The New Pie: Precisely Perfect Pie Crust

This recipe is adapted from our cookbook, The New Pie: Modern Techniques for the Classic American Dessert.

Photograph © 2019 Andrew Thomas Lee

Crust is an essential part of making pie. The perfect crust is tender, flaky, and—most importantly—delicious! The perfect crust is also well-baked. A crust that is baked until golden brown all over will be flavorful and also have the strength to hold its filling without flopping, drooping, or sagging.

This is our go-to pie dough recipe and is made with mostly butter and vegetable shortening (or leaf lard). We use a bit of both baking powder (a trick we learned from Rose Levy Beranbaum) and vinegar to help with tenderness. Our preferred brand of all-purpose flour is King Arthur. King Arthur’s all-purpose flour has 11.7% protein—relatively high compared to other all-purpose flours—but works perfectly with this recipe. It’s the only flour we use.


We recommended weighing ingredients, including the cold water, using a digital scale. Weighing the water is much more reliable than using a measuring cup or other volume measurements, like tablespoons. To measure the vinegar and water using a scale, tare (zero out) the weight of the container, add the vinegar followed by the water to make a total of 1.6 ounces of liquid (vinegar + water = 1.6 ounces). The scale will show that the vinegar weighs about 0.1 ounce, but that is misleading because such a small amount of an ingredient cannot be accurately measured even on a digital kitchen scale.

Be sure not to overwork the dough in the food processor. Use the visual cues in the recipe to make sure your dough turns out tender, flaky, and delicious!

Remember: the perfect pie crust is a golden brown all over!


This recipe makes 12 ounces of dough, enough to fill one standard 9 by 1½-inch pie plate.

PRECISELY PERFECT PIE CRUST
INGREDIENTVOLUMEWEIGHT
(OUNCES)
WEIGHT
(METRIC)
All-purpose flour (we prefer King
Arthur
brand)
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons6 ounces170 grams
Sugar1¼ teaspoons
Salt½ teaspoon
Baking powder (preferably
aluminum-free)
⅛ teaspoon
Vegetable shortening (or an
equal amount of high-quality
leaf lard
, by weight)
3 tablespoons plus
2 teaspoons
1.5 ounces43 grams
Cold unsalted butter, cut into
6 pieces
6 tablespoons3 ounces85 grams
Apple cider vinegar1 teaspoon
Cold water (see Step 4)3 tablespoons1.6 ounces45 grams
  1. Measure the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder directly into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse the ingredients once or twice to combine them.
  2. Scatter the shortening across the top of the flour mixture in three or four roughly equal nuggets. Pulse three to four times until the shortening seems to be evenly dispersed into the flour. If there are still large visible clumps, pulse one or two more times.
  3. Scatter the butter pieces across the flour mixture, and pulse four or five times. At this point the flour should appear textured, like coarse cornmeal, with small (¼-inch) tidbits of butter flecked throughout. If not, pulse one or two more times.
  4. If measuring all ingredients by volume (measuring cups), simply combine the vinegar with the cold water and drizzle all the liquid over the flour. If using a scale, place a liquid measuring cup with a spout on the scale and tare (zero out) the scale to subtract the weight of the measuring cup. Add the measured amount of vinegar to the cup (do not re-tare the scale); now add the cold water to the vinegar so that the combined vinegar plus water equals the weight of cold water listed in the ingredients. Drizzle the liquid over the flour in the food processor.
  5. Using 1-second pulses, process the mixture until it transforms from dry and powdery and just begins to form into a large clump of cohesive dough, five to eight pulses. Stop pulsing once most of the dough is clumped together. The dough may look like pebbly curds of cottage cheese and there may be unincorporated flour in the bowl. That is what you want at this point. If you process the dough until it forms one large ball of dough and starts thwacking around in the food processor bowl, it will be overworked and bake up tough.
  6. Transfer the dough and any remaining unincorporated flour to a smooth work surface (you can use a silicone rolling mat if you like, but we usually do this straight on the counter). To incorporate any loose flour, press and smear the flour across the work surface with the heel of your hand. Gather all of the dough and press it into a 5- to 6-inch disc about 1 inch thick.
  7. Wrap the disc in plastic wrap, and smooth the outer 1-inch-thick edge with your fingertips or by rolling the disc along the countertop. These smooth edges will make the dough easier to roll out in a circle. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours but preferably overnight.
  8. Roll the dough to a 13-inch circle. The target thickness is ⅛-inch (rolling guides can help make sure the dough has an even thickness). Place the dough in the pie pan, and use the scissors to trim the extra dough to about ½ inch beyond the pie plate edge. Fold the edge of the pie crust underneath itself. Crimp the edges as desired. Freeze the dough-lined pan for at least 20 minutes while preheating the oven to 350°F.
  9. Lightly spray one side of an 18-inch piece of aluminum foil with cooking spray. Line the crust with the foil, sprayed side down. Fill the pan with pie weights. For standard 9-inch pie plates, use 4 cups of pie weights. (You can also use dried beans, sugar, or even pennies instead of pie weights, if you prefer.)
  10. Bake the crust until the edge is golden brown, 50 to 60 minutes, peeking under the edge of the foil to check for doneness. Remove the pie pan from the oven and lift out the pie weights using the corners of the parchment or foil. The goal is for the inside of the pie shell to be evenly golden brown—it should look like a finished crust. If the crust is still too pale, place it back into the oven without weights and continue to bake, checking every 2 minutes. Use a pie crust shield (or a strip of aluminum foil) if you don’t want the edges to brown any further. Cool the pie crust completely on a wire rack, about 1 hour.

This recipe is adapted from our cookbook, The New Pie: Modern Techniques for the Classic American Dessert, published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers.

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