A tender, flaky crust is the best part of any pie, whether it’s filled with fresh fruit or with chicken and vegetables.
The rich taste of real butter produces a versatile and delicious pie pastry. But for a crust that’s easier to handle, try incorporating equal parts butter and shortening. The combination of butter and fat provides both stability (from the shortening) and flavor (from the butter). Williams-Sonoma’s Basic Pie Pastry recipe is a reader favorite and a perfect place to start.
Delicate and crisp, a perfect crust is simple to make if you follow three guidelines.
1. Don’t overwork the dough.
Take care not to overblend the fat and flour. Cutting the butter into the flour mixture is a key step in making a good piecrust. The butter must be very cold and hard and in pea-sized pieces before the liquid (usually ice water) is added. If the butter warms up and softens, the flour will absorb it, become sticky and ultimately yield a tough crust.
Handle the pastry no more than necessary. Overworking the piecrust will “work” the glutens in the flour and melt the butter into the flour, again creating a tough crust.
2. Add just enough water to hold the dough together.
Add enough water so the dough can be rolled out easily — better a bit too much water than not enough. Try adding the water a tablespoon at a time, stirring and tossing with a fork after each addition. Stop adding water once the dough comes together in a rough, shaggy mass and can hold together when pinched.
3. Keep everything very, very cold.
Pastry made with butter must be refrigerated for at least 1 hour before being rolled out. It’s also a good idea to refrigerate the dough again once it’s been placed in the pie dish, before you add the filling and bake.
- On a lightly floured board or rolling mat, flatten the dough disk with 6 to 8 gentle taps of the rolling pin. Lift the dough and give it a quarter turn. Dust the top of the dough and the rolling pin with flour as needed.
- Begin rolling from the middle of the dough round, pushing outward and stopping the pressure 1/4 inch from the edge so that the edge does not get too thin.
- Lift the dough, give it a quarter turn and repeat rolling. Use this frequent lifting and turning of the dough to gauge the thickness and to dust the work surface and dough lightly with flour.
- Roll the dough out about 1/8 inch thick.
Practice your technique by baking one of our favorite seasonal Williams-Sonoma pies:
- Basic Pie Pastry
- Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie
- Blueberry Crumble Pie
- Key Lime Pie
- Black Bottom Banana Cream Pie
About the author: A graduate of the French Culinary Institute in New York City, Natasha is the Williams-Sonoma Culinary Expert for the Wichita, Kansas store. She is the mastermind behind the in-store technique and cooking classes and is often on the road training other Williams-Sonoma Culinary Experts.