Perfect Pie Dough, Every Time

Recently, I've been playing around with pie dough. For years, I've used one pie dough recipe, the one that always treated me well, that never embarrassed me at a dinner party. It held up against the juiciest of fillings, molding itself to fit whatever flavor or combination I was testing out. It is the Labrador retriever of pie doughs—loyal and steadfast.

pie dough

And it's not that all of the sudden I've changed my mind and decided I'm a Siamese cat person. It's just that I wanted to branch out and see what other pie doughs are out there. And I did. I've been experimenting, trying different combinations of shortening and flavor additives, gauging what works and what leaves my oven a mess.

pie dough fingerprint

It's been a journey, but I've learned a lot. And I'll continue to learn. One of the things I love most about cooking and baking is that there is no ceiling, I can learn and experiment for as long as I feel compelled.

pie crust

I've provided my basic pie dough recipe, plus different things you can add to change the flavor/texture of a pie dough, and how you should adjust the recipe when you're adding those things. Happy learning!

Perfect Pie Dough:

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup vegetable shortening, cold
1 1/2 stick cold butter
1/4 cup ice water
Spices/flavor enhancers

Sift dry ingredients. Add shortening and break it up with your hands as you start to coat the flour. Add butter and work it in until it resembles coarse corn meal. You should be able to pinch the dough together to form chunks. Add the ice water, a little at a time, stirring in with a wooden spoon. If you're adding honey, now would be the time to whisk it into the water. Be cautious with the amounts you choose, you don’t want it to get too sticky. I don't recommend more than 3 tablespoons.

Form a ball and divide it in half. Cover each half with plastic wrap and flatten into a disc shape; refrigerate discs for at least thirty minutes. Take half the dough out of the fridge and roll it out on a lightly floured surface. (It also helps to cover your rolling pin with flour.) Fit the dough into your pie dish, then roll out the remaining dough.

If you're making a traditional two crus pie, lay the rolled out dough on top of the filled pie and pinch the top and bottom crusts together. You can then go back in with a fork and crimp the edges. Don’t forget to cut slits in the top crust to let steam escape.

If you're making a lattice top pie, use a knife or pie cutter to cut strips. Weave them together, and sprinkle with sugar.


  • For a savory pie dough: Reduce sugar to 1 tablespoon and bring the total salt up to ½ tablespoon
  • For a very smooth pie dough: Add a tablespoon of sour cream to the water. To compensate, reduce the butter to 1 stick.
  • For a strongly flavored pie dough: Add 1 teaspoon of extract to water. Choose extract depending on what kind of pie you're making. For instance, add lemon to the dough of a strawberry pie, or almond to the dough of a pear pie.
  • For a slightly smoother pie dough: Add 1 tablespoon of honey to the water.
  • For a twist on a traditional fruit pie: Add ¼ cup of Gruyere cheese to the flour.
  • For a subtly flavored pie dough: Add 1 tablespoon of a complimentary spice to the pie dough.
  • For a great freestanding pie dough (good for tarts and hand pies): Add sour cream to the water but reduce butter and shortening.
Elena Rosemond-Hoerr is a writer and photographer and can be found on her own website,



- 6 Foods You Didn’t Know You Could Make From Scratch
See all of Elena’s posts here

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