Make Ahead

Four & Twenty Blackbirds' All-Butter Pie Crust

September  8, 2021
10 Ratings
Photo by Gentl & Hyers
  • Prep time 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Makes Dough for 1 single-crust 9- to 10-inch pie or tart
Author Notes

This is one of our staple crusts used at the shop. It's also featured in a variety of our pies included in The Four and Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book. —ElsenEM

Test Kitchen Notes

As we gear up for the holidays, there comes a point when everyone has to have their go-to, classic, can't-fail pie crust recipe. This version, which features cider vinegar and, obviously, lots of butter, is one of our favorites. Just keep in mind that it's best to work quickly, so the butter doesn't get too warmed when incorporating it, and make sure it's very cold before you get started. It's also recommended using your hands or bench scraper to mix instead of a food processor.

After our tester, Sarah Jampel, made this recipe, here are some helpful notes to keep in mind: "I loved making this dough, even though the recipe does call for dirtying a bench scraper and a pastry blender. While there is value in using your hands to feel the texture of the dough, I find it easier to keep the temperature under control when I'm not warming up the ingredients with my body heat. The dough rolled out easily, cracking in only a few areas. I was surprised by the impact of a small amount of an ingredient (here, it's vinegar, not shortening)—but this time, pleasantly so! The pie crust had a tang I was not expecting, and was one of the highest-rising doughs in the group: The discs look like biscuits in miniature! ... It might very well be myth that vinegar makes pie dough more tender, but based on these results, if I have vinegar in my pantry, I'll surely be adding it to my pie dough, if only for the very subtle zing it added." —The Editors

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Four & Twenty Blackbirds' All-Butter Pie Crust
  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1/2 cup ice
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  1. In a large bowl, stir the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter and coat with the flour mixture with a bench scraper or spatula.
  2. Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour mixture, working quickly until mostly pea-size pieces of butter remain (a few larger pieces are okay; be careful not to overblend).
  3. In a large measuring cup or small bowl, combine the water, ice, and vinegar. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the ice water mixture over the flour mixture. Mix and cut it in with the bench scraper or spatula until fully incorporated.
  4. Add more of the ice water mixture, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, using the bench scraper or your hands (or both) to mix until the dough comes together in a ball, with some dry bits remaining.
  5. Squeeze and pinch with your fingertips to bring all the dough together, sprinkling the dry bits with small drops of the ice water mixture, if necessary, to combine.
  6. Shape the dough into a flat disc, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to preferably overnight to give the crust time to mellow.
  7. If making the double-crust version, divide the dough in half before shaping each portion into flat discs.
  8. Do Ahead: The dough can be made 3 days ahead. Wrap tightly and keep chilled, or freeze for up to 1 month.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Marcy Goldman
    Marcy Goldman
  • Kathie McDonald Rost
    Kathie McDonald Rost
  • Cipora
  • Kari Inness
    Kari Inness
  • SideworkEnds
Sisters Emily Elsen and Melissa Elsen were born and raised in the rural farm town of Hecla, South Dakota. Their mother and her sisters owned and operated the popular local restaurant, the Calico Kitchen, for which their grandmother Liz made all the pies. After pursuing different careers—Melissa in finance and Emily in sculpture and photography—they established their business in Brooklyn. They originally custom-baked pies in their apartment before opening Four & Twenty Blackbirds pie and coffee shop in 2010. Named “Artisan of the Year” by Time Out New York in 2011, they have received critical praise for their pies and have been featured in a variety of food media including the Food Network and the Cooking Channel, in the New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, and New York magazine.

29 Reviews

Morquessewen September 4, 2022
Really confused by the negative comments for this recipe. It is a DREAM. I made the flakiest, melt-in-your-mouth pastry of my life following this recipe. Total joy!
Truthdaugh November 26, 2020
Tried this recipe for Thanksgiving — HORRIFIC results. Made it once — the butter let off so much smoke that it set off the smoke alarm? I cleaned my oven and made it again. Same result! I’ve made hundreds of pies and this looked like a child made it. Avoid disaster! Use ANY. OTHER. RECIPE.
Cynthia S. September 28, 2020
My go-to crust. Works every time. No need to use a food processor, though I guess you can, but you’d have to be careful of over doing it. Its so easy to do it by hand and it’s perfectly flaky and buttery. Puzzled by some of the poorer reviews.
cookinalong July 1, 2018
I've tried this a few times, and it's just OK. For anyone who has never made pie crust before, using ice is tricky. It's an almost sure way to end up using too much liquid, if you're a newbie. I find it sufficient to pop the measuring cup of water in the freezer for about 10 minutes, assemble all the dry ingredients, and go from there. And always the food processor. The secret is to pulse, not process. Never fails.
Marcy G. June 6, 2018
This was a pretty good pie dough but I could taste the vinegar (!). On my next try I added 2 tsp. lemon juice instead to 1/4 cup whipping cream (leaving 1/4 cup ice water for the full 1/2 cup liquid). So I had a tad more fat in the form of soured (nicely acidic) cream. Huge success and great taste!
L April 20, 2018
Sadly, this was disappointing. The butter began separating from the dough once it began baking. The crust was very hard and tough to eat and way too much melted butter was left in the dish after baking. After researching the problem, I feel there is too much liquid or butter in this recipe. Also the baking temperature is missing. I chose 425 degrees.
Sarah February 21, 2018
Just made this! First time ever making pie crust and it turned out perfect! Used it to make a savory galette. I ended up using maybe half of the total water mixture and only refrigerated it for 1 hour. Rolled it out, filled it with sauteed greens and cheese, folded the crust over, topped crust with half/half, pepper, & more cheese, and baked it at 400 for about 35 minutes. It was buttery and flakey and so tasty.
Kathie M. November 24, 2017
Tried this for 4 pies the other day at was AWFUL to work with and doesn't taste as good as all butter either! Followed the recipe exactly and have lots of piecrust experience. I wish I'd stayed with the tried nd true recipe. My daughter was trying to do lattice and braiding, and it just kept breaking, she had to totally give up on the braids. Not a good recipe at all!
B February 23, 2018
If you're gonna be making a big batch of something for an event, don't use a recipe you haven't worked with before! At the very least, make a test/practice batch a day (or more) before you do the "real thing"
Monica B. November 28, 2019
Also the notes say this is not the recipe to use for lattice. My daughter made her first solo pie with this and it was amazing.
Bob S. November 19, 2017
Okay, I'm a rookie. I ran this through the food processor. All proportions were correct. It came out totally soupy. Did I let the butter get too warm? Did I over process?
AOK November 20, 2017
Bob sorry about your luck. Soupy pie crust is a mystery by me. I can maybe give you a few pieces of advice. "Did I let the butter get too warm" is definitely a red flag. You must keep the butter COLD. If it has become room temperature, you will not have good results. You literally want small chunks of cold butter in the dough that you will see when you roll it out. I cut up my cold butter and then stick the cut up pieces into the freezer and pull it back out right after I've measured my dry ingredients and mixed up the water/cider/ice mixture. I am also wondering if you dumped in the entire amount of ice/water/cider mixture. That mixture is really meant as a guideline. And the ice is there just to keep the water & cider cold - you should still have a fair amount of ice still left after you've used the water/cider mixture. And you have to add the mixture sparingly and a little at a time into your dough so that you add just enough to combine without making the dough wet. I almost always have leftover liquid that I did not use. And finally, while you probably can mix this in the food processor, the directions here say to use a bench scraper. You may think it seems weird at first, but just get yourself 2 bench scrapers (don't even need the pastry cutter - just use the bench scrapers) and save yourself having to drag out and clean your food processor. You literally dump the dry ingredients onto your counter and then holding a scraper in each hand, scoop and chop the butter and flour together, then slowly add in the liquid a little at time until it reaches the point where you can work it with your hands. Keeping things cold is the key. I sometimes even put some ice packs on my counter for a little while to chill my counter down (just make sure it is dry before you start working). Also, mix up the water/cider/ice mixture right before you get started and pop that into the fridge or freezer (you really don't want to take any time for the butter to cool off while you're doing something else). And you can even put your flour in the freezer too.

Don't fret over your first try. It is a shame to have wasted the ingredients, but just give it another try. Keep your ingredients cold, make sure you keep some of the butter chunks in there, and mix in liquids just enough to make it workable, and don't over handle it. Once you get the hang of it, you'll see it really is pretty simple to make your own crust. Personally I've made this crust recipe a few times and don't care for it (although others here apparently like it). You may want to try a part butter, part shortening crust. Good luck! Let us know how your second attempt worked out.
AOK November 28, 2017
Bob - You may want to try this recipe. I like it (actually the Pumpkin Pie recipe there is fantastic as well), and you may find the step by step instructions with photos a lot more helpful.
Bob S. November 28, 2017
Thank you!
Nancy S. September 23, 2017
The prettiest, flakiest crust I have ever made, but it has no taste and is tough when cooked. The quest for perfect crust continues.
Amelia H. September 4, 2016
This is the best pie crust recipe I have ever come across. Guests tell me that eating my pies are like eating a big flaky croissant filled with fruit. I try to maintain large chunks of butter in the dough, and knead minimally. I will never use another pie crust recipe as long as I live!
Jen July 18, 2016
What is the temp and time if I want to pre-bake this crust? Thank you.
Cipora July 15, 2015
This is my go-to crust. It comes out flaky and delicious every time I've tried it, and is super easy. The first time I tried it I mixed it in the mix master and it came out perfectly. This time I used a pastry cutter and it came out just as perfectly. Much love to the chefs.
AOK November 24, 2014
I have made this recipe three times and I am sorry but it is just not good. The first couple of times I made it, I told myself it didn't come out right because I had overhandled or rolled out too thick. But the third time I made sure to do everything right and it still sucked. It is not crisp and tastes uncooked. Even the scraps that I cook with cinnamon sugar weren't good. Three times is enough for me, my mother's shortening recipe is the keeper.
Margaret S. October 22, 2014
Has anyone tried it using gluten free flour?
Samantha Z. June 17, 2018
I baked this dough using a GF flour mix and it turned out quite nicely. The only thing I did differently was when I rolled out the dough, I sandwiched the disc between two pieces of parchment paper. Otherwise the dough will stick to any surface you are working on.
SuSanFran December 31, 2013
I've made this crust twice now, and It's now my go to pie crust. Flawless, easy to work with, flaky results. I also love the fragrance of the cider vinegar wafting up as you roll it out. Next time I'll try the vodka, to see how it's different.
Kari I. November 19, 2013
Please help the pie newbie! Partially prebaking this for the black bottom oatmeal pie....I've never done that and I tried it this weekend with poor results as it only partially rose and then turned out thin and chewy on the bottom after I baked it with the filling. Please help me with this so I done ruin another pie!
SideworkEnds November 18, 2013
used this recipe over the weekend and I loved it. The dough came together easily and flawlessly, baked up tender and flaky, and with a lovely butter flavor. Definitely a time to use good butter. This is my new go-to pie crust recipe; I already made and froze 4 more of them in preparation for Thanksgiving.
Judi November 12, 2013
Julia Child, from The Way To Cook (slightly adapted from Mastering). All butter. Use the food processor. Never fails.
Alex R. November 12, 2013
I always go double crust.
2.5 c flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1.5 sticks butter
3 tbsp lard
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1/4 cup of cold water

A little bit of lard gives the pie crust an incredible savoriness of roasted meats that complements the fruitiness of the pies. For a brief second, this crust will transport you to the original Thanksgiving when the air was fresher, the apples sweeter, and the power of pie undeniable.
Countrygirl6354 August 13, 2020
Love your way of thinking w the Lard... Now that's alot of love to all recipes. Could you by chance e mail me this hun please. I would so appreciate it. This sounded like my grandmother's pie crust exactly.