How to Make a Flaky Pie Crust (6 Easy Rules to Follow)

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Nothing beats a piece of pie with a delicate, delectable filling and crisp, flaky crust for warmth and heartiness. Even the finest bakers, however, struggle to produce the ideal pie crust like granny used to make.

Whats the secret to making pie crust flaky?

Keep the kitchen, materials, equipment, and hands cold; use a combination of butter and shortening as the liquid; use organic, unbleached, all-purpose flour; work softly with the flour-butter mixture and while binding the dough; and preheat the oven.

My grandma had a magical knack of getting the chemistry between flour, salt, water, and fat just so, resulting in the ultimate pie crust: hard and crisp, but supple and flaky at the same time.

My pie sometimes turns out tough or even breadlike and chewy. What did Grandma know about flaky pie crust that I didn’t?

What Makes a Pie Crust Flaky?

How To Make Your Pie Crust Flaky (6 Simple Rules to Follow)

When we speak about pie crust, we typically mean shortcrust pastry, sometimes known in the baking industry as pte brise. The ingredients for shortcrust pastry are flour, salt, oil, and water.

Typically, you start by cutting or breaking the fat into the flour, forming a mound of buttery sand, and then adding enough water to make a soft dough.

The fat, which might be butter, shortening, lard, or even cream cheese, is the amazing element that generates the miraculous flakiness in the dough. The fat serves two functions in making the pastry flaky.

The fat’s only role is to coat the flour, preventing it from absorbing moisture and producing gluten. Gluten is a flexible, web-like protein molecule formed when flour is wet and manipulated (as when kneading bread).

Gluten is ideal for generating the airy, springy structure of bread, but not for crisp pastry. You don’t want the gluten in the wheat to develop too much and result in a tough, chewy pastry.

Another function of fat is the production of air. When you rub or chop the fat into the flour, it creates visible chunks of fat that melt away during baking and leave small air pockets in the dough. The air pockets expand and elevate the layers of pastry as they fill with steam.

As a result, the flaky crust is formed up of layers of dough separated by air. The more layers of fat and the bigger the bits of fat, the greater the air pockets and the flakier the crust.

The chemistry of shortcrust pastry is straightforward. But how can you assure that the pasty is flaky?

Flaky Pastry Rule 1: Keep It Cool

All pastry is best created in the coolest possible working circumstances and with the coldest ingredients.

Keep The Kitchen Cool

If at all possible, avoid making pastry on a hot day or when you’re doing a lot of baking in a hot kitchen. Work with cool hands, a marble rolling pin, and a marble pastry board, if possible.

Keep The Ingredients Cool

If you utilize refrigerated ingredients, you will also have a higher chance of making flakier pastry.


Keep your components as cold as possible, especially your fats, whether butter or shortening. Keep butter in the freezer as long as possible, and other types of shortening in the refrigerator until the last minute.

If your fats begin to melt before entering the oven, the flour absorbs the fat, and the pastry becomes greasy and difficult because there are no air spaces to keep the dough light and flaky.

Keeping your fats extremely cold also keeps you from overworking the dough, which is particularly important if you are rubbing or cutting in the fat by hand. We’ll go back to this in a minute.


Chilling your flour in the refrigerator may seem drastic, but it is an excellent idea on a hot day.

In her brilliantly named How To Be A Domestic Goddess, British cooking writer (and all-around bombshell) Nigella Lawson advises putting the measured flour in a small basin, adding your cold, chopped fats, and gently stirring to coat the fats. Then, uncovered, place the whole dish in the deep freeze. Allow for a 10-minute pause to ensure that the components are chilled.


Put the quantity of liquid you need in the fridge (some recipes may include egg yolk or even orange juice). To combine the dough, most recipes call for chilled water.


If you’re using a cold filling, chill it until you’re ready to fill the pie crust.

Rest The Dough In The Freezer

After you’ve formed the dough, carefully shape it into disks and place it in the refrigerator for at least two hours. The pastry dough may be refrigerated for up to five days or frozen for up to six months.

The dough should be refrigerated for three reasons:

  • Because the gluten relaxes, your crust will not shrink throughout the baking process.
  • The fat firmens the dough, making it simpler to roll out and work with.
  • Moisture pervades the dough, enhancing taste and texture.

Chill The Baking Pan

Chilling your pie dish or baking pan also helps to keep your pie crust cold during baking and helps the crust maintain its form and size.

Flaky Pastry Rule 2: Use A Combination of Butter and Shortening

Pastry recipes range in the kind of shortening they recommend for the best flaky pastry.

Because of its rich, distinct taste, several bakers swear on butter. Because of the large quantity of water in butter, all-butter crusts are light and flaky, but the dough is extremely soft and difficult to manage (butter contains 80% fat, compared to shortening or lard at 100%).

The water in the butter evaporates as steam as the crust bakes and the butter melts, forming light flakes. However, since this pastry puffs out of form when baking, it should not be used for pies with fluted or plaited crusts.

Those in the shortening camp (you, Crisco enthusiasts) recommend using vegetable fat because to its high melting point and propensity to tenderize flour, which adds fluttery lightness.

It’s simple to incorporate into the flour, and there’s no danger of it melting while you’re working. However, shortening lacks taste, and an all-shortening crust might be insipid.

Then there’s lard (rendered animal fat), which is particularly good for savory pies and covered fruit pies since it melts in your mouth. Lard has a greater melting point than butter, similar to vegetable shortening.

If you wish to experiment with lard, avoid the highly processed, hydrogenated lard found in stores and instead seek out higher quality rendered lard from a butcher or farmer, which you may get online.

Cream cheese is another viable fat, and it always seems to yield delightfully flaky crust. In recipes that call for half cream cheese and half butter, use half cream cheese and half butter. When binding the pastry, use cream instead of water as the liquid.

After years of experimentation, I’ve discovered that the ideal pastry is created with a mix of fats: shortening or lard for flakiness and butter for taste and lightness. For the most exquisite pastry, use slightly more butter than shortening.

Flaky Pastry Rule 3: Use Good Quality Flour

Of course, while baking, you use the nicest ingredients you can afford, particularly when preparing pastry, which requires so few components. We’ve discussed the various fats available. However, the flour is as crucial.

Organic, unbleached, all-purpose flour with a high protein content is my go-to. A high protein content in flour guarantees that your baked items rise nicely and remain fresh for a longer period of time.

Flaky Pastry Rule 4: Use A Combination of Water and Vodka/Vinegar

Using water and vodka as the liquid component of your pastry may seem like a frat party recipe. There is, however, a method to this seeming lunacy.

Water in the dough is used to bind the flour and butter together, then evaporates in the oven, producing a light, flaky crust. However, combining wheat and water might cause gluten to form the stretchy protein that makes your pastry chewy.

Being 40% alcohol, vodka doesnt promote gluten formation, so the crust stays tender and delightful. The alcohol also bakes off faster than water, limiting the quantity of water in your pastry.

If you don’t want to use alcohol in your pastry, vinegar, ideally apple cider vinegar, is a good substitute. The vinegar both prevents gluten development and tenderizes the crust. However, just a few of tablespoons of vinegar should be added to your water.

You’ve most likely heard of egg-based pastry. Yes, it produces a good binder and a more delicious crust, but it has no effect on how flaky the pastry turns out.

Flaky Pastry Rule 5: Keep It Light

Another approach to keep your pasty light and flaky is to handle it as little as possible. Keep your touch light and gently manipulate the dough.

Underwork The Fat

Overworking the dough is one of the most common blunders that new bakers do with pastry. When you handle your dough too much, the fat begins to melt. Melted fat in pastry causes the flour to absorb the fat and the small air pockets to never form, resulting in thick, mealy pastry instead of flakiness.

You may massage the fat in with your fingertips, chop it in with a pastry blender, or cut it in with two knives, one in each hand, working in opposing directions.

Even after working in the fat, you should detect specks of fat in the dough. Typically, recipes instruct you to massage in the fat until the mixture resembles beach sand or cornmeal; that is, it should be dry and powdery rather than pasty or oily.

To prevent overworking the dough, err on the side of chunkiness. A few bigger chunks of fat, the size of green peas, to guarantee flakiness. Large lumps of butter, on the other hand, will melt rather than evaporate throughout the baking process, resulting in butter oozing from the crust.

Light handling does not exclude the use of a food processor to aid in the preparation of the pastry. Our grandmothers swore by hand and touch while cooking pastry.

However, there’s nothing wrong with using a food processor to incorporate the fat into the flour, as long as you keep an eye on the flour-butter mixture and don’t overprocess.

When rolling out the cold dough into form, you should still be able to see flecks and streaks of butter in the dough, indicating that you’ve worked the butter in properly.

Bind The Dough Gently

The second step, binding the dough, requires light and rapid effort. This is the stage at which the butter-flour combination is combined with the liquid to form dough.

Keep a balance between adding enough water to let the dough come together (and not collapse into a crumbly mess) and mixing gently enough to prevent gluten from developing while making flaky pastry.

Please do not use a food processor unless you are an expert baker since it does not spread the liquid fast and evenly. To achieve lightness, the dough requires an equal quantity of liquid to evaporate in the oven and expand the layers of pastry.

The processor creates a pile of moist, sticky dough in a matter of seconds. Instead, place the crumbs in a basin and gently pour in the liquid by hand.

The quantity of water required depends on the flour and fat utilized.

Slowly pour in the water, a spoonful at a time. As you add the water, gently press the mixture together with a fork or rubber spatula. When you push the dough between your fingers, it should form little balls. You should be able to shape the shaggy-looking dough into a disk using your hands.

If the dough is too dry, add a little more water. The dough, however, should not be moist or sloppy, nor should it be pounded or churned like a batter, nor should it be mashed like potatoes.

When you have a soft dough, split it into two disks, cover in plastic wrap, and place in the fridge for a few hours or days. Keep in mind the advantages of keeping your dough chilled.

Flaky Pastry Rule 6: Preheat The Oven

To prevent the fat in the pastry from melting and being absorbed by the flour, preheat the oven so that it is hot when the dough goes in. This will ensure that the fats melt and the water evaporates at the proper moment, resulting in flaky crust.

Preheat a cookie sheet or baking dish in the oven to prevent a soggy bottom (every pie maker’s nightmare). Place your pie plate on this heated tray to help bake your pie from the bottom, providing a crisp and flaky foundation. The baking pan will also collect any spilled filling, keeping your oven clean.

Final Thoughts

Our grandmother’s flaky pastry secrets were to work in a cool atmosphere with cold materials and equipment; to use a mix of butter and shortening; to work softly while combining the butter and flour and binding the dough; and to always bake the dough in a preheated oven. It’s not exactly magic, but it produces miraculous consequences!


What is the secret to making a flaky pie crust?

Make use of very cold butter or fat.

Whatever fat the recipe asks for—butter, shortening, lard, or suet—should be well-chilled and sliced into tiny pieces to begin with for the flakiest crust in the end. To be really flaky, the fat in a pie crust must retain some of its integrity in the dough.

How do you keep pie crust flaky?

Coating the bottom crust’s surface will form a barrier to avoid sogginess. Before pouring in the filling, add a layer of corn syrup or a gently beaten egg white to create a seal between the pie dough and the filling and help make the crust crisp and flaky.

What simple rule should be followed when making pie dough?

Keep the butter chilled.

In order to achieve this aim, the cardinal rule of pie crusts is to keep everything as cold as possible. The colder the pie crust, the less probable it is that the butter will melt or leech out before baking.

What is one of the key processes of getting a flaky pie crust?

Cold butter is essential for flaky crusts. This step should not be skipped. To get your butter nice and cold, place it in the freezer. Many people dislike dealing with frozen butter, but it makes a world of difference when making pie crust.

What is the number 2 most important thing when making pie crust?

#2—Insert cold water

Fill a glass halfway with ice and water before beginning to make the dough. Add the cold water to the dough one tablespoon at a time, stopping when the dough is wet enough to stay together when a handful is pressed.

Why do you put vinegar in a pie crust?

Some argue that vinegar’s acidic qualities impede gluten absorption. According to this idea, after the water and wheat are mixed, gluten begins to develop, causing the dough to become tough. According to the notion, adding an acid prevents the gluten and saves the crust from hardness.

What is the best fat for creating flaky texture in a finished pie?

By melting the fat, you’ll get flaky layers in your crust.Shortening: The fat of choice for pie baking in the 1950s and 1960s, shortening has a very high melting point and is extremely simple to incorporate into pie crust. There is less possibility of overmixing and

Should I egg wash the bottom pie crust?

Brushing the bottom pie crust with an egg white wash before filling is one of my favorite cooking tips. This prevents the contents from penetrating the crust and causing a mushy bottom. At all costs, I avoid wet bottoms. The combination of egg white and water is also ideal for sealing edges, such as when preparing a pie.

Should you poke holes in bottom of pie crust?

Steam may escape by poking holes.

Air bubbles may also cause fractures, and fissures in turn cause leaks. As a result, a perforated crust is essential for a flat, leak-proof crust. However, if the filling in the recipe is exceptionally liquidy, piercing the bottom isn’t essential.

What are 4 rules to always remember when dealing with pastry?

General guidelines

Keep everything as cold as possible, otherwise the fat will melt and ruin the end meal. During the manufacturing process, introduce as much air as feasible. Allow the fat to solidify by relaxing after creating. Handle the pastry with as little force as possible.

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