Apple cider vinegar tenderizes the dough while European style butter brings superior flavor and a fantastically flaky texture to this easy and foolproof Basic All Butter Pie Dough.
I’ve been baking pies longer than I’ve been baking anything else. It all started with my classic Apple Cheddar Pie that was inspired by a cookbook my great-grandmother gave me as a high school graduation gift in the late 1990s. Yes, I’m that old. Since then, I’ve been working and reworking that recipe, including many iterations of pie dough.
This is a core recipe I’ve been using for years
This basic pie crust has an ultra-tender texture and flaky finish that comes from a super secret ingredient. In fact this same ingredients has been used for generations in my family. Enough suspense, I’ll just tell you...
Apple cider vinegar is the secret sauce
The vinegar gives this pie dough its desirable, signature crust.
- Acid hit. The acid in the apple cider vinegar tenderizes the dough by slowing the gluten production in the dough. This prevents it from getting tough and elastic like bread dough.
- Love me tender. If you’ve ever bitten into a slice of pie with a tough crust, you know the value in a tender, flaky pie crust. This one has it thanks to that splash of vinegar and some simple techniques.
- Evaporation situation. Because apple cider vinegar evaporates faster than water, it works quicker at puffing up your pie crust in the hot oven. It puffs up right away, creating little air pockets in the dough. That translates to flakiness in a finished pie crust. This is a very good thing. FYI, ice-cold vodka can be subbed in for the vinegar.
- Disappearing act. If you're thinking, will my pie taste like salad dressing? Have no fear!. The vinegar all but vanishes into thin air when baking and if you notice anything at all, it would be the slightest of slight tanginess in the crust. Which is actually a welcome flavor next to sweet fruit fillings.
Use this dough for all things pie
This Basic All Butter Pie Crust recipe is a workhorse that performs like a champ in everything from pies to galettes and hand pies! It’s got all the right moves. It tastes amazing. It’s easy to mix up by hand, and the texture is fantastically flaky. With this basic recipe, you’ll never use store-bought pie dough again.
Butter is flavor
You may find pie dough or crust recipes that use shortening or a blend of shortening and butter. Shortening can make the dough easier to work with. But let’s face it, butter just tastes better than shortening.
If you are going to the trouble of baking a pie from scratch, it should be as tasty as possible. For me, it’s flavor over aesthetic, always. I’ll take an imperfect-looking butter-crusted pie over a perfectly laced pie with a meh crust every single time. And I will say, if you use good butter, this Basic All Butter Pie Dough recipe rolls out and shapes up beautifully.
Tips, tricks & techniques for perfect pie dough
- It’s all good. If you aren’t using good, quality ingredients, it will undoubtedly come through in your pie crust. Butter is the most important factor here. You want to use a high quality butter with a high fat content, like a European style butter. This translates to superior taste, workable & pliable dough, plus extra stability when baking.
- Remain chill. The flaky crust comes from the cold ingredients. Make sure your butter, apple cider vinegar, and water are nice and cold when you mix.
- Come together. Always let that pie dough rest in the refrigerator for at least 1-2 hours before rolling it out. The ingredients need time to come together and rest before showtime. This will help the dough relax and be more pliable when it’s time to roll.
- Don’t overwork it – it’s not worth it. If you over-mix the dough you’ll wind up with a dense, tough pie crust. Less work means more texture!
- Forgive and forget. Pie dough is supposed to be rustic. If your dough tears while rolling it out, patch it up. It’s forgiving. Now forget the idea of perfection and keep rolling!
- Plans make themselves. They really do if you have a frozen pie dough disk stashed in your freezer! I always suggest making a double batch whenever you bake a pie, hand pies or a galette. Then you can freeze the extra dough disks and have them on hand for the next time you find yourself with a basket of berries you don’t know what to do with. The dough will keep in the freezer when wrapped tightly in plastic wrap for up to 3 months!
The ingredients & tools you'll need for pie dough
Here's another reason to love this Basic All Butter Pie Dough recipe: it doesn’t take much in the ingredients or equipment departments.
- Key ingredients. Just quality butter, all-purpose flour, sugar, salt, apple cider vinegar & water! Simple as can be.
- May I cut in. To cut the butter into the dry ingredients, a pastry blender is my go-to tool. But if you don’t have one, you can use two butter knives and kinda criss cross them through the butter to break it up. Or, just use your hands to squish that butter into the dry ingredients. If you run hot, run those mitts under some cold water for a moment first!
- Ride the bench. A bench knife is my best friend in the kitchen. It cuts, it cleans and it scoops like none other. I use this tool all of the time when making pie dough and it’s paid for itself 1000 times over.
- Roll with it. You will need a rolling pin to roll out your pie dough evenly. Although, I’ve been known to successfully use a wine bottle to roll dough in a pinch.
I hope this Basic All Butter Pie Dough recipe convinces you to try your hand at handmade pie dough. The buttery flavor and flaky crust are everything you want in a dream pie. And I promise it’s not as scary to make homemade pie dough as you might have been led to believe. Give it a go, you’ll never go back to store bought again, I guarantee it!
If vodka speaks to you more than apple cider vinegar, check out my All Butter Vodka Pie Dough that I use interchangeably with this Basic All Butter Pie Dough recipe. They act in the same way in the dough and yield the same results. It’s nice to have options.