Stella Parks' No-Stress, Super-Flaky Pie Crust

By Genius Recipes
August 15, 2017
44 Comments


Author Notes: This is the flaky pie dough recipe that 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 much. This recipe proves an unexpected path that’s easier for us all to understand without prior knowledge or intuition. Recipe adapted from BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts by Stella Parks (W.W. Norton & Company, 2017).Genius Recipes

Makes: two 9-inch (23cm) single pie crusts or one double crust

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon (8 ounces/225g) all-purpose flour, preferably Gold Medal bleached flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, preferably Diamond Crystal
  • 8 ounces (225g/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch (1.3cm) cubes
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) very cold water

Directions

  1. To make the dough: Before your hands get messy, gather all your ingredients, plus a medium bowl, a whisk, a rubber spatula, a rolling pin, a 9-inch (23cm) pie plate (preferably glass), and a bench scraper or offset spatula (or other thin spatula-like thing). A ruler and a pair of kitchen shears will help, too.
  2. Whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together in a medium bowl, then add the butter. Toss the butter cubes in the flour, separating any stuck-together cubes with your fingers, then pinch each cube flat with your fingers, to about 1/4-inch (6mm) thick—don’t work the butter in more! Stir in the cold water with a rubber spatula and press and knead together until the dough comes together in a ball. Dump the ball onto a heavily floured work surface, sprinkle the top with more flour, and use a rolling pin to roll out a rectangle that’s roughly 10 x 15 inches (25 x 38cm), with the longer side closest to you, adding as much flour as you need along the way to keep it from sticking. (If your kitchen is very warm and, at any point, the butter gets melty and sticky, gather the dough onto a baking sheet and pop it into the fridge till it firms up a little, 15 minutes or so.)
  3. Slide an offset spatula under the dough to loosen it from the counter, then fold each 10-inch (25cm) side toward the middle so the edges meet, then close the packet like a book. Fold the book in half, top to bottom, then slice the dough in half horizontally, so you have two roughly equal-sized rectangles of dough. (If it’s warmer than 72°F (22°C) in your kitchen, you might want to refrigerate the dough for 15 to 20 minutes before proceeding.)
  4. Wrap one portion of dough in plastic wrap and chill it while you get to work on the other one, or freeze for later it if you don’t plan on using it right away. Roll the remaining portion out 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6mm) thick, into a 14-inch (36cm) round. Feel for sticky patches on top and underneath as you go, smoothing flour over them if needed. Brush off any excess flour, then drape the dough over your 9-inch (23cm) pie pan and lift the edges of the dough to drape the sides down into the corners without stretching the dough. Trim the excess to a 1 1/4-inch (3cm) overhang all around, then fold it under and press to seal it well, creating a 3/4-inch (2cm) border. Crimp with your fingers or a fork into whatever decorative edge you like. 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.
  5. To make a double-crusted pie: Roll the remaining dough as before, or, for a lattice-top pie, roll into a 9 x 15-inch (23cm x 38cm) rectangle. Transfer the entire sheet, uncut, to a baking sheet. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to overnight. Use as directed in your favorite recipe.
  6. To blind-bake for a single-crusted pie (and have one portion of dough left over): Heat the oven to 350°F (175°C) with a rack positioned in the lower-middle. Line the chilled crust with a 16-inch (40cm) square of foil (not parchment or wax paper), pressing it against the dough and letting the excess hang over the sides. Fill the crust to the brim with sugar, a no-waste alternative to traditional options like rice or dried beans (once cool, the roasted sugar can be stored and used in any recipe in place of granulated sugar).
  7. Set the pie pan on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the crust is cooked through and lightly browned, about 1 hour (using a glass pan makes it easy to check the underside to make sure it’s nicely browned). Remove the crust from oven and carefully lift out the foil with both hands and set aside on a plate until the sugar has fully cooled. Cool the crust to room temperature and use within 12 hours. Once cool, store the roasted sugar airtight at room temperature. To use the other half of the dough if frozen, thaw in the fridge overnight first.

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Reviews (44) Questions (1)

44 Comments

Candice September 21, 2018
This pie crust recipe is not for a beginner or "budding pie baker." It is also not "no-stress." As others have said, it is not enough for a double crust pie. Because of all the butter in it, it becomes very soft and difficult to work with. I did not want to add a lot of extra flour to it which would cause it to become too tough. I have made other recipes which are flaky and tender without all the hassle this one has. Ugggh!
 
Kristen M. October 5, 2018
Hi Candice, I'm so sorry it was a frustrating experience for you. I wonder if not having enough for a double crust pie depends on how deep your pie pan is, and how thinly you roll your dough. I tend to roll mine 1/8-inch thick, but I know others go closer to 1/4 inch. Stella uses a glass pie pan, so it's likely shallower than some. The number one pie dough tip I have, for this or other doughs, is to just stick it back on a baking sheet and into the fridge (or freezer) briefly if it starts getting too sticky or soft, which I mentioned at the end of step 2.
 
Ashdoes December 29, 2017
I have found this to be barely enough for two 9in pumpkin pies. This makes my pies look ameturish, because I cannot press the edges in anyway. Generally I’ve been rolling the ends in, wherever there is a tiny bit extra. <br />With that said, this crust is fantastic tasting, and people notice the difference. I’ve been tempted to up all but the butter, and see how it goes. Any suggestions?
 
msmely December 29, 2017
I suspect the recipe expects you to incorporate a substantial amount more flour in the rolling and shaping, which may help bulk up the dough somewhat. I found this recipe to be acceptable for 2x10" square galettes, and then for 3 double crust pies made in 1lb aluminum takeout containers. I had to be strategic with the double crust pies, using the bigger pieces for the bottom. I agree that one will not end up with tons of extra dough.
 
Ashdoes December 30, 2017
I watched her make the crust in a video, and she did addquite a bit more for rolling. I bake a lot of bread, where adding more or too much more flour can change the end result. Maybe I’m being overly cautious. As with all baking, trial and error is the way of it...I’ll just make more pies :)
 
Elizabeth N. August 9, 2018
Do you blind bake your crust for pumpkin pie? I never have and was wondering if that would keep the crust from getting mushy.
 
Ashdoes August 9, 2018
I only ever blind-bake if the recipe calls for it. My current Pumpkin pie recipe does not, and it comes out fantastic with this crust.
 
Caren B. December 21, 2017
Hi I just read recipe for blind bake crust. You really Baked the crust at 350 degrees for an hour? That seems way too long. Recipe sounds great but didn’t want to burn a crust.
 
Kristen M. December 21, 2017
Yes, it works! Stella explains why in great detail here: http://www.seriouseats.com/2016/10/how-to-blind-bake-a-pie-crust.html
 
Loreal November 24, 2017
Wonderful proportions, but the method is waaaaay too fussy. I've had success a number of times just cutting in the butter with a pastry blender until the butter is evenly cut into pea-sized chunks, stir the water in with a fork until it you're incorporated all the dry ingredients, turn the mixture out onto a floured counter, knead it into a smooth ball, divide the ball into 2 parts. Voila--dough for two pie crusts!
 
msmely December 29, 2017
I didn't find it fussy at all, the folds finish off the incorporating of the dough which eliminates the kneading step. You end up only barely working the dough and ending up with a perfectly homogenized crust that folds together neatly in a perfect rectangle. No kneading involved and you end up with the perfect amount of gluten development. The gluten you do get is from stretchy well hydrated dough that's laminated between layers of butter. This displaced my favourite (food processor) method precisely because it requires no tools and achieved even better results! Once the very cold water was added I used my finger to mix it together just barely like a dough hook. Her advice about using an abundant amount of flour to roll it out is spot on, and also applies to the serious eats food processor method.
 
Sarahpeaches November 23, 2017
This recipe did not work at all for me. I usually make shortening crusts, but I was hoping this would help make the butter crust flaky. It was terrible! Rolling out the dough twice made it way too tough and chewy, I don't understand how this works for everyone else.
 
msmely December 29, 2017
I wonder if perhaps once the water was added the dough was worked too much before rolling out. The trick is to dump it on the counter before it's fully homogenized, the rolling and folding steps finish off the mixing and then there's less toughness. I did find a final chilling/relaxation step was very necessary to let the gluten relax. She prefers to do the incorporation and shaping in one step and then chill the shaped crust. I made a galette, so I chilled and then did the final roll before assembly and returned my galette to the fridge. I suspect this helped to make sure the gluten was well relaxed before baking.
 
daisybrain November 22, 2017
I have never had a problem with making pie crusts and initially found the instructions for this one rather fussy but... change can be goo right. Really I was so pleased with the results. One thing, I froze everything (except my rolling slap because it won't fit in the freezer). I tossed the flour with the butter cubes and put that in the freezer and put the rolling pin in there too. I had no sticking at all the crust was super flaky. Also I did end up incorporating quite a bit of extra flour. I'll be using this recipe again.
 
Gigi S. September 7, 2017
Hmmm, I must not have refrigerated it long enough because my crusts were not tender and flaky. I froze one so maybe that one will be better. I hope so!!<br />
 
Brooke W. September 5, 2017
I made this yesterday and had trouble rolling it out. It kept shrinking back as I rolled it out. I also felt like it wasn't enough dough for two crusts. Other than that, it was tasty and flaky and I will adjust the ingredient amounts to get the amount of dough I would like. Not sure why it was shrinking up. It was definitely chilled long enough...
 
msmely December 29, 2017
Shrinkage is a sign the gluten needs to relax. The elasticity shows itself by pulling the dough back in. Throwing the dough back in the fridge before a final shaping may improve this!
 
Gigi September 4, 2017
I made an Apple pie today with a lattice crust. It was hands down the best crust I have ever eaten. Just perfect. Even the bottom was flaky. I froze the butter first and carefully cut it into uniform cubes so that one smash per cube did the trick. I cut off 1/3 of the dough for my lattice top and wrapped and put that into the fridge to stay cold while I prepared everything. It left me with a very generous amount of dough for the bottom of my deep fish pie plate. This will be my only pie crust recipe from now on.
 
Anne August 30, 2017
Hi! I was wondering if this dough will work for handpies?
 
Elizabeth S. August 28, 2017
Hi! Thanks for all the very helpful comments. I love pie. I love pie crusts. I make terrible pie crusts. The best one I ever made was from an English medieval cookbook that I bought ages ago and lost in a move! I have been struggling ever since. I want to try this crust and stop using store bought crusts. My question: can I freeze the crusts for a few days? Due to my schedule, I like to make the crusts on a Sunday and then make the pies during the week. Any thoughts are must appreciated.
 
Sophia H. August 28, 2017
I made enough for several pies and placed them in the freezer for months. I did not wrap them properly, so they were a bit dry, but they worked fine.<br />
 
Beth August 24, 2017
Came back from Maine the other day, with a ton of wild blueberries. So tomorrow, I'm making this crust and then making a blueberry and peach pie, great peaches from the farmer's market, too. I prefer a lattice top, but question: After I blind bake the shell, then fill it and bake again with the lattice, will the crust get overdone? Will the lattice top be underdone? A bit concerned, because the recipe here only provides instructions for the bottom, not how to bake the pie with a top crust or lattice.
 
Patsy1 August 27, 2017
It will work. Better to have the bottom crust baked. It's a wonderful recipe and foolproof.
 
Beth August 27, 2017
So I re-read the recipe, and realized it recommends blind baking only if that's what the recipe calls for. So I made the crust up through step five, wrapped in plastic wrap and put in the fridge overnight. The next morning, I made the filling for this pie: https://food52.com/recipes/23301-lattice-top-peach-and-blueberry-pie-with-rye-crust The comments agree that the rye crust didn't work. But I had fresh peaches and blueberries, so I made that filling with this crust. I took the uncooked crust out of the fridge and unwrapped it, used a lightly beaten egg white to brush all over the bottom and sides, then filled it with the filling. I rolled out the other half of the dough and made a lattice top. This is the best pie I have ever made. The dough was flaky and held up to the juicy pie beautifully. By the way, my filling was so juicy, that I lifted the fruit filling with a slotted spoon, leaving more than a cup of liquid in the bowl. The pie was perfect. Also, I added the yolk back to the egg white after filling the pie and making the lattice top. Then I brushed the beaten whole egg over the lattice, sprinkled with coarse sugar, and baked. Did I say it was perfect? It really was.
 
LL August 21, 2017
This recipe is amazing. I am impressed by how easy the dough is to work, and how fast it is to prepare. I just made 4 batches in preparation for sour cherry pie, and they were the easiest crusts I have ever made. I first made the recipe a few days ago, and was impressed by how well it stood up to the pie filling, and also how flaky it is. A true winner.
 
Melanie W. August 21, 2017
Please excuse my need for elaboration, but can you explain what "close the packet like a book" mean? I looked at the pictures and I still don't get it. Thank you.
 
LL August 21, 2017
After you fold the two edges towards the centre, you then fold one half on top of the other, as if you were closing a book. You end up with a long, narrow rectangle which is 4 layers thick.
 
Cynthia D. August 20, 2017
This crust really was easier than traditional recipes, and it was very flaky and yummy. I did not bother with the long chilling times stated in the recipe; I just chilled the dough long enough to make it easy to handle. I was grateful I was not being told to use my food processor just to make pie crust. I hate washing that thing (or having it hog half the space in my dishwasher). I'll be making this recipe again for sure.
 
Sophia H. August 20, 2017
I started using this crust a couple Summers ago. I really love it. And I use Bob's red Mill, or king Arthur ap and it still works. She uses certain brands because they are reliable for hey recipes.
 
PJ August 20, 2017
Why Gold Metal bleached vs. all purpose unbleached other brands?
 
Linda August 20, 2017
Was wondering if anyone has found an acceptable non-dairy butter substitute for this recipe. My husband is allergic to dairy, (but not ghee) - also would need to substitute to spelt flour (yep, more allergies!), but I am well used to adjusting for ancient grain flours.
 
Cheryl August 20, 2017
For a butter substitute I'd suggest Earth Balance Butter without Soy. It's super good, it's non dairy and it's vegan and you can't tell the difference.
 
Linda August 20, 2017
Fantastic - thank you so much! It is exactly what I have in the fridge, and have used for several years, but because of the water content I wasn't sure how it would work for this crust - have you tried it?
 
Dawn D. August 20, 2017
Has anyone tried to substitute with Bob's Mill Gluten Free Baking Mix for the flour? Thanks!
 
Kt4 August 20, 2017
I'm too am hoping someone will give some feedback/insight on how gf flour works in this.
 
Cheryl August 20, 2017
I've not made this recipe with gluten free flour, but I can tell you from experience, that how something turns out, is all in the flour. I've tried Bob's and didn't like it. I tried several gluten-free flours and didn't like them. Many things landed in the trash. Then I found a gluten-free flour I hadn't tried and figured, why not? Well...it seemed I hit the jackpot. The flour I came across by shear accident, is Trader Joe's Gluten Free Flour. Unlike most other gluten free flours, it's not made with pulverized beans. I've baked a lot of different things using that flour and with awesome results. It's my 41 year old daughter that can't eat gluten and her and her co-workers are always amazed at how things don't taste gluten free when using that flour. I just wanted to share that in case either of you, or someone else, might be interested. Also, when I do make this gluten free, I will gladly post the results and let you know how it turns out. Though it will likely be a few days before I do it as I used the last of my gluten free flour yesterday and Trader Joe's is about 45 minutes north of me.
 
Sophia H. August 20, 2017
If you want to know if Stella Parks thinks it will work, you can email her either through bravetart.com, or serious eats. She will get back to you, and she loves making gluten free pastries and cakes.
 
Dawn D. August 25, 2017
Yes Sophia, you are correct, and Stella Parks has many Gluten Free recipe options on her website bravetart.com - all look fabulous. She also has a new cookbook which is just available.
 
judy August 20, 2017
Well, I have tried EVERY possible hack to make a great pie crust. ALL have failed: soggy bottom every time for both pumpkin pie and apple pie and lemon meringue pie. The ones I make the most. This past year I didn't even bother. Pumpkin custard in ramekins, apple cobblers and crisps, and lemon custard with meringue tops and a graham shortbread cookie to go with. So this fall I will try this as pie season once again comes upon us. Well, maybe I'll try a lemon meringue today. It is still summer time, and I haven't made one yet. Mostly because of that darn crust....And lemons are definitely in season, hmmmm. And I just bought some GREAT butter. And picked up some eggs from our local egg lady...Are you sure about Gold Medal flour? I have Bob's Red Mill....maybe I'll use that because I have it and report back. So I guess I have talked myself into making lemon pie. Not that hard to do, as I make an amazing one, except for the crust..... Although a couple have said this is not that good for blind baking. Well, lets give it a try and I;ll report back. So excited!!!
 
judy September 18, 2017
Well,folks THis recipe works GREAT!. I used spelt four and followed the guidelines from this website for using spelt, https://www.thespruce.com/basic-spelt-pie-crust-2952851<br />and the directions here for pie crust. The only difference is that I added 1 TBSP of white vinegar to the recipe. Amazing piecrust, flaky, a little tough, but I think that had to do with trying to figure out the baking time. An hour is too long in my oven. I'll stop at 45 minutes next time. But the crust was to die for. And went together like a dream. I let it sit for severeal hours before rolling because I was busy. Just brought to warm enoug to do final roll out. No breaking, no tearing, went into pan beautifully, was able to do lovely crimping. Bilnd baked for my lemon meringue pie. Will make an apple pie soon, as it is harvest season. That will be two crusts and raw baking. Different approach. I've got my glass pans on order so that I can see the bottom of the pie. Deep dish of course. I hope that you will try the spelt, very nice flavor.
 
karen D. October 30, 2017
I will tell you an issue of Fine Cooking magazine and my tinkering with that recipe cracked the pie crust code for me. Its a simple ratio to follow: 1 stick of butter for each cup of flour. I usually use 1.5 cups of flour for a deep dish pie. I add about a tsp of salt and T of sugar per cup of flour. Cut very cold butter in 1-2 T patties & drop in the flour. Here's the magic step: Press the butter flat between your fingers repeatedly and work it until the flour feels like damp sand in your hands. This will take about 5 minutes by hand. You'll see clumps of flattened butter but the most important thing is make sure ALL the flour is coated in butter before you add water = no gluten forms when you add water. You'll notice the flour will go from feeling dry to feeling heavier and very damp when it's completely coated. Add about 5-6 T of ice water for 1 1/2 cups of flour. Add the water in different corners of your bowl and stir with a fork. Ball up the dough while it's still in the bowl with your hands. If it doesn't come together well add another T or 2 of water. Place the dough on your counter and flatten out a rough disc with your hands. It should be about an inch thick. Fold it over on itself in thirds and re-flatten two more times (think biscuits) then wrap it up in Saran wrap and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. This pie crust NEVER fails, never shrinks (gluten formation causes shrinking) is very tender/flaky. Always bake your pies in the lower portion of your oven. Pre-bake when necessary. Use beans and parchment to prevent the crust from sliding down the side of the pie plate. I rarely pre-bake though. I use dark metal heavy pie tins (Williams-Sonoma gold or pyrex for even browning. If you really want to geek out replace some of the butter with organic leaf lard (I have a Natural Grocers which carries an organic brand of lard. Don't use the stuff from a regular grocery store. Full of chemicals and not good for you.) You'll be amazed what a little lard will do to the tenderness of a pie crust. I get rave reviews for my pie crust. Will have to try the method above, but have my reservations because raw flour is mixed with water. My guess is because of the generous amount of butter called for it eventually breaks down some of the gluten. Am always open to trying new methods.