How to Make an All-Butter Piecrust for the Best Holiday Pies
If you believe butter is best, or you ran out of shortening and need to know how to make piecrust without shortening, here's how to make a piecrust containing only flour, salt, butter, and water. The combination is almost magical in how it bakes up into light, flaky piecrusts.
We’ve always got plenty of butter in our fridge, especially during the holiday baking season, which makes Erin McDowell’s All-Buttah Piecrust recipe so handy. (We also like pronouncing butter as buttah like Erin for authenticity.) You need only four ingredients to make this simple piecrust dough recipe, and, as the name suggests, it uses all butter for the fat.
Wondering about the difference between using butter vs. shortening? Butter usually has around 80% fat, shortening is 100% fat, which can make a difference in how flaky your crust is. Butter generally has some water mixed in, which evaporates while you bake and can result in a flakier crust. Shortening, on the other hand, usually makes crusts that are a little less flaky but can hold their shape better when you're adding decorations to the crust. But if you want to use all butter and add decorations to your dough, fear not—our instructions include tips for how to make your buttery crust a little stiffer.
How to Make an All-Butter Piecrust
Pick your favorite pie and follow these step-by-step instructions. You can use this piecrust dough recipe to whip up a pumpkin pie, apple pie, chocolate pie, or almost any other flavor you’re craving.
Step 1: Toss the Butter and Flour
In a medium bowl whisk together 1¼ cups all-purpose flour and ¼ teaspoon of fine sea salt (Morton Fine Sea Salt, $2.54, Walmart). Cut ½ cup of cold, unsalted butter (one stick) into ½-inch cubes. Add butter cubes to the bowl and, with your hands, toss them through the flour until each piece is well-coated.
Step 2: Cut the Butter into the Flour
Cut the butter into the flour by pressing the butter pieces between your fingers and thumbs, flattening the cubes into big shards. Continue to toss the butter with the flour as you work, recoating the flattened pieces. For a flaky crust for fruit pies, mix until the butter is about the size of walnut halves. For a sturdier crust for custard pies and decorated piecrusts, mix until the butter is about the size of peas.
Test Kitchen Tip: Instead of using your hands, use a food processor to combine the butter and flour (Hamilton Beach 10-Cup Food Processor, $44.99, Walmart). Pulse the flour and salt briefly to combine them then add the cubes of butter. Pulse until the butter is roughly the desired size (peas or half walnuts). Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and proceed to Step 3.
Step 3: Add Water and Mix Dough
Make a well in the center of ingredients and add ¼ cup of ice water. Have more water ready in a nearby cup; you’ll need it. Toss the flour gently, rather than stirring, to uniformly moisten it. (Doing this mixes in the water without overworking.) Continue to add water, 1 or 2 tablespoons at a time, until the dough comes together. Your dough shouldn’t be wet or sticky, or dry and crumbly. It should hold together easily without feeling wet to the touch.
Step 4: Chill the Dough
Form the dough into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight before using.
Make-Ahead Tip: The tightly wrapped dough can be chilled up to 2 days. For longer storage, wrap the dough in plastic wrap then heavy foil and freeze for up to 3 months. Let the dough thaw overnight before rolling out and using.
Step 5: Roll Out the Dough
Once your pie dough has been well chilled, it’s ready to roll. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to about ⅛ inch thick (10-inch Beech Wood Rolling Pin, $9.00, Target). Press firmly and evenly and rotate the dough while you work. This helps prevent the dough from sticking without using a ton of extra flour and maintains a circular shape. Getting the correct thickness is the most important part of this recipe, but once it’s rolled out, ideally the dough will also be about 1 inch wider than the pie plate.
Step 6: Transfer the Dough to Your Pie Plate
Use a rolling pin to transfer the dough to the pie plate (2-pack Pyrex Easy Grab Pie Plate, $14.99, Amazon). Starting at one end, wrap the rolled dough around the rolling pin. Gently transfer the pin to the edge of the pie plate and unfurl the dough onto the plate.
Step 7: Press the Dough into the Plate and Trim
Gently lift the dough edges while pressing it into the base of the pie plate. Once the dough is touching the pie plate evenly on the base and sides, trim the excess dough so that there’s only ½ inch excess around the edge of the pie plate. The dough can be left like this for double-crust pies and chilled while you stir up the filling and the top crust.
Step 8: Tuck in the Edges and Decorate
For single-crust pies, tuck the dough under edge so it meets flush with the outer edge of the pie plate—the thicker edge will be easier to crimp. Finish the edges in any decorative style you want; refrigerate the crust for at least 30 minutes.
Step 9: Prick Crust and Add Pie Weights
To parbake the crust, use a fork to prick the base and sides of the dough. Cut a square of parchment paper slightly larger than the pie plate and press it into the base of the chilled dough. Fill the dough with pie weights (dried beans work great too) to the brim of the pie plate, making sure the weights are flush against the sides (Mrs. Anderson's Baking Ceramic Pie Crust Weights, $5.99, Amazon).
Step 10: Bake
Place the pie plate on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake on the bottom rack of a 425°F oven (preferably on a heated baking stone) for about 12 to 15 minutes or until the outer edge starts to brown. Remove the parchment and weights and bake for 2 to 3 minutes more or until the bottom crust appears to be set. If the crust puffs up at any point, prick the air bubble with a fork to deflate it. Let the crust cool completely before adding your filling.
Create a Flavored Crust
Plain crust is traditional, but why not give it a little extra flavor? You can make a pumpkin spice crust by adding 1½ tablespoons of pumpkin pie spice to the flour. For a cinnamon crust, add 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon and ½ teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg to the flour—perfect for giving your apple pie extra fall flavors. And to make a gingerbread crust, add 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, ¾ teaspoon ground ginger, ½ teaspoon ground allspice, and ¼ teaspoon ground cloves to the flour.
Pie season, here we come! With this crust recipe in your repertoire, you can make almost any pie recipe. A homemade crust adds extra love to your favorite pie recipes, and it’s hard to argue with the delicious flakiness of this all-butter piecrust recipe.