What Flour Is Best When Making Pie Crust?

If you have read any of my previous articles then you know I don’t make my own pie crust. The convenience of ready-made roll-up pie crust appeals to me. But I decided to “bite the bullet” because I was curious to know what flour is best when making pie crust. So I made pie crusts for 2 pies using 2 different flours to judge for myself. With just 2 in our household, my husband has a lot of eating to do:) As for myself, I’m not much of a pie eater. Now Chocolate cake is another matter.

What Flour Is Best When Making Pie Crust?

 You need to use a low protein content flour. Why? The higher the protein content the more gluten development you will have.  While that is great when making bread, not so much with pie crust. The lower the protein content the more tender results you will get in pie crust and other baked goods. Pastry flour, which is low in protein content is specially made for those delicate pastries.  And All-purpose flour is in the mid-range for protein content. However, you can make a flaky pie crust with all-purpose flour as well.

All-Purpose Flour

A blend of hard and soft wheat with a mid-range level of protein content of 10-11. It is the most used flour due to its versatility. Also known as plain flour and can be used in a wide range of baked goods such as pastries, cakes, pie crust, and bread,

Pastry Flour

what flour is best when making pie crust

Flour made with soft winter wheat and has a low protein content of 8-10. It is designed to make pastries lighter and more delicate.

Cake Flour

A very finely milled flour made from soft winter wheat. Low protein content and bleached for a paler color and grains less dense. This flour will produce cakes with a soft fluffy texture.  However not suitable for pie crusts because it doesn’t give the elasticity needed.

Bread Flour

A high protein flour of 12-14. The extra protein results in more gluten, better rise, and chewier bread. Great for making pretzels, bagels, bread, and other chewy baked goods. Also really not suited for pie crust.  After all, you want your pie crust tender and flaky not chewy.

The Pie Crust Recipe I Used And Why

A pie crust is just made with 4 ingredients. Flour, fat, water, salt.  Some add vinegar, which helps tenderize the pie crust and slightly inhibits gluten development thus making for a flakier crust that is easier to work with. Some will add a little sugar to sweeten the crust just a tad. 

Now as far as fat goes, the most popular are butter or shortening.  Shortening has a higher melting point and is easier to blend into the pie dough and roll the dough out. And if you are going for pretty, the pie dough/crust made with shortening will hold its shape better.  But it does lack the flavor of butter.

On the other hand, butter has the best flavor and forms light, lofty flaky layers. The flakiness comes partly from the water content of the butter which evaporates as the pie bakes and turns to steam which separates and puffs up the layers in the dough.

So I decided I wanted the best of both worlds, so to speak, and used a pie crust recipe using both shortening and butter. The flour I chose to use in each recipe was all-purpose and pastry. So whatever flour you decide to use, they are interchangeable as far as measurements go.  You can go here for more tips on making this pie crust

Classic Single Pie Crust

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups flour, pastry, or all-purpose

1/2 teaspoon salt

5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cold

4 Tablespoons vegetable shortening.  

3-5 Tablespoons of ice water

Directions

In a medium bowl whisk flour and salt together

Add the shortening, working it in until the mixture is evenly crumbly

Add the butter to the flour mixture and work it in roughly with your fingers.  Don’t be too thorough, the mixture should be very uneven with big chunks of butter in among the smaller ones.

Add 2 tablespoons of water, and toss to combine.

Add enough water to make a chunky mixture.  It should barely hold together when you squeeze a handful, though the remainder may look quite dry.

Shape the dough into a disk about 1″ thick, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 min. This resting period allows the flour to absorb the water, making the dough easier to roll out. If left longer than 30 minutes,  allow it to rest at room temperature for 10-15 minutes to allow the butter to soften a little.

When it comes to rolling out your pie dough, the process can be tricky. Watch the video below

My Observations

I made 2 pies using pastry flour and all-purpose flour.  Both crusts turned out nice and flaky.  The one made with pastry flour was just a little easier to work with. It only took 3 tablespoons of the ice water rather than the 4 tablespoons it took in the all-purpose recipe. As far as taste, my husband preferred the crust made with all-purpose flour. I think it was because it was blackberry and he was more focused on that rather than the crust 🙂 I on the other hand preferred the one made with pastry flour. 

My husband loves my blackberry cobbler.  Want the recipe?  Check it out here.

What Flour Is Best When Making Pie Crust?


Have you noticed that most pie crusts call for all-purpose flour?  Maybe because this flour is more readily available? We have a local Amish store and that is where I got my pastry flour. Actually out of curiosity. This is my first time using it.  

Although pastry flour is noted to be better when making pie crust, you can achieve that flaky crust using all-purpose flour.  The key is cold! Make sure your shortening and butter are chilled, use ice water, and keep the dough cold when rolling out.  If it gets too warm, stop and rechill it.  The chilling will make the dough easier to work with and helps it become nice and flaky.  Try not to work with it too much. 

Make sure that you are using flour with low protein content. After all, you don’t want to use bread flour which has a high protein content, you want your pie crust flaky, not chewy. But out of curiosity, I tried making pie crust with bread flour.  Not a good experience at all.  Even chilled, the dough was not easy to work with.  It kept falling apart during rolling. I finally just gave up. 

My mother-in-law made excellent pie, in taste as well as looks. And she used all-purpose flour. But then we all can’t be perfect, can we?  They say practice makes perfect. I definitely need more practice. Who said, “easy as pie”? 

What flour do you use when making pie crust?  Leave me a comment with your thoughts. I love hearing from you.

And Has Always!

Have A Wonderful Day!

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