This pie crust recipe hasn’t failed me yet. It’s uses real butter, bakes up super flaky, and can be used for both sweet and savory pies including everything from pumpkin pie to chicken pot pie.
It’s the day before Thanksgiving, the turkey has been brined, the stuffing bread is drying, the wine has been selected and the table has been laid. But, what about the pies? It’s not too late for homemade pies with homemade pie crust!
This recipe for pie crust is fairly basic and it’s been in my family for at least three generations. My copy says “Millie’s Pie Crust,” not that I know who Millie is or how long ago it was that she shared the recipe. I do know, however, that this pie crust has turned out perfectly every time I’ve made it.
The recipe makes two pie crusts, but can be sized up if you are making pies for the whole family. Unfortunately, it does call for one egg, so it’s hard to size it down. You can make the dough up to five days in advance, wrap it tight in plastic wrap, and refrigerate it. If you are making a custard based pie, like lemon meringue, chocolate silk, pecan, or pumpkin, you can make the dough up to two weeks in advance and pre-bake it. For longer storage you can freeze the dough as well. There are notes at the bottom with specific instructions on how to pre-bake and freeze. We however are talking last minute pies! Once you get the dough together, place it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up before rolling out. Then pre-bake if necessary, fill it, bake it, and serve. You will have homemade pies with homemade pie crusts, that are no comparison for their frozen substitutes.
My preference is to make the dough for these pie crusts with a mixer but it can also be made by hand. My kitchen aid mixer really speeds up the process, which is always worth it when making pies. You will also need a rolling pin. I’ve discussed in previous posts there are many household items that will do the trick, including wine bottles and paper towel rods. However, if it’s time to invest in an actual rolling pin, I highly suggest going with a marble one like this one from Bed Bath and Beyond. The extra weight of the pin speeds up the process of rolling out the dough, the natural marble stays cooler to the touch which means less sticking, and they look gorgeous too. You can also find a whole variety of other options including wood, plastic, and of course more marble, over at Amazon. The last required item will be pie pans. There is always the option of using disposable pans from the grocery, but be sure to monitor the cooking time – disposable pans are then and can burn easier than thicker pans. I am in love with this ceramic pie pan which I received as a house warming gift, but on many occasions I simply use my cast iron skillet – which you will see in pictures today.
Starting with your butter, make sure that it has softened enough that it you can leave a finger print in it, but not soft enough to run all over the counter top. When I started making these pies, I realized I had no butter in the house. Yep, the from scratch food blogger ran out of butter. By the time I got it home from the store, it was still pretty hard, too hard for baking. So I laid it out on some wax paper and gave it a few whacks with the rolling pin, until it was about half of an inch thick. Instantly workable butter.
While the butter sits for a minute, using a 1 cup measuring cup, add 1 large egg, 1/2 tsp vinegar, and fill with cold water to a splash past the 1/2 cup line. A large egg typically measures to be 1/4 cup of liquid, but it’s better to crack that in first to fish out any errant egg shells, then add the vinegar and water. I used apple cider vinegar, because it’s what I had on hand, but any white or light colored vinegar would work. I’ve also used white balsamic, red wine, and rice vinegar. Beat these together and let rest while you go through the rest of the steps.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, measure out the flour and salt. A dash of salt is less than 1/8th of a teaspoon, so use your 1/8th teaspoon and fill it about halfway. Using the paddle attachment add the butter and mix on low until combined. The result should look like wet sand with chunks of butter, like above.
With the mixer still running, slowly pour in the egg, water, and vinegar mixture. Allow the mixer to run for a minute or so on low, then stop it to scrape down the sides as necessary. The dough will look wet and sticky, like a cookie dough, but it won’t feel that way once you turn it out. That’s the beauty of using so much butter.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 2 – 3 minutes to bring it all together. Divide into two equal portions – I used my scale to get them as even as possible, but you are welcome to eyeball it if you prefer – and shape into balls of dough. Wrap each one in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill. The dough will need at least 30 minutes to firm up prior to rolling out. If you want to chill it longer, allow it to rest for 15 minutes or so to come back down to a workable temperature.
When you are ready to roll it out, flour your surface, grab your rolling pin and work it from the center outwards rotating the dough as you go. Keeping the dough moving will let you know when and if it starts sticking. I like to flip my dough over at least twice in the beginning to help keep it even and give me a chance to add a bit more flour underneath it.
Keep rolling until the circle is the diameter of your pan, plus enough to cover the sides and hang over. For a standard 9″ pie pan, this means you need about a 14″ circle, which will be about 1/4″ thick. Prepare your pie pan with grease, butter, or cooking spray. If you are using cast iron, it’s actually best to flour the pan, spreading the flour out with your hands and tapping the rest out onto your work surface. To get the dough into the pan, fold it in half and then fold it in half again, leaving you with an easy to move triangle. You can pick it up and place it into the pan before unfolding it.
In the above picture, you can faintly see the lines in my pie crust from where it was folded. Gently press the bottom down into the corners, taking care not to stretch or break the dough. The extra dough from the sides should be trimmed off prior to baking. If you need to pre-bake or are only using a bottom pie crust, you can trim the extra now. If you aren’t pre-baking and are using both a top and bottom pie crust, you can wait to trim the top and bottom together after the pie has been filled.
Below I’ve added a few additional notes on pre-baking and storage of the pie crusts.
- shape the dough into the pie pan and poke it with a fork to allow holes for the steam to escape;
- line the dough with parchment paper and fill it with dried beans to weigh it down;
- bake for 15 – 20 minutes in a 375 degree oven
- wrap it tightly in plastic wrap;
- cover with foil;
- place in a freezer safe zip top bag;
- make sure to date the bag with an expiration date for 6 months from now;
- allow the dough to thaw overnight in the fridge, then rest on the counter top for 30 minutes before rolling it out.
What’s your favorite type of pie for the holidays?? Let me know in the comments below!
Pie Crust Perfection
- 1 egg
- 1/2 tsp vinegar
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 2 1/2 cups of flour
- dash of salt less than 1/8 tsp
- 1 cup butter - at room temperature.
- In a one cup measuring cup beat together the egg, vinegar, and water.
- In the bowl of your stand mixer measure out the flour and salt. Stirring to combine.
- Add the butter to the flour and salt.
- Using the paddle attachment, mix on low. The butter will break up into small crumbs resembling wet sand.
- With the mixer still running, slowly pour in the egg mixture.
- Once it’s combined, turn the dough out onto a clean floured surface.
- Knead for 3 - 5 minutes to bring the dough together.
- Divide into two equal pieces (I used a scale) and shape into balls.
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes before rolling out.