains it more thoroughly. She also talks about the bleaching method and how important it is for ALL your ingredients and TOOLS to be chilled. I've used this recipe many times. I think if the crust shrunk its because the dough is worked too much--STILL a problem w me! Her toasted sugar is wonderful too.
Cassandra B. December 20, 2017
This is quite similar to one I've been making for years from Chez's called, appropriately enough, The One Pie Dough to Rule Them All! It uses the fraisage method, but this one looks even easier.
Beverly B. November 21, 2017
Just made this pie crust for my pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving and will have to redo as they shrunk so much upon blind baking. I froze the pie crust before baking, lined with foil and filled with dried beans, and baked at 350 as indicated. Instructions did not call for pricking before baking but I'm not sure that would have helped. Crust tastes delicious but cannot be used. Any suggestions? Plan to redo tomorrow in the hopes that 2nd round will shrink less.
Kathy K. September 3, 2017
Heavens... I have been making pie crusts for umpteen years, never as good as my mother's half butter half crisco (the old kind not the new stuff) crusts. This beats them all to heck and beyond. Flaky is not the sufficient as a description! But next time I will try it with about 1/4 less butter (I know French pie dough recipes that call for only 7 tbs for 1.5 c. of flour!) to see if I can get something as flaky and a bit less rich.
Oh.. for those interested, I made it with no sugar since it was for a tomato tart, not a sweet pie.
witloof August 30, 2017
I'm not sure I will ever be able to tear myself away from the pat-in pie crust I learned from Amanda's mom's peach tart (from an old old edition of Fannie Farmer) but the serious game changer for me was being instructed by this same author to blind bake by filling the crust with sugar. That is truly genius!
DoctorRob August 30, 2017
Can you give more detail about blind baking with sugar?
witloof October 9, 2017
Sorry didn't see this until now. She has you line the raw crust with foil and then fill the pie shell with sugar. Here is the article from Serious Eats.
Taiya C. August 26, 2017
i am always trying new pastry recipes and I'm so glad i tried this one everyone agreed best pie ever. thanks for sharing
Colette August 25, 2017
There are several small flour mills-organic- that produce flour that is ,non GMO ,great for the environment and keeping the food supply safe and taste lost in mass over produced food. Google for sources. A commercial brand 'King Arthur Flour' offers a good product plus much more.
DoctorRob August 23, 2017
Jim Dodge came up with this technique about 25-30 years ago
Jenni August 21, 2017
This looks fantastic, I just don't do pastry because I'm no good at, but I might try this. I'm wondering whether rolling between sheets of cling film would help? Would still need the flour I imagine, but it would be easier to release (I think) or possibly parchment paper?
Kim F. August 21, 2017
I am completely scared of making pastry, but the permission to use plenty of flour on the board encouraged me with this one. I had no sticking problem as long as I kept checking it. try it!
Barb June 26, 2018
I know I'm 10 months late with this, but I'd try something less flimsy, like wax paper, to roll it out if you find that's difficult.
kim August 20, 2017
Since she is so specific on the brand of flour is it dumb to ask if it would work with whole wheat flour?
Stacy I. August 20, 2017
This was my first attempt at making pie crust and what a win! This crust reminds me of a delicious flaky butter croissant. I was never a huge pie fan before, but this crust totally converted me to the dark side. High quality butter is a must. Run to trader joes for their european cultured butter. You're welcome.
Kim F. August 20, 2017
I used local white Ap flour (weighed) and 1 stick of butter grated on the coarse side. I am NOT an expert pie maker! But all I can say is...WOW! Flake city! It 's like puff pastry! Rolling it out felt more like pizza dough--it was retracting a bit--which made me nervous. I made a chard tart with it. The bottom cooked beautifully. Next time I will try with Miyokos vegan butter which is a favorite of mine. Thank you Food52!
Shelly August 20, 2017
I to am curious about the flour. My experience with baking, is most of the "pros" like White Lily flour. They use a red winter wheat, which makes a difference in their flour as opposed to others. I do notice a difference when I bake with White lily. I will try this recipe with each flour and see if it makes a differences in the pie crust.
Bea February 22, 2018
When I use White Kill I have to add ¼ c extra because you have a much softer lighter flour. I usually use King Arthur Flour, I refuse to use Gold Medal I don't care for it. My daughter uses it but her crusts tend to shrink a lot!
Connie T. August 20, 2017
This recipe first appeared on cans of Spry—a solid shortening—back in the 1960s. My wonderfully creative cousin ripped the label off his Spry can and gave it to me when I raved about the crust on the pie he’d served me in 1963. I can’t understand why this method never caught on with the pastry crowd or with anyone, for that matter. When I tell you this is the easiest crust you’ll ever make, I mean it. You’ve probably never made crust like this, and the process flies in the face of pastry experts and seasoned bakers out there who’ve always preached that pie crust must be prepared cold—very cold—and that is a real pain to do correctly. This crust uses hot liquids, but it works and is a snap to prepare. It is easily doubled, tripled, or quadrupled and freezes well, so you can make it two months ahead and pull it out to prepare a delicious homemade pie any time! Great for chicken or beef pot pies, too. You’ll never go back to that pastry blender!

1 cup solid shortening (plain, NOT butter-flavored)
6 Tbs water
2 tsp milk
2 ½ cups flour
1 tsp salt
Measure out flour and salt; mix and set aside. Place shortening in a medium bowl and spread it evenly over the bottom. In a small saucepan, bring water and milk to a boil, and pour over shortening. Beat with a fork till smooth and thick. Add flour and salt. Stir gently with the fork, then mix with fingers gently so as not to toughen till well blended.
Form two equal balls of dough, which will be soft and warm. I like to roll it out between two sheets of wax paper to a thickness of about ¼-inch. It’s easy to peel off the top paper, pick the whole mess up and flip it on to the pie pan. Carefully peel the other paper off,. If you tear the crust, it is easily patched. Position, trim and pinch taking care to eliminate any air bubbles. (I prick them with a fork then pat it to close the holes.)
Makes 2 crusts
Debra T. August 21, 2017
Could you please send me the recipe.
Connie T. August 24, 2017
Recipe is posted above. Just copy and paste.
Bea February 22, 2018
Thanks, I want to try it !
Jaye B. September 17, 2018
Connie - this recipe is fascinating to me for two reasons: it's really different; and, my mother was a truly great baker but I never saw her make anything but a traditional pie crust (she did it by sight & feel). She did like to experiment and I wonder if she never knew about this technique because she always used Crisco so wouldn't have seen it. I'm going to try it!
Connie T. September 18, 2018
Crisco works just fine, Jaye Bee. Remember that flour develops gluten when worked too vigorously. When adding the flour/salt to the hot, creamy Crisco mix, remember to do it gently but thoroughly. Hope you love it like I do!
Jaye B. September 18, 2018
I wonder if it would work with lard? My mom usually used lard for pie crusts but always had Crisco in the house for a variety of things which is why I mentioned it. :)
Connie T. November 23, 2018
I never used lard, but I can't see why it wouldn't work. It would probably add another level of flavor too. Leave a comment on my blog:
Michael F. August 20, 2017
One thing that reduced the angst of pie crust making was a pastry sheet. No, not the cloth thing you stretched out and then waited for the embedded shortening/butter to turn rancid. There's a silicone version now that works like a wonder on my granite counter tops, requires very little flour to roll out the dough and then pops into the dishwasher. It's restored my confidence with a rolling pin.