Butter & Shortening Pie Crust

As the saying goes, “there are 1,000 ways to skin a cat”. Well, bakers know that there are just as many ways to make pie crust dough. You can use a rolling pin, pastry cutter, stand mixer, food processor; even two forks will do the trick! All of these methods have one thing in common: hands off! The most important part of creating pie crust is to keep the fat cold so it stays solid. Solid fat = flaky pie crust. Human body temperature averages around 98°F. The melting point of butter is between 82°-97°F. So, your hands can quickly melt butter, thus creating flat, crumbly pie dough. Vegetable shortening, such as Crisco, has a higher melting point at 117°F., making it more forgiving to work with. With all this in mind, it has been proven that the most versatile pie crust contains both butter and shortening. Butter produces excellent flavor and puffy flakes, while shortening makes the dough easy to work with and keeps its shape while baking so you can have sharp, Insta-worthy crust designs.

A quick prep is the key to a good pie crust. Cube the butter, portion out the shortening, and stick the fats in the freezer for at least 15 minutes. If you plan to use a pastry cutter or two forks to cut the fat, cube the butter on the smaller side. If using a food processor, cut larger cubes. Combine 1/4 cup of vodka with 1/2 cup of water and put that in the freezer, too.

Pie crust ingredients: flour, salt, butter, shortening, and ice water mixed with vodka

Whisk the salt and flour together in a large mixing bowl. Add the cold butter and shortening. Cut the fats into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter, two forks, or food processor until it resembles course crumbs.

Only do a couple pulses at a time and check regularly. Do not over-pulse.

Next, take 1 Tablespoon of the water and vodka mixture and pour it into the food processor. Pulse once or twice. Keep adding 1 Tablespoon of the vodka/water until the dough forms large clumps. The total amount of moisture could be anywhere from 1/8 of a cup to 1/2 of a cup, which is why it’s important to check after each Tablespoon.

When in doubt, stay on the crumbly side. Pictured here is maximum effective moisture level.

*A note on vodka in pie crust: the vodka will cook out when you bake the crust. I use vodka in my pie crust because it guarantees flaky pie crust better than water alone. You need liquid in pie crust to bind the fat and flour together. However, most liquids form gluten when added to flour, which makes dough tough. Liquor is the exception! Gluten will not form in alcohol, so I added vodka to my pie crust recipe as a fail-safe to keep the final product flaky and light, even if the dough gets overworked.

Transfer pie dough to a floured surface. Gently bring the dough together with your hands. Form into a ball, then cut the ball in half. You can weigh each half to make sure your top and bottom pie crusts will be even.

What you want to see: chunks of butter, swirls of shortening, and the dough loosely formed in a ball.

Gently shape the dough halves into flattened discs. Do this quickly and with light pressure. Cover both discs in plastic wrap and put in the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours before rolling out and using in a pie.

Refrigerate pie dough for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.

When ready to use, roll the pie dough out on a floured surface, fill your pie, and bake!

Butter & Shortening Pie Crust

  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and very cold
  • 3/4 cup (148g) vegetable shortening, cold
  • 2 1/2 cups (315g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 vodka, cold
  • 1/4 water, cold

Prep ingredients: cube butter, place on a plate and in the freezer. Measure the shortening and place in the freezer. Combine vodka and water in a sealed container and place in the freezer. Let these chill in freezer for at least 15 minutes. Whisk flour and salt together in a large bowl.

Cut the fat: In a large bowl using a pastry cutter, or in a food processor, add the butter and shortening to the flour mixture. Pulse the processor or use the pastry cutter to cut the fat into the flour mixture. Stop when the mixture resembles course crumbs.

Add moisture: 1 Tablespoon at a time, add the vodka/water to the flour mixture. Stir with a rubber spatula or pulse a couple times after each addition. Stop when dough comes together in large clumps.

Assemble: Pour dough onto a floured surface. Gently bring dough together in a ball with your hands. Cut the ball in half, weighing each if desired. Quickly and with light pressure, mold the dough into flattened discs. Cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours before rolling and baking. Can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days and in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw frozen pie dough in the fridge overnight before rolling and baking.

Recipe adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

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