This post on a foolproof, flaky all butter pie crust is three years in the making. This is the recipe and method I’ve been using for almost ten years. My mom is a master pie baker, I think my lack of fear of pastry dough comes from her. She taught me to use half butter and half shortening, but I prefer all butter for taste, texture and health reasons. For most of my adult years I’ve been the designated pie baker at Thanksgiving, bringing various Pumpkin Pies and my favorite, Chocolate Espresso Pecan Pie. I like baking, and letting someone else host the rest of the meal works for me.
So, ever notice how successful food bloggers post recipes well in advance of a holiday? (The reason is so that the post has time to get shared on Pinterest and Facebook.) I’m clearly not organized enough to be one of them, although I have aspirations. I tend to just bake/cook and take pictures if I can. Writing and posting happens when I have free time. We took pictures of making this butter pie crust three Thanksgivings ago! I actually started drafting this post in September, and I’m only remembering to share it today as my friend asked me for an all butter pie crust recipe last night. Today (the Sunday before Thanksgiving) is actually the perfect day to make pie crust. It will be just fine in the fridge. Little Bird and I are starting our pie dough today, so join us in real-time baking! This is also the perfect recipe for procrastinators as it is one of the few that doesn’t have to be chilled before rolling.
Tips for making a flaky butter pie crust:
The secret is really to have big chunks of butter suspended in the dough. They steam a little when they bake, making pockets in the pastry, which gives it the crunch and flake.
You don’t want the butter to ever melt, either from a hot kitchen, or warm hands. Fortunately freezing the butter this way really helps.
Don’t over handle the dough. If you mess up, just try to patch it back together with a little water. Don’t ever ball up the dough and roll it out again. Over-handling it like that makes it tough.
With this much butter in the recipe, the quality of your butter will be apparent. Use a good grass-fed or cultured butter if you can. And make sure it is unsalted!
There is no “perfect” in baking, and letting go a little helps. I’ve actually heard of pie baking being good therapy for anxiety. Maybe one day I’ll combine my private practice (psychotherapy) with baking in a workshop!
I really should do a video to show more of the rolling technique, but in the mean time, don’t worry about it being a perfect circle. If you historically struggle, make 1.5x the dough you need, so that it is bigger than what you need when you roll it out. Then use a knife to cut it into a circle! The scraps can be used for crust cookies or decorating.
The dough can be prepared the weekend before Thanksgiving. Make a round, 1.5″ thick disc of the dough. Wrap tightly in plastic and store in the fridge, up to 4-5 days. Can also be freezer for longer.
Pies taste the best when baked the day of. That way the bottom crust is still flaky. When stored in the fridge after baking, it can get tough or mushy. You can, however, roll out the dough the day before, put it in the bottom of the pie pan, cover in plastic and store, unbaked, in the fridge for a day or two. Then fill it and bake the day you want to serve it.
For more pie tips from Matt Gordon of Urban Solace, along with a Sweet Potato Pecan Pie recipe, click here.
Makes a double crust. For a single crust pie, such as pumpkin pie, freeze the other half for an easy pie crust in the future. From The Baker’s Dozen Cookbook via eggbeater.
2 Cups all purpose flour
4 Tablespoons sugar (optional, I usually omit)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
8 ounces unsalted butter
ice water, to incorporate
Cut the butter evenly into small pieces, place on a plate in the freezer and chill for about 30 minutes. Put ice and cold water in a measuring cup and chill (you won't use it all, but might as well have it cold.)
Place all dry ingredients in the bowl of a Kitchen-Aid mixer. When butter is frozen, use paddle attachment with mixer on the very lowest setting, and drop butter in a few pieces at a time. Stay close by. When the chunks of butter are slightly larger than pea size, dribble in the ice water until dough does not appear dry and JUST begins to come together.
Move the dough to a dry surface and push together with the heel of your hand. Try not to knead or overwork the dough, you want it to come together so you can roll it out. This dough can be used right away! This amount makes enough for a top and a bottom. If you are not going to use it right away, double wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for 3-4 days or freeze for up to a month.
I accepted another cooking challenge from Melissa’s Produce! This box arrived with beautiful winter fruit including Korean pears, mandarin oranges, and red grapes. It also included a package of steamed and peeled chestnuts. I learned making a chestnut bundt cake that prepping chestnuts can be a pain in the butt. But I also learned how delicious chestnut puree can be. I used the same gluten-free cashew/almond crust I made up for a lemon meringue tart (using my meyer lemon curd.) It can be made with butter, but this time I used coconut oil, which inspired me to make the whole tart vegan. Normally I would’ve considered mixing the chestnut puree with some whipped cream, but coconut oil and coconut milk made for a delicious vegan chestnut cream. By sweetening with only a little maple syrup, the whole delicious dessert qualifies as practically health food!
This post was sponsored by Melissa’s Produce, who supplied the featured ingredients free of charge. Recipe and opinions are my own! The box also included steamed beets, potatoes and a copy of “DYP’s The Perfect Everyday Potato Cookbook.” Among the inspiring recipes was a chocolate potato cake. I experimented with a red velvet potato cake. Unfortunately, it fell far short of being blog worthy. Sometimes I can spin a failure, such as my zucchini bread pudding, but there are also many, many recipes that just don’t make the cut. Being a recipe developer means taking risks. I only share the best of the best recipes — ones I want to make again and hope you might want to try, too.
Fortunately, this chestnut tart was a keeper! If you, like me, look for opportunities to bring your children into the kitchen, this is also a perfect dessert recipe. This tart crust is simply pressed into the pans. No finicky pastry dough or rolling out. My three-year old enjoyed pressing the dough. She loved decorating the tarts with the fruit, and sampling the fruit as she went along.
5.0 from 1 reviews
Chestnut Tart with Fresh Winter Fruit (GF, Vegan, Low Sugar)
A gluten free almond and cashew crust holds an irresistible chestnut cream. Topped with fresh seasonal fruit. Using only a little maple syrup to sweeten yields a winter decadence you don't have to feel guilty about.
¼ cup coconut oil, melted
1 cup almond meal
1 cup cashew meal
¼ tsp salt
6.5 oz peeled, steamed chestnuts
½ cup coconut milk
¼ cup coconut oil
¼ cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon organic lemon zest
3 cups fresh fruit, such as mandarins, korean pears, grapes
Preheat oven to 350*. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the melted coconut oil, cashew meal, almond meal and salt. Using your hands, press the mixture into one 11 in tart pan or 5 4 in individual tart pans. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden. Cool completely.
In a food processor, mix chestnuts, coconut milk, coconut oil, maple syrup and lemon zest until very smooth. Add additional milk if necessary.
Spoon the chestnut cream into the cooled tart shells and smooth the top. Decorate with fresh fruit. Can be enjoyed immediately or refridgerated up to 3-4 days.
Our citrus tree is bursting with Meyer lemons. Baby Bird, who is 14-months-old and walking, loved picking the lemons. Meyer lemons are sweet and juicy and made a great lemon curd.
I have been trying to feed us less refined sugar this year. I find that our taste buds are slowly adjusting. For example, my husband and I don’t sweeten our coffee anymore. Meyer lemons are naturally sweeter than a conventional lemon. This recipe came out delicious sweetened with just honey, and I used a fraction of the amount of sweeteners other curd recipes use.
Little Bird is 3-years-old now and is quite the pro in the kitchen. She loves cooking projects. She loves to taste all of the ingredients, but at one point I had to pull the honey away from her. I think she ate half the container. (So much for limiting our sugar!) The lemon curd was perfect over Papa Bird’s famous gluten-free blueberry pancakes. I also used it to make a quick lemon-meringue tart with a (gluten-free) cashew/almond crust. Since my curd uses only egg yolks, a meringue was a perfect way to use up all of the whites.
This version of a classic lemon curd uses honey to sweeten. I used grass-fed butter, but it could also be made with coconut oil for a vegan version. I recommend using organic citrus anytime you are using the zest or peel.
1 tablespoon lemon zest (from approx. 5-6 lemons)
1 cup lemon juice (the juice of approx. 5-6 lemons)
8 oz butter, room temperature
½ cup honey
8 egg yolks
Rinse the lemons and use a microplane to grate the zest of the lemons. Set aside.
Juice the lemons until you have about 1 cup of juice. Set aside.
Place water in a 2 quart saucepan on the stove and bring to a boil. Place a double boiler or bowl on top of it.
While the water is coming to a boil, place the butter in the bowl of a mixer. Beat until light and fluffy. Add the honey and beat well. Then add the egg yolks one at a time and mix in. Then slowly add in the lemon juice. It is okay if it is not totally smooth in the mixer, because the butter will melt in the next step.
Pour the mixture into the top of the double boiler or the bowl over the pot. Occasionally, stir gently with a heat proof spatula. Heat the mixture until it comes up to 170*F. At that point it should be smooth but not necessarily thick.
Pour into jars for canning, a crust for a meringue, or store in the fridge. Allow to cool completely. It will thicken as it cools.
Keeps in the fridge for 1 week and freezes well.
From this size recipe, I used two cups of the curd in a tart/lemon meringue pie and used the remaining 3 pints as curd. If you want a super smooth texture, strain the curd after taking it off the heat to remove the zest. I left it in and liked it.
Get all of the ingredients for this recipe ready ahead of time and then it will be easy to throw together. Just watch out for three-year-old honey swipers!
No fancy equipment is required, but a kitchen-aid mixer helps get a creamy texture and a microplane make zesting citrus much easier. A double-boiler let me not worry about scorching the bottom while it cooked and a thermometer let me know exactly when to take the curd off the heat.
Disclaimer: Links to products on Amazon contain my affiliate id, meaning I could receive a small referral fee for qualified purchases. If you purchase a product I recommend or nearly anything else from Amazon through one of these links it helps support our web hosting and keeps this blog going! Thank you kindly.
While learning about the Mama’s Kitchen Pie in the Sky fundraiser, I had the opportunity to watch Chef Matt Gordon of Urban Solace and Sea and Smoke demonstrate his recipe for Sweet Potato Pecan Pie. He gave me permission to share the recipe below. Chef Gordon also dropped lots of pie knowledge and tips during the demonstration. Fortunately, I took furious notes and share his best tricks and tips for making pie here.
Don’t forget that you can save yourself the time and trouble of baking by having Chef Gordon and other top San Diego restaurants and bakeries make a pie for you. Purchasing a pie for $25 will provide over 8 healthy meals to neighbors in need. That’s a win-win-win. You can also donate a pie to clients as well.
Chef matt Gordon’s advanced Pie making Tips
A cold kitchen and cold hands are best for pastry. The butter should never melt. The chef said that he sometimes goes into their walk-in refrigerator on hot days. Interestingly, he shared that the best pastry chefs often have naturally cold hands.
Use parchment paper between the dough and your rolling pin to roll out the dough more easily.
Adding egg yolks to the dough (as this recipe does) is called an “enriched” recipe. It is great for wet batters (such as pumpkin pie and pecan pie) when you don’t want to pre bake the crust. Although this recipe calls for brushing the crust with egg white before putting the filling in, he says it isn’t necessary for an enriched crust.
Citrus zest adds great flavor to any baked goods, such as this crust.
Wet finger can band aid together a tear in the crust. As you want to handle the dough as little as possible, never ball it up to roll out a second time.
Many home cooks have spices in the cupboards for ages. Fresh spices make a huge difference. (I love grating fresh nutmeg with a microplane.)
Use raw pecans. (I had always wondered which was better for pie!)
Setting the oven to 325ºF (instead of hotter) can prevent over browning the crust. You can use a bit of foil, too. (I use a pie shield.)
Don’t use the fan if you have a convection oven. A conventional oven is actually better.
As promised, here is the recipe for cinnamon cream cheese frosting, the perfect topping to the gluten-free Pumpkin Smash Cake and gluten-free pumpkin cup cakes shared yesterday. Both the cake and the frosting have greatly reduced sugar. I think our tastes must be changing, because I used a quarter of the sugar others use in this frosting and it still tasted sweet to us. I do not like to use sugar substitutes, but prefer to just add less sugar.
Hi! I started Baby Birds Farm after the birth of my first daughter. I started sharing seasonal recipes featuring produce from our garden, eggs from our chicken, and homemade cheeses from our goat milk co-op. Fast forward a few years, another daughter, another business, and now we are just surviving and enjoying our busy life and food as much as we can. Join our journey of good food, farm-to-table restaurants in San Diego and healthy living!
Subscribe to Blog via Email
My Day Job
Abigail Burd, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Psychotherapist, provides women's mental health in San Diego, CA. Specialities include managing anxiety and depression during pregnancy, postpartum and parenting. Learn more about my practice, Burd Psychotherapy, in Clairemont (San Diego) at www.burdtherapy.com.