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What are the Secrets to Getting a Perfectly Flakey Pie Crust without Vegetable Shortening?

Updated on October 16, 2012
Using a peeler to slice cold butter will help make mixing your crust ingredients easier.
Using a peeler to slice cold butter will help make mixing your crust ingredients easier. | Source


I have been cooking since I was a young girl but I have never taken any formal training for it. This means that what I know I have learned by trial and error. One of my longest running battles was with pie crust. My crusts were always heavy and dense. I tried all kinds of recipes and ingredients but with no good results. Having been born and raised in Florida, it never occurred to me that the culprit might be heat. On any given day the air conditioning in my house would be set around 76 degrees. This is a pleasant temperature for me but it is lethal for a buttery pie crust. I had used cold ingredients and ice water as dictated in many recipes but never understood that taking those steps might not be enough. After moving to Tennessee and working in my kitchen on a cold autumn day I found that as I mixed my crust ingredients they had a different consistency. After finishing it then baking it I had a completely different kind of crust. It was amazing. Because my hands, my counter top, and my ingredients were cold; the buttery crust was able to combine properly.

A potato peeler

Many people can solve this heat problem by using their food processor but I don’t have one. Normally when I made pie crusts the warmth of my hands caused the butter to soften too much during the mixing process. I knew cutting the ingredients together with knives could help. This is a mixing technique called for in some recipes that has you draw two butter knives toward and across each other in order in combine wet and dry ingredients. Although it is a great arm workout this process is too time consuming. As they say necessity is the mother of invention and In order to make the cutting in process go faster I used my potato peeler to slice the butter onto the flour so that it would be more quickly mixed because it was cut so thin.



Little did I know the result would be a crust that would act similarly to Danish pastry dough because of the thin layers of butter. Danish pastry dough is made by rolling out dough applying a layer of butter, folding it in thirds, rolling it out again, folding it into thirds, and repeating this process several times resulting in very thin layers of butter and dough. This layering yields noticeable layers in the finished pastry. This ‘thin’ butter I had sliced into my pie crust mix made the mixing quicker and an amazing crust using a recipe with only flour, butter, salt, and water. I found this recipe online at I like it because it doesn’t need vegetable shortening to get that awesome flakey consistency. This crust is also perfect for making unleavened desserts and meals.

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    • Dreamjar profile image

      Dreamjar 5 years ago from Florida

      Glad I could help we have done the same.

    • Specialk3749 profile image

      Karen Metz 5 years ago from Michigan

      I have been making pies for quite awhile, but recently started taking out any kinds of vegetable oils out of our diet. I was wondering what to do for my pies! Thank you for the recipe. I am definatley going to try this one next time.

    • Dreamjar profile image

      Dreamjar 5 years ago from Florida

      Mama Kim 8 the ice pack is a great idea for keeping my hands cool.

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 5 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      I'm so glad I saw this hub! I have been struggling with making pie crust for years! I just couldn't get it as flaky as I wanted it. The potato peeler is a great idea! I never thought about the temperature of my kitchen either. It is usually at 75 degrees. Great information! Voting up, useful and pinning! :)

    • Mama Kim 8 profile image

      Sasha Kim 5 years ago

      Butter is certainly the way to go... and yes COLD ^_^ I put all my supplies in the fridge for at least an hour before I make my crust and I keep an icepack around to cool off my hands before handling it.

      IF I don't have much actual time to spend on the crust but don't mind wait time I will use a pastry cutter and combine the flour and butter that is room temperature and before adding the water I'll stick it in the fridge or freezer, once nice and cold... Then I'll add the water. soft butter just crumbles into the flour so much faster. ^_^ I adore your idea of using a potato peeler! I wouldn't have ever though of that ^_^ Voting this a bunch and pinning!

    • Liz-reviews profile image

      Eunice Elizabeth 5 years ago from Vancouver, BC

      Butter crust for pies, there is nothing better!!

      Well done on the tips.

      Voted useful & up.