How to Make

Pie Crust

Basic Recipes

Full Flaky Crust

2 Cups white flour
1½ sticks butter
¼ teaspoon salt
~5 Tablespoons water

Add the salt to the flour, then cut the butter in with your fingers, or you can use one of those metal tools. Another trick is to freeze the butter and then add it to the flour with a cheese grater. Colder dough is good because you lose flakiness if the butter melts too soon. Anyway, when the lumps of butter are about the size of peas or cornflakes, gradually sprinkle the water in while gently stirring. The rule for flaky crust is to work the dough as little as possible. When the ball of dough just barely holds together, roll it out on a floured surface.

Everyday Crust

1 Cup white flour
1 Cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 stick butter (½ Cup solid oil)
¼ teaspoon salt
~5 Tablespoons water

I find that half white flour and half whole wheat pastry is the best of both worlds. The white flour keeps it easy to roll out, and the whole wheat adds flavor and texture. If I'm eating a lot of pies I'll reduce the butter to ¾ of a stick. Put the crust together as above.

Liquid Oil Crust

2 Cups flour
½ Cup liquid oil
½ teaspoon salt
5 Tablespoons water

Mix the flour and salt, and pour the oil and water in all at once. Mix the dough quickly and gently, and roll it out between sheets of waxed paper. When you're done, pull the top sheet off, flip the crust over where you want it, and then pull the other sheet off.

This is a dangerous recipe because it's important to measure exactly. People tend to scoop with the flour cup and fill the oil cup to somewhere below the rim, which creates a dry unworkable dough. You have to place the flour lightly into the measuring cup, and fill the oil to the very rim. If that's not your style, you'll have to adjust the quantities.

Ran's Sourdough Crust

1 Cup flour
1 stick butter (½ Cup solid oil)
¼ teaspoon salt
1 16oz jar bubbly sourdough (less volume if it's fallen)

I often make the sourdough with whole wheat flour and then use white flour as the dry part, and again, less butter if I'm eating lots of pies. Mix flour, salt, and butter as above, then dump the sourdough in, stir it up, and roll it out. Don't worry about being gentle with the dough -- this one is not going to be flaky, but it will have a more interesting flavor. If you want the added flour to get soured too, just make the crust about eight hours before you're going to use it.

Sprouted Crust

For sprouting instructions, I recommend this sprouting page. I use the jar method without any cloth or screens -- just my fingers. You can experiment with all kinds of seeds. If you're going to use grains, wheat and rye are easiest.

When the sprouts are ready, run them through a grinder or a food processor, mix in some butter and salt and sweetener if you want, and press it into a well-oiled pan. I don't recommend this for a two-crust pie, but if you do make a top crust, you'll have to use waxed paper, and even then it will be difficult.

Glutenless Crust

2 Cups glutenless flour
¼ to ½ Cup solid oil
¼ teaspoon salt
?? water

I don't like the phrasing "gluten free" or "whatever free". It seems creepy to use the word "free" to mean "prohibited" or "excluded". Anyway, flours without gluten include rice, corn, buckwheat, millet, amaranth, quinoa, and teff. Mix the flour and salt, cut in the solid oil or butter, and add water gradually until the dough holds together. As with the sprouted crust, I recommend just pressing the dough into the pan, and using waxed paper if you make a top crust. You could also roll out a bunch of mini-crusts and patch them together.


Pies are either two-crust, like apple and cherry, or one-crust, like pumpkin, pecan, and cream. All the above measurements are for a two-crust pie. The top crust is always smaller, so for a one-crust pie, reduce everything by about a third, not by half.

Measurement is only important in the liquid oil crust, because to maintain flakiness you shouldn't add more stuff after stirring. In every crust, what matters is the liquid-solid balance, for a dough that will be wet enough to not crumble apart, and pliable enough to roll out, but not so wet that it sticks to everything and tears apart. In flaky crusts, you take care of this during the water-adding stage. With sourdough, I start it kind of wet and then add more flour until it's stiff enough. So I generally don't measure at all.

In a two crust pie, separate the dough into two balls, one of them noticeably bigger than the other. After a few pies you'll develop a feel for the relative sizes. Then roll out the big one for the bottom crust.

You can use a traditional rolling pin, but I've found that a wine bottle works surprisingly well. You will probably need more flour than you think. I spread some on the counter, roll the crust a bit, flip it, roll it more, then add more flour, because the original flour gets absorbed in the dough. You need to keep both sides floured. Start rolling with light pressure and work up to heavier pressure as it gets flatter. What you're aiming for is a circle close enough in size to what you need that you don't have to trim the edges. This is a skill that comes with many crusts. You'll probably get nowhere near a circle and have to trim and patch.

There's nothing wrong with a patched-together pie crust. It tastes the same and you can't even see the patching unless it's on the top crust. Even after making hundreds of crusts, I often end up patching because whole grain flour is so uncooperative. If you're good, you can use all the dough in the crust, but if you have trimmings left over, you can just bake them as pie crust crackers. I would put them in for the last 15 or 20 minutes of baking the pie.

So you roll out the bottom crust, wipe a thin coat of oil in the pie pan, maybe add a dusting of coarse flour, and put the crust in. Then you roll out the top crust, and then you put the filling in and quickly put on the top crust and get it in a hot oven. The wetter the filling is, the more important it is to put it in the oven very soon after you put the filling in, or the wetness will soak into the bottom crust and damage it. Some people like to do a little sculpture at the edge of the pie where the top and bottom crusts join. I just press them roughly together. The important thing is that the filling doesn't run out of the bottom crust and down the inside of the pan. If it does, you'll just get a carmelized spot.

Baking time varies between pies. The temperature is generally 350-400 F (175-200 C), at which a filled crust will be done in around 30 minutes, but the filling can take longer.

Guide to Ingredients

Flour. For a really flaky crust, you need white flour. It's not true that white flour is as bad for you as sugar. They're both empty calories, but sugar is worse because your liver has limited capacity to break down fructose without permanently damaging your body. White flour lacks the vitamins and fiber of whole grain flour, but even whole grain flour has stuff that's bad for you if it's not neutralized by sprouting or fermenting. Here's a good article, Be Kind to Your Grains. You can also use non-grains like buckwheat or quinoa, but lack of gluten makes it much harder to work with the dough.

Oil. Solid oil is best for flakiness, but liquid oil is quite good. Also, a good solid oil is much better for your health than the common liquid cooking oils. I think the best is clarified butter from pasture-raised cows, and then other non-factory-farmed animal fats, including butter, tallow, and lard. Coconut oil is excellent and palm is good nutritionally but not ecologically. Earth Balance is a good non-hydrogenated palm oil-based margarine. Anything hydrogenated is bad, and "partially hydrogenated" is worse than fully hydrogenated. For liquid oils, cold pressed olive and sesame are best, and sunflower is probably acceptable. Canola is not the worst, but its healthful reputation has been fabricated by big agribusiness. Here's page with many links on fats.

Salt. "Sea salt" is a meaningless marketing term -- all salt comes from the sea, whether it's extracted from water or mined from ancient deposits. The important thing is how refined it is. Fully refined salts are just sodium chloride, while unrefined salts have valuable trace minerals. If you don't have high blood pressure, even several grams a day of unrefined salt are good for you. Some common brands are Celtic sea salt, Lima sea salt, and Redmond "real salt". If your "sea salt" is pure white and free-flowing, it's probably fully refined, and less healthful than the cheapest supermarket salt, which at least has iodine added back.

(public domain, anti-copyright, last updated November 2012)