The question is this: what happens when you make pie crust with melted butter? But before I tell you what happens, let me explain a bit.
Listen. I find the generally finicky, fear-filled approach to making pie crust to be totally annoying.
There are so many rules. Your butter MUST be chilled! Your water MUST be ice-cold! Do NOT overwork the dough! It's no wonder that so many people beeline to the pre-made pie crust in the frozen aisle of the grocery store.
Often, when people tell me they are scared of making pie crust, I ask them this question: "what's the worst that could happen?". Well...ok. You add too much water and the pie crust is a little mushy. You don't work the flour in enough and it's hard to roll. You overwork the dough and it's a little tough. Honestly, these things aren't so bad, and the fact that it is a homemade pie crust, even with minor flaws, makes it a leg above anything you would buy.
So my advice is this: just make the pie crust. Even you mess it up when measured to pastry chef's standards, it will probably still be good enough to delight your family and friends.
In my desire to rage against the pie dough fear machine, I began to wonder: what would be the worst thing that could happen if I used non-chilled butter? In fact, what if I just used melted butter?
So, I gave it a try. Here was my approach.
I decided to stick with my favorite pie dough recipe from King Arthur Flour. I knew that there would have to be some alterations, since melted butter couldn't be squished with the fingers.
As for the water in the recipe, I decided to stick with just room temperature water since using ice water didn't seem important when the melted butter was already warm.
How it went down:
I started by assembling the flour and salt in a large bowl, and then melted the butter in a saucepan.
Is there anything finer than butter gently melting on the stovetop?
When it melted, I added it to the dry mixture and stirred. It became very apparent very early on that I wasn't going to need the water called for in the recipe--the melted butter was more than sufficient in saturating the dry ingredients. So I didn't add the water.
The mixture was sort of like a cookie dough, and it smelled heavenly.
Rolling it wasn't really an option, so I pressed it into the pan. Interestingly, while this recipe is usually sufficient for two pie crusts, this version was more like 1 1/2 pie crusts. So I pressed as much as I needed in the pie plate, and reserved the rest.
I placed the pie plate in the fridge for a while, because I didn't want it to be warm when I added the filling. It was malleable enough to be fluted.
Meantime, I knew exactly what to do with that leftover portion of pie dough: try out roly polies!
I've often said that roly polies are the best part of pie. I was anxious to see if it worked with the melted butter crust.
Well, these portions of dough really didn't like to be rolled like regular pie dough, so I separated the dough into little logs. I spread each with sugar and cinnamon, and then rolled them up. Rolling them was not easy--the texture was like shortbread and they cracked. But with some patience I worked them into submission. They looked sort of messy, but serviceable.
I baked them at 400 degrees for 10 minutes; this is how they looked.
They were very delicate and crumbly, but they tasted great.
Now, I was ready to get back to the pie. I prepped a pumpkin pie filling (recipe for that coming soon) and poured it in the shell. Then I baked it as normal.
Once baked, the crust looked beautiful. It was lightly browned. The filling was set. It all looked lovely.
It was a pie that required chilling before serving, but after a while, it was ready to be sliced.
Right away, I noticed that the melted butter crust was more firm than a typical pie crust, and required a sharp knife to slice. But it did slice cleanly.
The crust itself was crispier than a typical pie dough, not soft and yielding in spite of the fact that the filling was quite moist. The taste was fairly similar to a regular pie crust, which makes sense because the ingredients were pretty much the same...but the texture was very different.
I would actually say that the texture was almost cracker-like. However, I never found it to be too hard. I think that were the crust pre-baked and then filled, it might have been too crispy and hard, but with the baked filling it never veered into "break your teeth" territory.
Personally, I think I still prefer the texture of the more traditional, tender pie crust. But I am glad that I tried it the melted butter way, because it was definitely not a recipe failure. It was just a different texture. I think that it could actually be considered a success if some sugar was added to give the crust a bit more cookie-like appeal.
So listen to this, those with fear of making pie crust: even if you made your pie crust with totally melted butter, the pie crust still tastes pretty good with the right toppings.
So pie-crust fearers, hopefully that can take some of the fear out of the process! Basically, I broke all of the rules of making pie crust and it still turned out OK. I think that means that even if you mess up a little bit, your results are going to be just fine for where you are in your baking journey.
Melted butter pie crust
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
- (water omitted)
In a large bowl, sift the flour and salt together. Set to the side.
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Once melted, pour on top of the dry ingredients.
Stir until totally combined. It will come together into a cookie dough like mixture.
Press the mixture into a greased (that's important here) 9-inch pie plate. You will likely have some left over, but not quite enough for a second crust. Use this to make roly polies as detailed in the post, and baking them at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes.
Once your pie dough is pressed into the plate, continue with your pie recipe as usual.