The Quest for the Perfect Pie Crust

June 7, 2011

Something happened last week that made me realize it was high time I learned to make a proper pie crust from scratch.  What happened to prompt that awareness I will share tomorrow, but the truth of the matter is, I realized how could I truly live this long in my life and not have mastered the art of making the perfect flaky pie crust from scratch?   

In years past, when I’ve made pie (like my Praline Pumpkin Pie) I cut that ‘homemade crust’ corner and either bought a premade deep dish or rolled out the frozen crust variety.  So it was time I consulted an expert to teach me how to truly make a proper pie crust from scratch. 

Of course when one wants to master the art of anything, one turns to Google for instant gratification.  Wouldn’t you know it, when I searched for ‘Perfect Pie Crust, up popped Paula’s recipe with rave reviews.


paulas perfect pie crust on google


Five stars?  Click.  I’ll try that one. 

First the ingredients. 


ingredients for pie crust

To make this crust, gather up some flour, butter, salt, sugar, shortening and a strong vodka tonic. 

I’m kidding.  You’ll need ice water.  Unless you’re making pie crust from scratch for the first time, then a vodka tonic will probably help. 

Here what you’ll really need: 

paulas ingredients


I followed Paula’s instructions closely.  “In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, salt and sugar. Add the shortening and break it up with your hands as you start to coat it all up with the flour.”

Resist the urge to create make believe dough devouring monsters.  That’s not in the recipe anywhere.

dragon eating flour


“Add the cold butter cubes and work it into the flour with your hands or a pastry cutter.” 

Do not make fun little butter towers in your hand, they will only tumble like the walls of Jericho because of the warmth of your hand.  Do what Paula says, y’all and keep that butter cold. 

butter in hand


“Work it quickly, so the butter doesn’t get too soft, until the mixture is crumbly, like very coarse cornmeal.” 

Yes ma’am. 

“Add the ice water, a little at a time, until the mixture comes together forming a dough. Bring the dough together into a ball.”

You got it Paula. 

pie crust ball


If only I’d been armed with this dough ball that summer in 1981.  I could have used it against my pesky big brother when he stole my . . . never mind.

“Divide the dough in half and flatten it slightly to form a disk shape.”  Well, how about quarters since I doubled the recipe.  That math seems right to me, but what do I know.  Mrs. Silver gave me a ‘C’ in Algebra my freshman semester of high school and it haunts me to this day.

 dough separated


“Wrap each disk in plastic and chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.”


 pie disks


“On a floured surface roll each disk out into a 10 to 11-inch circle to make a 9-inch pie.”  Got it. 

 flour roll dough

Did it work? 

Did I successfully recreate the perfect pie crust? 

flaky pie crust

I think so. 

I’ll share the pie recipe next.

Meanwhile, do you know what I want to see?  I really want to see a Pie Throwdown between my three favorite television bakers, Paula, Martha, and Ree. 

Paula swears by both butter and shortening in her recipe.  Ree uses shortening, egg and vinegar, but no butter in her pie crust.   Martha doesn’t use shortening or egg at all in her recipe.  I’m curious to try all three and compare.

Who do you think would win in a Pie Throwdown between those three?  Or would it be your Granny?  I think my Memah could definitely hold her own in that kitchen cook off,  what about you?

Got a secret ingredient or special technique you use in your pie crust?  Do tell.



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