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The Secret to Perfect Pie Crust? It's in Your Hands (Plus a Giveaway)

Pie crust technique

Note: this post includes a giveaway at the bottom! Lucky you.

You're always taught the same basic rules with pie crust. Cut small pieces of cold butter into a mixture of flour and salt; blend until the pieces are like peas. Add cold water, a little at a time, until the dough will come together in a clump. Gather, flatten into a disc, chill, and proceed. 

But recently, I learned a method that basically rocked my everloving, pie-eating world. Because it involves using your fingers to attain the perfect consistency.

This was very exciting to me because I actually kind of despise most kitchen tools. Especially the pastry cutter, because it is such a pain to wash. In general, the more functions I can get out of one tool, the more I like it. Wooden spoons and wire whisks? Awesome. Garlic press? Not so much. 

But enough about me--back to the pie. You're probably wondering some things. Let me try to answer:

Where the method came from

I learned this method at the Bake For Good event in Los Angeles, part of the Bake For Good Tour, where baker Robyn told us it was a method she'd learned from famed foodie Marion Cunningham.

By the way, if you want to know more about the event, check out this video.

Cherry cream walnut pie

How it works

Basically, the method includes working in larger than usual hunks of butter, and instead of mashing them with a pastry cutter, you squeeze the butter pieces with your fingers to flatten them.

    Cherry cream walnut pie

Why you should immediately adopt this practice

Those pieces of flat butter will make for the coveted "VB" (visible butter) in your rolled crust, and the taste is flaky and fantastic on your resulting pie.

Pie crust technique

I have co-opted and adapted it for my own use at home with a sort of mashup between traditional and by hand methods. Best of both worlds, and still, minimal stuff to clean.

And here, I will share it with you. Aren't you lucky?

Making Pie Crust with Your Hands

adapted from King Arthur Flour, who adapted it from Marion Cunningham

enough for a double crust pie

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup very cold water


  1. Sift together the flour and salt in a large bowl. Set to the side.
  2. Size your butter. One stick cut into small pieces, the other cut into fairly large pieces (double the size you'd usually cut for a pie crust.
  3. Cherry cream walnut pie
  4. Work in the stick of smaller butter with a plastic dough scraper (my new favorite tool and very easy to clean). It's not going to have the same impact that double the butter would in terms of working in, but go for the regular pea sized consistency.
  5. Now, add the bigger hunks of butter. Gently coat them with flour in the mixture, so they won't stick to you when you squeeze them. 
  6. Cherry cream walnut pie
  7. Now, one by one, squeeze all of those pieces of butter until they're flat like pancakes. Cherry cream walnut pie You don't have to be too precious about it. Grab, squeeze, then move on to the next one.
  8. Got 'em all? OK. Give the mixture another stir with your pastry scraper. Now, start adding the water. Switch back to your dough scraper.
  9. Keep on adding it bit by bit until the dough forms a shaggy consistency, still floury but you can clump it together.
  10. Pie crust method
  11. Gather, form into a ball, and place on top of a sheet of plastic wrap. Wrap the plastic on top of it, not too snugly, and then flatten it into a disc with your hand. Doing it this way, I learned, helps the dough spread out into the plastic and is just less messy.
  12. Pie crust method

Proceed with your recipe as usual. 


Hooray! King Arthur Flour has offered to reward one lucky reader with one of their mega cool dough scrapers, a cookbook, AND some of their highly patented and extremely delicious boiled apple cider (perfect for flavoring apple pie and using as a slightly fancy pancake syrup). Want to win? All you have to do is leave a comment (don't panic if it doesn't pop up right away; comment moderation is enabled) answering the following question:

What's your favorite type of pie to eat, and how do you like it served?

Apple pie with cheese for breakfast? French silk pie à la mode for dessert? It's all game here. I'll choose a winner by EOD Pacific time one week from today!

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Reader Comments (507)

Oh Boy!! I love pie. My favorite FAVORITE pie? Toll house chocolate chip cookie pie, with plenty of whipped cream melting on top of the still warm pie. Ooey, gooey, and oh-too-good. Hold the nuts please.
May 14 | Unregistered CommenterJessica
I like lime pie and apple pie with vanilla ice cream :)
May 14 | Unregistered CommenterSusana I.
Pie crust has always been intimidating for me. Things are going to have to change!!:)

My fave pie, hands down, is strawberry rhubarb... straight-up, room temperature! My grandmother made the very best.
I love fruit pies that have a surprise chocolate bottom, like a banana cream pie or strawberry tart with a layer of chocolate over the bottom crust. Taste perfection. I'd serve it cold, every day :)
May 14 | Unregistered CommenterMadeline
My 16 year old daughter is the Pie Baker in our house. She often makes "Pies in a Jar" and sells them at our Local Farmer's Markets. The Favorite would have to be "Dutch Apple"...Yummy!
May 14 | Unregistered CommenterEdna
love apple pie! with some vanilla ice cream!
May 14 | Unregistered Commenterilona t
This one is tough, but I think I've got it. Fresh blackberry pie at the end of the summer when the berries are at their peak-- just picked! And good for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert-- as is true for most pies!
I love pecan pie serviced with vanilla ice cream on Thanksgiving--it's such a delicious classic!
May 14 | Unregistered CommenterMaddie Swab
I like apple pie! Warm and with vanilla ice cream! :)
May 14 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca
Got to be Cherry Pie! Now I have my own pie cherry tree.....I get at least one pie a season (and a clafouti maybe) ... Heaven! Oh, with vanilla ice cream please.
Picked up a pie book last weekend so combining some new recipes with this technique is on my list of things to do this weekend! Thanks for posting!
May 14 | Unregistered CommenterBrenda
Rhubarb pie -- straight up, with none of that strawberry nonsense. I love it cold with fresh whipped cream. Or warm with ice cream. Or pretty much any way it makes it into my belly :)
May 14 | Unregistered CommenterTomye
My moms friend used to make whiskey pie. It is a custard pie with a meringue crust. It is so good, I really need to learn how to make it!
May 14 | Unregistered CommenterMegan
I love cherry pie with streusel topping, not a lattice crust, and vanilla ice cream
May 14 | Unregistered CommenterCaley
Key lime pie, extra tart, real whipped cream, please. :)
May 14 | Unregistered CommenterManda
My fav is Pecan PIe made with Karo syrup. I eat it plain....no ice cream or whipped cream ever :)
May 14 | Unregistered CommenterMia
apple pie - warm with ice cream :)
May 14 | Unregistered CommenterBianca
I absolutely LOVE my mom's cranberry-apple pie. Served alone, either at room temp or slightly warmed. (the likely secret: she uses (gasp) lard!)
May 14 | Unregistered Commenterkarly K
My favorite kind of pie is blueberry with a nice scoop of melty vanilla bean ice cream. Yum!
May 14 | Unregistered CommenterHillary
Blueberry crumble pie, warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side :)
May 14 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa
Chocolate ice box pie anytime of the day.
May 14 | Unregistered CommenterLauren G.
I like blueberry pie with a dollop of fresh whipped cream.
May 14 | Unregistered CommenterLiz S.
Pear pie with a little caramel drizzle!
May 14 | Unregistered CommenterAnita
GAH! A plastic dough scraper is the one kitchen gadget that we don't own :P I'm using a broken spatula these days to get my dough out of the bins (classy, I know). It works, but hellooooo KAF scraper! Come to momma!

I'll be honest, this technique for pie dough intimidates me a little... I'm scared I'll end up with buttery club-hands when I mix, but I'll give it a try!

As for fave pie... I'm gonna have to go with raspberry peach lattice, served with a HUGE dollop of buttermilk ice cream on top ::drool::

Thanks for the tips and for a great giveaway :D
May 14 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie
Apple pie ala mode with old fashioned vanilla ice cream. It's even better if the pie is fresh out of then slightly cooled. Yum!
May 14 | Unregistered CommenterDarcia
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