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Flaky Pie Crust Recipe

by on May 24, 2013 · 65 comments

We’ve been making pie dough the same way in our kitchen for years. We cut butter (or other solid fat) into flour until the butter and flour looks crumbly and has pieces of butter the size of peas. Then, we add just enough water to form the dough into a ball.

We’ve found a better way. A pie crust recipe, rather pie crust method, that’s consistent and makes dough that’s a dream to roll out.

Flaky Pie Crust

It’s not that our previous method failed us. We just came across another way of how to make it. A while back Cooks Illustrated reworked pie dough. You may have heard of it — they added vodka to their recipe. (We don’t add vodka — I’ll get to that in a minute).

How We Make Our Pie Crust Now

Basically, Cooks Illustrated looked at the science behind pie crust — and it made sense. Our high school science teachers would be proud.

Here’s all you really need to know: Gluten is an enemy to pie crust. Some gluten is okay and actually needed for structure, but too much can really mess things up. So, remember this: less gluten formation = flakier and more tender pie crusts.

Back to the vodka. That’s what got all the hype — why wouldn’t it, right?

In their recipe, the vodka replaced some of the water. The theory is that vodka doesn’t promote gluten formation, whereas water does. So, by replacing part of the water with vodka, it helps the pie crust become flakier and more tender.

We love the idea and many swear it works, but adding a 1/4 cup of vodka to our homemade pie dough recipe just didn’t sit well with us. It’s not something we store in our home often and it’s expensive. (If you want to see the recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, Serious Eats has it here).

Perfect, Flaky Pie Crust Recipe — It’s About the Method

What’s more important than the vodka is the way you combine the flour and fat.

Remember that gluten is our enemy when it comes to pie dough? Well, Cook’s Illustrated found that if you thoroughly mix part of the flour with the fat (butter) and make a flour-butter paste first, every particle of that flour becomes coated in fat. Think of each particle of flour with butter raincoats. These raincoats make it very difficult for the flour to absorb water. In other words, it helps to prevent the development of too much gluten.

Then, you can add the remaining flour so the perfect amount of gluten develops. This means perfect pie crust, every time.

What We’re Looking For

To us, great pie crust doesn’t become all soggy from juicy fillings, but is light enough to flake.

Flaky Pie Crust

It isn’t crumbly, instead it’s made of long, thin layers of dough (see photo). It should stand up to fillings, but shouldn’t be chewy, hard or heavy.

So, after all that talk — did it work?

Yes. It really did. Our pie crust was tender with long thin layers of dough, making it perfectly flaky.

We love this method for two reasons — First, it’s consistent. By adding part of the flour to the butter first, combing them into a paste then adding the remaining flour, the recipe determines how much flour is being used for the formation of gluten. The dough is the same, every time.

Second, that butter and flour paste really helps when it comes to working with the dough. Since it’s more pliable, the dough is easily rolled out.

Making the Dough – By Food Processor or by Hand

The folks at Cooks Illustrated insist on using a food processor for this method. We sort of agree – It makes making the flour and butter paste easy.

Use the food processor to make the paste then add the remaining flour. Pulse a few times then transfer everything to a bowl and add water until the dough comes together. (You don’t want to add water to the food processor — that can overwork the dough and lead to extra gluten formation).

Using the food processor eliminates variability. If you have one, use it.

With all that said, we hate cleaning dishes and since a food processor means 5 parts to clean (yes we counted) we tried this method by hand.

It worked.

We used a pastry cutter to cut the butter into part of the flour and made as close to a paste as possible. The flour was moistened by the butter and the mixture looked like fresh breadcrumbs — it was not powdery from flour. Then, we cut in the remaining flour and added water until the dough came together.

The dough made by hand was just as easy to roll out and turned out just as flaky. In fact, the photo above is actually from dough made by hand, not the food processor. So, if you don’t have a food processor or are like us and hate the extra dishes, give making it by hand a go.

Flaky Pie Crust Recipe

How do you make pie crust? Do you have any tips to share. Please share in the comments below.

You May Also Like

  • This pie crust recipe from Simply Recipes is great. It uses a food processor.
  • If you like to use shortening in your pie crust, try this recipe from The Pioneer Woman.
  • Here are a few more tips for rolling out pie dough – Another option when rolling out the dough is to roll the dough out between two pieces of parchment or wax paper instead of using flour. Learn about this by reading Dori Greenspan’s post.
5.0 from 5 reviews
Flaky Pie Crust Recipe
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Why we love this recipe. This pie crust recipe, rather pie crust method makes consistent dough and makes dough that's a dream to roll out.

What you need to know. Using a food processor in this recipe eliminates variability. If you have one, use it. With that said, you can do this method by hand. Directions are provided below for using a processor and by hand.

Equipment you’ll need. If making with food processor, you will need a food processor, rubber spatula, chef’s knife, measuring cups, spoons and a medium bowl. If making by hand, you will need a chef’s knife, medium bowl, pastry blender (cutter), rubber spatula, measuring cups and spoons.
Created By:
Yield: One 9-inch double crust pie
You Will Need
  • 2 1/2 cups (360 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, optional
  • 1 cup (227 grams) very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (2 sticks)
  • 6 to 8 tablespoons ice water
Directions
If Making by Food Processor
  1. Add 1 1/2 cups flour, salt and sugar (optional) to a food processor. Pulse 2 to 3 times until combined.
  2. Scatter butter cubes over flour and process until a dough or paste begins to form, about 15 seconds. (There should be no uncoated flour).
  3. Scrape bowl, redistribute the flour-butter mixture then add remaining 1 cup of flour. Pulse 4 to 5 times until flour is evenly distributed. (Dough should look broken up and a little crumbly).
  4. Transfer to a medium bowl then sprinkle 6 tablespoons of ice water over mixture. Using a rubber spatula, press the dough into itself. The crumbs should begin to form larger clusters. If you pinch some of the dough and it holds together, it's ready. If the dough falls apart, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of extra water and continue to press until dough comes together.
  5. Remove dough from bowl and place in a mound on a clean surface. Work the dough just enough to form a ball. Cut ball in half then form each half into discs. Wrap each disc with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour, and up to 2 days. You can also freeze it for up to 3 months (just thaw it overnight in the fridge before using).
If Making by Hand
  1. Add 1 1/2 cups flour, salt and sugar (optional) to a medium bowl. Stir 2 to 3 times until combined.
  2. Scatter butter cubes over flour and mix briefly with a fork or spatula to coat the butter with flour.
  3. Cut the butter into the flour with a pastry blender, working mixture until the flour has a coarse, mealy texture similar to fresh bread crumbs. About 1 - 2 minutes.
  4. Add remaining 1 cup of flour. Work butter and flour with the pastry blender until flour is evenly distributed. About 20 seconds. (Dough should look crumbly with pea-sized pieces).
  5. Sprinkle 6 tablespoons of ice water over mixture. Using a rubber spatula, press the dough into itself. The crumbs should begin to form larger clusters. If you pinch some of the dough and it holds together, it's ready. If the dough falls apart, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of extra water and continue to press until dough comes together.
  6. Remove dough from bowl and place in a mound on a clean surface. Work the dough just enough to form a ball. Cut ball in half then form each half into discs. Wrap each disc with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour, and up to 2 days. You can also freeze it for up to 3 months (just thaw it overnight in the fridge before using).
How to Roll Out Dough
  1. Remove one of the dough discs from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 5 minutes.
  2. Lightly flour work surface, top of dough and rolling pin. Then use rolling pin to roll out dough to a 12-inch circle (about 1/8-inch thick). Be sure to check if the dough is sticking to the surface below -- add a small amount of flour when necessary.
  3. Check for size by inverting pie dish over dough round. Look for a 1-inch edge around the pie dish.
  4. To transfer dough to dish, starting at one end, roll dough around rolling pin then unroll over dish.
  5. Gently press dough down into dish so that it lines the bottom and sides of the dish. (Be careful not to pull or stretch the dough). Then, use a knife or pair of kitchen scissors to trim dough to within 1/2-inch of the edge of the dish.
  6. Fold edge of dough underneath itself so that it creates a thicker, 1/4-inch border that rests on the lip of the dish. Then, crimp edges by pressing the pointer finger of one hand against the edge of the dough from the inside of the dish while gently pressing with two knuckles of the other hand from the outside. Refrigerate dough at least 20 minutes or freeze for 5 minutes before baking.
  7. If making a double crust pie, do not crimp edges yet. Roll out second dough disc, fill pie then top with second dough round. Trim the edges then crimp.
How to Pre-Bake a Crust for a Single-Crust Pie (Perfect for quiches, custard, and cream pies)
  1. Heat the oven to 425º F. Place a baking sheet on a middle oven rack.
  2. Roll out enough dough to make one 9-inch crust (1 dough disk). Pierce the bottom of the crust with a fork (this prevent air pockets or bubbles from forming while baking). Line the crust with two sheets of aluminum foil. (Be sure to push foil against the edges of the crust). Then, fill foil with dried rice, dried beans or pie weights. Refrigerate 30 minutes or freeze for 10 minutes, or until firm to the touch.
  3. Place pie crust onto preheated baking sheet and reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees F (200 C). Bake 20 to 30 minutes or until the crust is golden.
  4. Make an egg wash by whisking one egg yolk and 1 tablespoon of cream in a small bowl. Then, remove rice, beans or pie weights and foil from pie crust. Brush the bottom and sides of the crust with egg wash. Bake until egg wash is dry and shiny, 3 to 5 minutes. Cool crust completely before filling.
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About the Author

Joanne

I'm Joanne Gallagher and alongside my husband, Adam, I develop, test and share favorite recipes from our kitchen. I'm completely in love with food and you'll most likely find me covered in flour, chocolate or both.

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65 Comments

1 Jennifer Kaiser June 17, 2013 at 1:39 am

Awesome crust recipe.

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2 Theresa June 29, 2013 at 11:42 am

How long do you bake crust? I’m making a fresh strawberry pie.

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3 Adam June 29, 2013 at 2:42 pm

The length of time to bake the crust will vary depending on the pie recipe you are using. We actually have a strawberry pie recipe and we bake it for 20-30 minutes. Here is the link to our strawberry pie recipe.

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4 Lourena July 25, 2013 at 9:29 pm

Delish! Thank you for the recipe! My pie tasted really good!!!

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5 Michael August 19, 2013 at 4:53 pm

Wow, looks great, I can’t wait to try this recipe.

thank you for the recipe and all the instructions, tips.
Michael

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6 bonnie August 25, 2013 at 12:47 pm

hey what if i want to make individual pies in a muffin pan? cook time or temp change? ill still make the same amount of dough but will these burn up fast?

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7 Adam August 27, 2013 at 4:08 pm

Hi there — It’s hard to tell without testing a full recipe. The baking time will definitely be shorter and we’d suggest reducing the temperature by 25 to 50 degrees F.

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8 Faye September 8, 2013 at 1:43 am

This is my new favorite pie crust recipe! I’ve tested it out against other recipes and this one worked the best for me. I used the Food Processor method and put my flour in the freezer to help keep everything cold. Love it!!

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9 Joanne September 8, 2013 at 3:09 pm

Awesome! So glad you found us :)

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10 John September 26, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Is there anything about this method that makes it a problem if the recipe is doubled for a two-crust pie?

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11 Joanne September 30, 2013 at 3:10 pm

This recipe above is for a two-crust pie. You should be set :)

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12 Sharon September 27, 2013 at 11:41 pm

Hi Adam & Joanne, do you do anything to prepare the pie dish beforehand to stop the crust sticking?

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13 Joanne September 30, 2013 at 3:05 pm

No, there is enough butter in the crust. Did your crust stick?

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14 Georgia November 12, 2013 at 12:52 pm

I made a batch of this crust by hand for a cranberry apple pie over the weekend. One word: AMAZING. It was so easy and yielded the most flaky, buttery crust. Loved it, and your tutorials were so helpful! This will be my go-to recipe for here on out. I’ll be sharing it tomorrow on my Links I Love post!

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15 Joanne November 12, 2013 at 5:55 pm

Awesome! So glad it worked well for you :)

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16 laura November 18, 2013 at 12:27 pm

I sure hope mine works! I did not end up with a doughy consistency with the first butter/flour processing. It was like there wasn’t enough butter even though I used exactly 1 cup/227 grams. i have such rotten luck w/ homemade piecrusts, but I’m determined to succeed!

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17 laura November 18, 2013 at 2:21 pm

The pie looks beautiful, however, so I think it worked :)

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18 Vickie L November 26, 2013 at 10:16 pm

I used this recipe for pumpkin pie and was absolutely glad i did. The outcome of my crust was flaky, flavorful, and beautiful. This recipe is so easy to follow and is delicious. Because i was making pumpkin pie which does not have a top layering of crust, i made 2 pies. I will use this recipe for my future pies, especially apple pie. The only mistake i made was when i cooked the crust alone for 2-3 minutes in the oven, i could already see the crust forming a flaky texture. The crust on the edge slowly crushed together which was difficult to put in the filling for the pie. But i stretched it out and fixed the pie.
I recommend this recipe to all looking for a flaky and easy to make pie crust.

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19 Joanne November 29, 2013 at 11:22 am

Awesome! We’re so glad the crust came out well for you :)

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20 Melissa November 27, 2013 at 12:35 pm

I’m about to make this crust and I’m super excited! However I don’t have kosher salt…I have fine ground sea salt (which seems to be a tiny bit more course than table salt), or I have regular table salt. Will either of these work??

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21 Joanne November 29, 2013 at 11:19 am

You can definitely use table salt. 1 teaspoon fine sea or table salt = about 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt. Hope that helps.

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22 Kathy Reynolds November 30, 2013 at 10:37 am

I loved it. Will make it again.

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23 Deb December 3, 2013 at 4:45 pm

Would the crust still be flaky if an aluminum pie pan is used?

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24 Joanne December 4, 2013 at 11:05 am

Yep, we have used an aluminum pie pan and had no issues.

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25 Diane December 13, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Opps….the blade is different right from when you pulse 2 to 3 times to combine the flour, salt and sugar, just before adding butter. So should we use the metal food processor blade when combining the flour mixture and butter?

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26 Joanne December 16, 2013 at 12:45 pm

The blade is the same. We don’t switch it. The standard blade should be used. (I think it is just the lighting of the video that makes it look like we changed it).

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27 tracy December 31, 2013 at 1:42 pm

Hi just wondering if you have to cook the pie crust before putting in the filling?

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28 Joanne January 7, 2014 at 11:34 am

It depends on which pie you are making. For our blueberry pie recipe, we do not par-bake.

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29 SHANITA January 1, 2014 at 12:32 pm

I WAS WONDERING CAN I USE A BLENDER INSTEAD OF A FOOD PROCESSOR? I DON’T HAVE A FOOD PROCESSOR.

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30 Joanne January 1, 2014 at 6:49 pm

We don’t recommend using a blender for this. You could try making it by hand. We have provided directions for how to do it in the recipe above.

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31 Liz Alexander January 23, 2014 at 9:54 pm

I have not made this yet but have two questions. I was always taught that the amount of fat/flour ratio in crust was 1/3 fat to flour. This recipe is approximately 1/2 fat. Also, is it still possible to use vodka for some of the water?

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32 Joanne January 30, 2014 at 12:50 pm

There are lots of different recipes for pie crust out there. This one (with a higher fat content) is our personal favorite. You could try the vodka — it definitely works.

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33 Cindy February 9, 2014 at 12:00 pm

I use a similar recipe and love it. I have my own sour cherry trees so I have the honor of having fresh cherry pie any time I want. Any left over crust I put cinnamon and sugar on it and bake it for a few minutes…the kids or grand kids love it…

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34 Lara February 14, 2014 at 3:46 am

When I took the dough out of the fridge it was quite hard. I had left it in the fridge for a day and a half. Is that normal? Can’t seem to make a dent into the dough with the rolling pin :(

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35 Joanne February 27, 2014 at 4:28 pm

Yep, that’s normal. Just leave it out for a few minutes until it is workable.

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36 Mike March 25, 2014 at 12:32 pm

I like/need to use barley flour because it has a lower glycemic index and gluten content than wheat flour. How should I change the recipe/method for making the pie crust when using barley flour?

Thanks.

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37 Joanne April 3, 2014 at 11:21 am

Hi Mike, We really are not sure since we have never made this recipe with barley flour. For some guidance we looked on the web and found this pie crust from 101 Cookbooks (it has rye flour): http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/a-nice-berry-pie-recipe.html

While it isn’t exactly what you asked about, you might find you can use that and adapt based on what you have at home. Hope that helps!

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38 Bruce April 3, 2014 at 8:32 pm

Are you using American or Canadian all-purpose flour?

Why do I ask? The last time I was checking, they are not the same.
Canadian all-purpose is made from hard wheat (more gluten), and is much like American bread flour.
American all-purpose flour is made from soft wheat, and is much like Canadian pastry (soft) flour.

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39 Joanne April 4, 2014 at 11:30 am

American — We usually go for Gold Medal all-purpose flour.

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40 Leatha April 13, 2014 at 7:36 pm

I had no success with pie crust till now. Thanks! This really is perfect pie crust

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41 Joanne April 16, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Awesome! So glad it worked well for you.

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42 DT April 18, 2014 at 1:15 pm

I am making banana cream pie. I have to have a baked crust. You do not say how to bake the crust what temperature and what grease and how long.

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43 Joanne May 16, 2014 at 12:57 pm

Hi there, we have just added instructions for how to pre-bake our pie crust. You should find it in the recipe above.

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44 Menzrob May 5, 2014 at 3:55 pm

Made a cherry pie today and the crust around the edge collapsed towards the center. Is this because it’s an all butter crust? Or, can you suggest something else? Made a blind crust at the same time and it fell in too. My family loves the crust and I never have any trouble rolling it out, but now I’m trying to make my pies more attractive and this sure isn’t attractive! Thanks.

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45 Joanne May 16, 2014 at 11:52 am

Hi there, did you keep the dough chilled when working with it and before baking? We’ve shared lots of information about our pie crust recipe here, it may help: http://www.inspiredtaste.net/22662/flaky-pie-crust-recipe/

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46 Susan Schrager May 22, 2014 at 10:50 pm

I’ve made your Flaky Pie Crust recipe with rave reviews, using a food processor. My butter & flour never forms a paste after 15 sec of processing, as I saw it do in the video. I have a standard size Cuisinart. I end up with coarse meal. Should I continue processing? Thank you!

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47 Joanne June 20, 2014 at 2:17 pm

Yep, just continue processing, it should turn into a paste eventually.

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48 Anne May 28, 2014 at 1:42 pm

I used the food processor and never got the paste. Should I have processed it for longer? Best I got was a crumbly texture. I was afraid of melting the butter.

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49 Joanne August 8, 2014 at 12:07 pm

Yep, keep processing. It will come together eventually.

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50 Jessica June 15, 2014 at 11:01 pm

Just made this with your blueberry pie recipe and I must say I loved both recipies! Super easy to follow and turned out great for my first pie! Thanks for sharing

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51 Joanne June 20, 2014 at 12:17 pm

Hi Jessica, thanks so much for coming back and letting us know! We love this pie crust :)

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52 Hanieh July 2, 2014 at 3:00 pm

Hi there, a few days ago i left a message hear, but neither my message is hear nor the answer. This is the first time i want to prepare a pie! I am pleased if you answer my question : For double crust or even one crust pie which is cooked just when inside pie is field ,do the time and temperature of cooking inside oven differ to the kind of pie recipe? For example if i prepare the crust dough from your crust recipe and fill it with another pie recipe ,then what is time and temperature?
Thanks
Hanieh

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53 Joanne August 7, 2014 at 1:32 pm

Our crust recipe will work for most pies — follow the directions of the specific pie recipe (apple pie, pumpkin pie, etc) then just use our crust in place of the crust called for in the recipe.

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54 Debbi July 7, 2014 at 3:51 pm

Used your recipe today! What a difference for sure.. . Can I use Bear fat instead of butter? I usually use bear fat in my pie crust and they are so flaky, but nothing like this one. This recipe is really close to the one I have been using for years, from my grandmother! Thank you so much.

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55 Safaa July 11, 2014 at 11:52 am

Hello,

Am not sure if we have any cold unsalted butter here, will it be fine if I used a normal table butter or should I keep looking?

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56 Joanne August 7, 2014 at 1:14 pm

Table butter (I’m assuming that would be salted) should be fine, just make sure it’s very cold.

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57 Nancy July 18, 2014 at 5:41 pm

This is the easiest crust to make, and so flaky! I had some fresh peaches from the farmers market-they are in season now. Can hardly wait to taste this is my husbands favorite pie..looking forward to a delightful new crust. Thanks for sharing. Ps my husband added fresh lemon zest and a splash of vanilla to peaches. Smelled wonderful!

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58 Rebecca July 30, 2014 at 12:42 pm

can I use a stand mixer?

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59 Joanne July 31, 2014 at 11:15 am

You should be able to, yes.

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60 Annie August 1, 2014 at 8:37 pm

My 13 year old sister and 2 other girls made a blueberry pie with this crust. I couldn’t believe how easy it was. We are now moving on to all sorts of favors but the crust was just amazing. It really made the whole pie. Thank you for sharing!!

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