This is my go-to method for making shortcrust pastry for all of my tarts and pies. You can make it by hand, by mixer, or by food processor, and it’s incredibly adaptable if you want to add spices or flavors. I love adding ground cardamom to the dough for my sweet pies, and black pepper is a big favorite for savory bakes. This dough holds up well for decoration, and has a lovely flake to it due to the addition of apple cider vinegar. Making pie dough from scratch might sound intimidating, but it’s a very quick and simple process that is so worth the (small amount of) effort!
Pie dough vs. tart dough vs. shortcrust pastry
What’s the difference? These are all terms you’ve probably heard thrown around discussions about different types of pies and tarts, but they all refer to the same thing. I often use the terms interchangeably, and will even call it pâte brisée when I want to sound extra fancy (French for shortcrust pastry). This kind of pastry does not contain any leavening agent and it is not laminated, so it won’t puff up in the oven. The result is buttery and flaky, and it’s sturdy enough for all kinds of tarts and pies. Basic shortcrust pastry contains flour, fat, water, salt, and sometimes sugar. Many people add a little bit of alcohol, such as vodka, to ensure a flaky crust, but I find that vinegar works just as wonderfully without the fuss.
Tools for making this pie dough
For all baking, I encourage people to use a kitchen scale to measure ingredients. I find that this is the most accurate and consistent way to measure ingredients in the kitchen. However, I’ve included metric measurements as well as weight measurements in grams for those who prefer not to use a scale.
This dough can be made several different ways, depending on the equipment you have available, and your personal preference. I like to make mine in the food processor, because it comes together very quickly without much handling. You can also use your stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or a pastry cutter if you prefer to do it by hand. If you don’t have any of those tools, you can use two knives to cut the butter into the flour. You can also simply rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until it resembles coarse sand.
Tips and tricks
No matter what method you choose, it’s important not to over-work the dough once you start adding water. The addition of water to flour causes gluten to begin to form, which gives things like bread its strength. With pie dough, we want to avoid as much gluten formation as possible because it will make the texture tough and chewy. Keep this in mind when rolling out your crust. Try not to re-roll any areas of the dough. If you have any cracks, you can simply patch the area with some scraps.
This recipe calls for 1/2 cup of ice water, but you may need a little bit more or less depending on your climate. When adding the water, only mix the dough until it just comes together. It’s okay if you don’t use all the water. To test the hydration of the dough, pinch a small piece between your fingers. If it sticks together without crumbling, you’re good to go. If it crumbles, add a tiny bit more water and mix for a few seconds before testing again.
Because pie dough contains a high percentage of fat, it’s important to keep it cold as much as possible before baking. If the dough gets too warm, the butter will leak out prematurely. Try not to handle it too much when rolling, as the warmth of your hands can cause the dough to heat up quickly.
Because pie dough is so heat sensitive, I’ve found it best to chill the components throughout each stage of baking. Once you’ve rolled out your bottom crust and placed it in the pie pan, chill it in the fridge while you work on any fillings or decorations. I also like to assemble my lattice on a mat and chill it before adding it to the top of the pie. It’s much easier to make a neat lattice on a flat surface, and it’s simple to lift it onto pie when it is cold.
Before baking, chill your assembled pie for 15-20 minutes. This helps the dough hold its shape in the oven.
Adding flavors to dough
When adding flavors to pie dough, I suggest using dry or fresh spices, rather than extracts, because extracts will add more moisture to the dough. If you do add extracts, you will likely have to adjust the amount of water you use.
Some of my favorite spices and flavors to add to my sweet doughs are:
- Freshly ground cardamom (like in my Apple Berry Pie with Cardamom Crust)
- Lemon zest
- Orange zest
- Vanilla bean
For savory pies and tarts, here are some of my top suggestions:
- Black pepper
- Pink peppercorn
- Thyme (this also works very well with sweet citrus tarts)
Let your creativity run wild with your flavors! The possibilities are limitless.
The baking times for this dough will vary slightly depending on the pie recipe, but I usually recommend baking at a higher temperature first, then dropping it. I like to start at 425 degrees F for the first 15-20 minutes. Then I drop the temperature to 375 and continue baking until the pie is done. This ensures that the base bakes up quickly and stays crisp, while the filling has time to cook thoroughly.
This pie dough needs at least 2 hours to chill before using, so you can make it a day in advance if you prefer. It will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days, or frozen for several months. Simply thaw in the fridge overnight before using.
I hope you enjoy this pie dough recipe! Be sure to tag me on instagram so I can see your bakes, and leave me a comment below! Your feedback helps other bakers who are giving this recipe a try, and I love hearing about your bakes!
This recipe has been adapted from “Aaron’s All–Butter Pie Dough” from Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat.