In this tutorial and recipe, I share my tips and techniques on How to Make Pie Crust using DIY buttermilk for a flaky pie crust. Hand-made dough creates the flakiest crust! Vegetarian
Making flakey pie crust from scratch can be intimidating. But as with anything, practicing improves skill over time. I make pie dough from scratch because it’s relaxing, rewarding and tastes like it is homemade, my preference. I’m not a fan of prepackaged pie crust simply because I only want the freshest, natural ingredients in my food, and ones I can pronounce. An all butter dough is my preference simply because it tastes so good.
Hand Making Pie Dough vs Food Processor Pie Dough
While I find making pie dough in a food processor quick and easy, the end pastry just doesn’t have the flakiness of a hand made crust. A food processor tends to break the butter down far too much. Instead of surrounding the hazelnut size pieces of butter in flour, it breaks the butter pieces down and incorporates it into the flour. Layers of flakey goodness is achieved by layers or larger flat and chunky pieces of butter that are surrounded by flour. Taking time to hand make pie dough is truly worth the effort.
I use DIY buttermilk to hydrate pie dough in all my crust recipes because the acidity helps tenderize gluten and yields a more pliable dough and tastier crust. Homemade simply because it’s so darn easy to make and I hardly ever have buttermilk on hand. Homemade buttermilk is simply a mixture of milk and either apple cider vinegar, white vinegar or lemon juice.
Make Ahead Ready
Pie dough is freezer friendly. The dough can be made weeks ahead and frozen then thawed in the fridge the night before you need it. It also holds well in the refrigerator for at least two days prior to use.
What Type of Pie Pan to Use
The type of pie pan you use can make a difference in your crust. I use stoneware and glass, both of which seem to bake more evenly than metal. With stoneware, the dough tends to slide down a bit, which makes it look shrunk, due to its slick surface. With glass, the edges tend to keep their shape better and you can keep an eye on the bottom of your crust while baking; an advantage if you’re a bit uneasy about pie baking.
How to Make a Flakey Pie Crust
Below, I share my process, tips and recipe for a delicious flakey blind baked single pie crust (pictured) and double crust dough with a flaky top pie crust.
Start with cold ingredients. If baking during Summer, I put my flour mixture in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before starting.
Size of Butter Chunks Matter
When cutting the butter into the flour, use a pastry cutter, fork or your hands. The advantage of using a tool rather than you hands is that the butter will stay colder longer. If you use your hands, work quickly pressing the dough in between finger to flatten the chunks. You want some pieces flat and others chunky.
Pay attention to how the size of the butter chunks change as you cut the butter into the dough. For the bottom crust, a more mealy flour-butter mixture is desired where the butter will be pea size. For the top crust of a double crust pie, when cutting in the butter, the chunks should remain larger, such as almond or hazelnut size. This creates the flakiest pie crust we’re all after. For the images below, I am working on a bottom crust to blind bake. Still a very flakey pie crust!
Incorporating the Buttermilk
Once the butter is cut in and still chunky, pour in the buttermilk. Be sure to hold out a few tablespoons as hydration will differ between flours and season. Incorporate the buttermilk by using your hands and lifting the bits from the bottom of the bowl, bringing them up and over the top of the ingredients, then using your palm to press down. Fold again and again adding the remaining buttermilk if needed. But not too much. An over-hydrated dough creates a tough dough.
To test the dough to see if it needs more moisture, grab a fist full of dough and squeeze it. If it holds together, it has enough liquid. If it doesn’t hold together, add more liquid, 1 tsp at a time until it’s ready. One teaspoon doesn’t sound like much, but in the dough world, it is!
Building Those Flakey Layers
The dough is shaggy at this point. The idea here is that we start to build layers so folding and pressing the dough is key. Using a bench scraper will make the job of gathering bits and pieces much easier.
Gather the dough into a small rectangle. Use the heel of your hand to press the dough away from you. Do this three times from left to right on the rectangle. Then gather the dough again into a rectangle and press and fold the dough 7-8 more times. I use this method for both a bottom and top crust.
Remember if the dough starts getting sticky, pop it in the freezer for 5 minutes.
Start shaping the buttermilk dough into a rough ball and then into a disk about 1/2″ thick (1.2cm). It will seem dry, but will hydrate as it rests. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap or parchment paper and rest in refrigerator for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight. At this point the dough can be frozen for up to a month. To thaw the dough, let it rest in the refrigerator overnight.
Rolling Out The Dough
Before rolling out the buttermilk pastry, remove it from the refrigerator and let it set for about 20 minutes at room temperature. This will help soften the dough and making rolling a bit easier. Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Dust the top, and rolling pin with flour. Beat the dough a few times with the pin to start to soften the dough.
Begin rolling the dough, firmly but gently, from the middle out, taking care not to roll off the top and bottom edges. This helps shape the dough into a circle in the end.
After 7-8 rolls, turn the dough one-quarter of the way around (same direction each time). Roll again, 7-8 times, from the center out. Quarter turn again. Keep repeating this process lightly dusting with flour under, on top of the dough and rolling-pin as needed so that the dough doesn’t start sticking.
Roll the dough to 1/8″ (3mm) thick and about 1/2″-1″ (.5cm -1 1/4cm) beyond the top edge of your pie plate (turn the plate upside down on the dough to measure). Trim the rough edges with kitchen sheers as needed.
Roll the dough over and onto your rolling-pin to transfer the dough to the pie plate. Gently press the dough into the plate without stretching it. For the bottom pastry, roll the edges under to create the crust’s edge and crimp as desired.
Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before moving on.
Prepare the Dough for Blind Baking
Dock the dough by using a fork to poke small holes in the bottom crust. This will help release the steam that would otherwise make your dough puff up. We want that surface to be flat and to contain all the goodness you’ll add to it later.
Fill the bottom with parchment and either dried beans or pie weights and bake.
Your finished blind baked buttermilk pie crust will be lightly golden and not fully baked. It will finish baking after it’s filled with whatever recipe you’re using such as pecan pie, hand pies, quiche or lemon meringue.
This sounds like a lot, I know. But flakey pie crust comes together quickly. With practice and patience you’ll master the art of pie pastry.
How To Make an All Butter Buttermilk Pie Dough
- Pan Spray
For One Disk (11-12 oz / 311g -340g):
To Make The Dough:
- For a mealy, bottom crust, cut the butter into 1/4" (6mm) square pieces. For a flaky top crust, cut the butter into 1/2" (12mm) pieces. Place the butter in the freezer for at least five minutes.
- Whisk the milk and apple cider vinegar together until it bubbles. It will thicken as it sets for five minutes. This is your buttermilk.
- In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar and salt. Using a pastry cutter, cut in the butter. For a bottom crust, you want a mealy consistency, so cut in the butter until it is about pea sized. For a top crust, the butter should remain in larger chunks, such as almond size.
- Because flour and butter contain varying amounts of water, we don't want to add the milk mixture in all at once. An over-hydrated dough creates a tough pastry. Pour in all but about 1 Tbs of the milk mixture. Use your hand to incorporate the buttermilk, folding and pressing the mixture. Flattening out the butter is okay. To test hydration, grab a hand full of dough and squeeze it. If it holds together, don't add any additional milk. If it's still crumbly or falls apart, add the remaining milk a teaspoon at a time and continue folding and pressing to a shaggy consistency. If the butter is starting to get a bit warm at this point, put the mixture in the freezer for about 5 minutes. We want the dough to stay as cold as possible.
- On a lightly floured work surface, dump out the shaggy dough. Using a bench scraper, fold and press the dough at least 6-8 times, eventually shaping the mixture into a rough rectangle about 1/2" (12mm) thick. Use the heal of your hand to press the dough away from you, smearing the dough between your hand and work surface. Do this in three increments working from one end of the rectangle to the other. Use a bench scraper to gather the dough once again and shape into a rectangle. Fold and press the dough over and on top of its self 7-8 more times. This helps to hydrate the dough and build flaky layers.
- Gather all the bits together and shape into a rough disk approximately 1/2" (12mm) thick. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and rest in refrigerator for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight.FOR A GALETTE: The dough is now ready for making a galette or pressing on to make a par baked pie crust.
To Roll Out The Dough:
- Lightly spay the pan with pan spray, bottom and sides.
- Place the dough on a lightly flowered work surface. Let is set for a about 5-10 minutes to warm up the pastry as to make it more pliable to roll out. Dust the top with flour and dust your rolling pin. Begin rolling the dough from the middle out, taking care not to roll off the top and bottom edges. This helps shape the dough into a circle in the end. After 7-8 rolls, turn the dough, clockwise one quarter of the way around. Roll again, 7-8 times, from the center out. Quarter turn again. The turning helps monitor for a sticky bottom. Keep repeating this process dusting with flour under, on top of the dough and rolling pin as needed so that the dough doesn't start sticking.
- Roll the dough to 1/8" (3mm) thick and about 1/2"-1" (.5cm -1 1/4cm) beyond the top edge of your pie plate (turn the plate upside down on the dough to measure). Trim the rough edges with kitchen sheers as needed. Roll the dough over and onto your rolling pin to transfer the dough to the pie plate. Gently press the dough into the plate without stretching it. For the bottom pastry, roll the edges under to create the crust's edge and crimp as desired. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before blind baking or while rolling out the second disk for the top of the pie.
Making a Single Crust Pie to Blind Bake:
- Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Set the baking rack in the center.
- Remove the pie plate from the refrigerator. Dock the dough by pricking the bottom of the dough with a fork. This will prevent the dough from rising up. Cover the chilled crust with a piece of parchment paper and fill it with 2-3 cups of either pie weights or dried beans.
- Lower the oven temperature to 350F (180F) and place the pie in the oven. Bake for 25 minutes, rotating the pan 1/2 way through baking. Remove the crust from the oven, carefully remove the beans or pie weights and parchment and return the crust to the oven for an additional 5 minutes.
- Cool, then use for a custard pie such as pecan, quiche or lemon meringue among others, following the directions for the pie recipe.
Making a Double Crust Pie:
- Before refrigerating the bottom crust, fill it with your pie filling, cover it and place it in the refrigerator. While the bottom crust is in the refrigerator resting, roll out the top crust in the same fashion as the bottom, rolling to 1/8" (3mm) thick and the diameter to about 1/2" beyond the top of the pie pan.
- Roll the dough over and onto your rolling pin to transfer the dough to cover the contents of the pie. Trim as needed to match the top crust with the bottom crust and crimp with a fork or flute with fingers to seal in the contents. Use a pairing knife to make about five or six steam vents in the center of the crust.
- Chill for at least 30 minutes, but up to one hour is fine. Do not hold in fridge longer than one hour as the filling will start to hydrate the dough and yield a soggy bottom.
- Egg wash then bake according to pie directions.