The two imperatives of Thanksgiving pie crust (whether cradling pumpkin or pecan fillings) are make it tender, and make it flaky. Those things don’t happen by accident, though. These tips for the best pie dough will ensure your holiday desserts are perfect to the last bite.
Keep Things Chill
The key to producing flaky, tender pie crust is starting with very cold fat and super-frigid ice water. For pointers, check out our quick video tip on how to ensure a tender pie crust:
Cut It In
When you cut the butter in, you’re aiming for pea-size pieces, but beware of the butter getting too warm (see above)—especially if you’re using your fingers to work the butter into the flour, instead of two forks or a pastry blender.
Dough Blender, $9.97 on Amazon
A handy tool to have.
Related Reading: The Best Baking Tools to Have in Your Kitchen
Don’t Overwork It
The next step involves mixing your ice water into the dough, and you only want to do that until it comes together—manipulate the dough too much and it will get tough. Sprinkle the water evenly over the dry ingredients so it doesn’t pool in one spot (and don’t use the full amount of water to begin with as you may not need it all), then gently mix it into the dough, which will be shaggy. That’s okay.
Turn it out onto your floured counter and knead it gently only until any unincorporated flour disappears. The dough should not be too crumbly or too sticky, but it should mostly hold together and you should still see specks of butter. You may need to add more water or more flour to correct the texture, but do it a tiny bit at a time.
If you’re nervous, you can try adding vodka to your pie crust in place of some of the water.
Pat your dough into a disc, wrap it up in plastic, and pop it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, if not an hour (or longer).
Give It a Break
Do you really need to rest your dough in the fridge like we just told you to? The short answer: Yes! Letting your formed or rolled pie dough rest gives the gluten a chance to relax, the moisture a chance to distribute evenly throughout the dough, and the fats a chance to firm back up—all of which ensure your pie will be flaky, tender, and memorable in a good way.
Watch this quick and emphatic video reminder on why you should rest pie dough:
If you have time, you can rest it again after you roll it out and transfer it to your pie pan.
Work That Pin
When rolling out the dough, the “keep things chill” rule still applies! You can even chill your rolling pin while your dough is resting. If you have trouble with rolling out an even circle (which should be a bit bigger than your pie pan so you have a margin of error when crimping), you might find a silicone mat with rolling guidelines helpful:
Non-Slip Silicone Pastry Rolling Mat, $19.95 on Amazon
Keep your eyes on the size.
But rolling it out is only the beginning—you’ve still got to transfer that sheet of pastry to your pie dish. The easiest, least traumatic way to do this is by using your rolling pin as a transport device. Simply roll the dough onto your pin like it’s a pig in a blanket, then unroll into the dish. Check out this quick video tutorial on transporting pie dough:
But What If It’s Stuck?
No worries! You can use an offset spatula to work it free—or if you don’t have one of those, look in your medicine cabinet. See what we mean in this video tip on how to get stuck pie dough off the counter:
Pie Dough Recipe Perfection
When you’re ready to level up, see how to bake three pies in one morning. Or if you’re still feeling overwhelmed, check out some of the best mail order pies and more, and leave homemade for another day. Also important: knowing the best way to store pie.
When You Just Don't Want to DIY
Header image courtesy of Andrew Sherman / Getty Images