Perfect Pie Dough

Perfect Pie Dough

Whenever it starts getting cold and gross outside, I always want to stay in and bake. Unfortunately, watching the Great British Bake-off only fuels this obsession.

I could do that, right? (Courtesy of the BBC website.)

Luckily, pie is the perfect thing to bake for max coziness. Need to whip something up for a party? Make a simple pie. Buy too much fruit? Encase it in a gloriously buttery galette. Don’t know what to make for dinner? You probably have most of the ingredients for chicken pot pie right now.

Let’s talk pie dough. Pretty much every pie dough is some flour (with perhaps some sugar or salt added), a solid fat (butter, shortening, lard, etc.), and a liquid (usually water, but there’s also vodka, milk, etc.). I think that this is the perfect pie dough, but it is hard to go totally wrong with pie dough. (Especially since such delicious things go in the pie.)

Because it’s so hard to go wrong, I’m going to say right here that it’s okay to substitute an equal volume of water for the vodka below. Vodka is odorless and flavorless. It will not affect the taste of the pie, but going to the liquor store is not a necessary step for making this pie dough. It will be just lovely without the vodka as well. I like using it because it gives you the liquid you need to mix up the pie dough, but then the alcohol evaporates in the oven, giving you a crisp and flaky crust. If you’re on the fence, try it both ways.

There are a lot of tips and tricks that can help you make the perfect pie dough, but there are only two rules that you need to know. First, everything should be ice cold (so that the fat in your pie dough doesn’t melt). If you have the foresight to do so, go ahead and place your mixing bowl in the fridge. If anything gets too warm while you’re working, go pop it in the fridge again and have a break. (I learned this the hard way, when my lattice started melting. Oops.)

Second, don’t overwork your dough. You want it to be well-incorporated, but, as I read on Smitten Kitchen, “visible butter equals visible flakiness.” As long as your dough is mixed enough to work with, you’re good to go.

I realize this looks like a lot of instructions, but this is not a hard thing. Learning to make the perfect pie dough is just something that will enhance your baking, and I want you to have all the help you need. But you will be just fine. Enjoy your perfect pie dough!


  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup cold butter, cut into small slices
  • 1/4 cup cold shortening, cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup cold vodka
  • 1/4 cup cold water


Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add your butter and shortening.

perfect pie dough

Gently rub all ingredients together by hand until each piece of fat is covered in flour.

perfect pie dough
You can see that there are still rather large chunks of butter, but that’s okay.

Add the water and vodka, mixing dough until just combined. Divine your dough in two, roll each hunk of dough into a ball, and flatten. Cover each disc of dough in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for one hour.

perfect pie dough

When your dough is done chilling, place it onto a lightly floured surface. Roll into a 12-inch circle, and place gently in your 9-inch pie pan. (I find that placing it over the rolling pin makes this easiest.)

perfect pie dough

Press your dough into the pie pan, and vent the bottom with a fork. Fold the excess dough under. If you’re making a single crust pie, you can crimp or roll the edges and stop here.

If you’re making a double crust pie, put your filling in, and then roll out the top crust to a 12-inch circle as well. Place it gently on top of your filled pie, and then crimp or roll your two pie edges together. Don’t forget to vent the pie, usually with four slits in the middle.

perfect pie dough
I did eight vents; I was feeling fancy.

Brush with milk. Bake your gorgeous homemade pie at 450 F for 18-20 minutes, and then at 350 F until brown (usually not longer than the 20 minutes). Enjoy!

perfect pie dough

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