The Easiest Pie Crust You'll Ever Make, Plus 5 Delicious Pie Recipes You're About To Be Obsessed With

You'll never be intimidated by pie crust again once you learn this ridiculously easy secret.

October 11, 2016
pie crust
Christina Holmes

I grew up on the first official organic farm in America. One of my earliest memories is baking pies with my mother. It wasn’t so much the pies I loved as it was the chance to work with her—Mom would give me a tiny bottle top so I could cut out “buttons” from any scraps  of dough. They would come out of the oven all hot and flaky, and the hardest part was waiting until they were cool enough to devour. We didn’t eat too many desserts in our house (my grandfather wrote a book called Sugar and the Criminal Mind—go figure!). But when we had too much fruit on the trees, we would bake pies. While my mother encouraged me to be creative and to substitute ingredients in recipes according to my own tastes, when it came to pastry, she was a stickler for tradition. She insisted pies had to be made with lard. 

By the time I was old enough to pay more attention to the art of pie dough, my mother had stopped baking. So as a grown-up I had to learn again on my own. To be honest, I’m more of a freewheeling cook than a fussy baker—I like to improvise, which doesn’t suit baking at all. But I wanted to nail pie dough from scratch because it was hard to find a ready-made organic version. 

It took me a while to figure it out. At first I followed all the recipes, gourmet and otherwise, but for me they were all too finicky and way too hard. Many recipes required several bouts of resting and chilling in the fridge (who has the time?) and some even called for grated frozen butter to avoid overworking the dough, which leads to a tough crust. And yet my pies still didn’t come up nice and flaky even after all the effort. But then I learned the coolest secret that turned piecrust into the easiest thing you could imagine. 

But then I learned the coolest secret.

The solution came from a friend, Haika Powell, who owned a local organic bakery. She used to make these incredible toaster tarts, which were really just thin rectangles of pie dough with fillings, and the dough’s perfect flakiness rivaled even my mom’s. When I asked Haika for her secret, her answer astounded me. Forget using chilled butter, she told me. Work with softened, room-temperature butter, and then chill the dough. This went against everything I’d ever heard about making piecrust—so of course I had to try it. (I just love a rule-breaker.) The technique was a revelation and made perfect sense. Cookbooks and pastry chefs alike all tell you the more you work dough, the less flaky it is. But by quickly pinching lovely soft nubbins of butter and lard into the flour between your fingertips, you can mix the ingredients in no time. A quick chill at this point before adding water and bringing the dough together will result in melt-in-your-mouth pastry. Ever since, I’ve never been afraid to make a pie dough with minimal fuss. (Plus, my youngest daughter now makes the pie buttons just like I did with my mother...and we still can’t wait for them to cool before eating them.)

I have adapted the technique for my book Scratch, because everyone should know how easy it really is to make pie. (You can find 200+ fun, foolproof recipes just like these in Scratch; here's how to order!)

pie crust
1/6 Christina Holmes
Incredibly Flaky Pie Dough

Made with a mixture of butter and lard, this dough recipe pays tribute to those early baking lessons from my mother.

Makes crust for one 9" pie

1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar 
½ teaspoon kosher salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
5 tablespoons lard, room temperature
Water, as needed (4 to 6 tablespoons)

1. In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, and salt.

2. Add butter and lard and rub mixture gently and quickly with your fingertips until it resembles coarse bread crumbs. Refrigerate about 30 minutes to chill.

3. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and mix quickly to form a smooth dough. Flatten into a disk, wrap in parchment paper, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or until ready to use. To freeze, cover tightly with plastic wrap and freeze for up to 1 month. 

Related: 9 Mistakes You're Making With Your Pie Crusts

shoofly pie
2/6 Christina Holmes
Lehigh Valley Shoofly Pie

Rich with molasses, this dry-bottomed shoofly with a crumbly topping takes its cue from my neck of the woods in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley.

Makes one 9" pie

1 Incredibly Flaky Pie Dough

Crumbs
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Filling
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup dark brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2
tablespoons unsalted butter
¾
teaspoon baking soda
½ cup molasses
½ cup hot water

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9" pie plate. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to a 14" thickness, forming a 12" round. Line pie plate with dough, crimp edge, and refrigerate until ready to use. 

2. Make crumbs: In a small bowl, mix flour and sugar. Using your fingertips, rub in butter until mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs.

3. Make filling: In a large bowl, mix flour, sugars, and baking powder. Using your fingertips, rub in butter until mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. 

4. Make pie: In a glass measuring cup, stir together baking soda, molasses, and water until frothy. Fold into flour mixture until just combined. Pour into prepared pie shell and sprinkle with crumbs. Place on a cookie sheet and bake until crust and crumbs are golden and pie is set in center, 50–60 minutes. Cool completely on a rack before serving. 

lemon curd pie
3/6 Christina Holmes
Lemon Curd Pie

The pairing of sweet-sour lemon curd, tangy crème fraîche, and zippy zest makes for a light and refreshing finale to a generous feast.

Makes one 9" pie

1 Incredibly Flaky Pie Dough

4 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
Pinch kosher salt
¾ cup fresh lemon juice
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 lemon
8 oz. crème fraîche or heavy cream
3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a 9" pie plate. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to a ¼" thickness, forming a 12" round. Line pie plate with dough and trim edge to leave a ½" overhang. Press dough to form a thick edge flush with pie plate. To decorate, press a dinner spoon evenly around edge to make deep half-moon indents. Repeat with a dessert spoon inside large crescents.

2. Prick base and sides of dough with a fork, line with parchment paper, and fill with baking weights or dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes, remove paper and weights, and continue baking until crust is deep golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely.

3. In a medium saucepan, whisk together eggs, ¾ cup granulated sugar, salt, and lemon juice. Add butter and place over medium heat. Cook, whisking continuously, until thickened, 7 to 8 minutes. Using a medium-mesh sieve, strain curd into pie shell. Smooth top, cover, and refrigerate until chilled and set, 3 hours or overnight.

4. Using a vegetable peeler, peel lemon rind in long strips and thinly slice into matchsticks. In a small saucepan, combine remaining granulated sugar and ½ cup water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add lemon peel; lower heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

5. In a large bowl, whip crème fraîche until thick, about 2 minutes. Add confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and whip until combined. Spoon over pie and top with lemon peel. 

mini fruit mince pies
4/6 Christina Holmes
Mini Fruit Mince Pies

Combining fresh apple and lemon zest with dried fruit, these fetching minis are a lighter take on the English classic.

Makes 24

Fruit Mince
½ cup packed peeled and grated Granny Smith apple
½ cup chopped dried apricots
½ cup chopped dried cherries
½ cup chopped pitted dates
½ cup chopped mixed raisins
½ cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon chopped crystallized ginger
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch kosher salt
Juice of 1 large orange (½ cup)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Pies
1 Incredibly Flaky Pie Dough
Milk, for brushing
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting 

1. Make fruit mince: In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and let sit, stirring occasionally, until fruit has softened, about 2 hours.

2. Make pies: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 24-well mini muffin pan. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to a ⅛" thickness. Using a 2½" cookie cutter or drinking glass, cut out 24 rounds, gathering and rerolling scraps of dough as necessary. Gently press each round into muffin tin. Fill each pie with 1 teaspoon fruit mince.

3. Roll remaining dough to a ⅛" thickness. Using a 1" cookie cutter, such as a star or heart, cut out 24 shapes and place on top of pies. Brush with milk and bake until crust is golden brown, 25 to 35 minutes. Using a small, thin spatula, remove pies from tin and transfer to a rack to cool. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

pumpkin pie
5/6 Christina Holmes
Pumpkin Pie

This Thanksgiving favorite takes on a delicious depth of flavor with the addition of molasses.

Makes one 9" pie

1 Incredibly Flaky Pie Dough 

2 cups pumpkin purée  
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup light brown sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons molasses

Whipped cream, for serving

1. Make filling: In a large bowl, mix pumpkin, sugars, eggs, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, salt, cream, maple syrup, and molasses until well combined. 

2. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a 9" pie plate. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to a ¼" thickness, forming a 12" round. Line pie plate with dough and crimp edge. 

3. Make pie: Pour pumpkin mixture into pie shell. Bake for 15 minutes, reduce temperature to 350 degrees, and bake until set in center, about 45 minutes. Allow to cool before serving with whipped cream.

Related: Creative Ways To Up Your Pumpkin Pie Game

caramel pear apple pie
6/6 Christina Holmes
Salted Caramel, Pear, And Apple Pie

Apple pie is taken to a whole new level with the addition of pears and an intense hit of salted caramel. You’ll have a little of the sauce left over for ice cream!

Makes one 9" pie

Caramel Sauce
1 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
½ cup heavy cream 
¾ teaspoon kosher salt

Pie
2 Incredibly Flaky Pie Doughs
2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, quartered, cored, and thinly sliced
2 large firm-ripe Bartlett or Anjou pears, peeled, quartered, cored, and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Pinch kosher salt
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon Demerara sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, for serving

1. Make caramel sauce: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, cook sugar, stirring with a wooden spoon, until melted and golden, about 8 minutes. Stir in butter (it will foam vigorously) and keep stirring until melted, about 1 minute. Slowly and carefully stir in cream. Continue to stir until fully incorporated, about 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat, stir in salt, and cool slightly.

2. Make pie: Heat oven to 400 degrees. Position a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper in center of oven. Coat a 9" pie plate with cooking spray. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to a ¼" thickness, forming a 12" round. Line pie plate with dough and trim edge to leave a ½" overhang.

3. In a large bowl, toss apples, pears, flour, and salt to combine. Transfer to pie shell, press to even out mixture, and refrigerate. 

4. Roll second disk to a ¼" thickness, forming a 12" round. Pour 1 cup caramel sauce over the filling, top pie with dough, and trim edge to leave a ½" overhang. Press top and bottom overhangs together and fold pastry under to rest on lip of pie plate, creating a wall. Crimp as desired. Make a few slits in top, brush with egg mixture, and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.

5. Bake pie on heated cookie sheet until filling is bubbling and crust is golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely, at least 3 hours and up to 1 day. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream and any remaining caramel sauce for drizzling.

Related: How To Make Corn Tortillas From Scratch In 5 Minutes

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