Move aside food processor! Be gone tough pie crusts! I hath found the holy grail of pastry doughs.
It is flaky, it is buttery, it is un-fussy, and it needs no difficult-to-clean equipment, just your clean hands and a large bowl. The secret?
Sour cream. No added water, instead you add sour cream. I’m not kidding. This method works and it couldn’t be easier.
The recipe comes from my friend, former Zuni Cafe chef Kathi Riley, who has been using it as her go-to pastry crust recipe for 25 years and who graciously shared it with me to share with you.
Why does this pie crust recipe work?
The biggest issue with flour-based pie crusts is toughness. Toughness develops when protein strands in gluten form when the flour and water come together.
By rubbing the flour initially with butter, you coat the flour protein molecules in fat. When you add sour cream, you add moisture that is surrounded by fat. Both the fat in the butter and the fat in the sour cream help keep water molecules away from protein molecules, resulting in a more tender pie crust.
Tips for pie dough success:
This pie dough works a little differently than classic pie dough:
- Take the chill off the butter: Many pie crust recipes call for working with very cold ingredients, which is important for an all-butter pie crust. But in this recipe, you’ll work the butter into the flour with your hands, which will only work if the butter isn’t too cold. Take the butter out of the fridge and let it sit out for a few minutes in a warm spot before working it into the flour mixture.
- Squish the butter into the flour: As you work the butter into the flour, squish it so that some of the cubes flatten into the flour. Pressing down with your knuckles in the bowl can help with this. Flattened pieces of butter will result in flaky layers.
- Stir the sour cream: Use full-fat sour cream and if it has separated in the container, stir it before adding it to the dough mixture.
- Make sure your dough disks do not have cracks in them: Do not worry about overworking the dough to form the dough disks; because of the way we incorporate fat, this is a very forgiving pie dough. Do what you need to do to get the dough to hold together well. As you work it into disks, it should end up smooth, having the consistency of play-doh. Once you wrap the dough disk in plastic wrap, you can massage the dough and the edges with your warm hands to close any cracks.
Make These Pies with This Crust:
How to make the easiest pie crust ever
No Fail, Sour Cream Pie Crust Recipe
This recipe makes enough dough for a top and bottom crust for a 9-inch pie.
The dough ratio is 1 cup flour: 1 stick butter: 1/4 cup sour cream: 1/2 teaspoon salt: 1 teaspoon sugar. These are the amounts for a single-crust 9-inch pie.
If you are making a 10-inch pie, use 2 1/2 cups flour, 2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces, 1 1/4 cup) butter, 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp sour cream for a double crust, or 1 1/4 cups flour, 1 1/4 sticks (5 ounces) butter, 1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp sour cream for a single crust.
- 2 cups (260 g) all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon of salt (skip if using salted butter)
- 2 teaspoons of sugar (for sweet recipes, otherwise skip)
- 2 sticks unsalted butter (1 cup, 8 ounces, 225 g) cubed
- 1/2 cup (115 ml) sour cream (full fat, NOT light sour cream)
1 Cut butter into cubes and let sit for a couple minutes: Cut the butter into cubes and put in a warm spot to take the chill off (don't soften the butter, just let it sit out for couple minutes when you take it out of the fridge).
2 Whisk together flour, salt, sugar: In a large bowl, vigorously whisk together the flour, salt (omit if using salted butter), and sugar (if using).
3 Work the butter into the flour with your hands: Sprinkled the cubes of butter over the flour. Use your clean hands to squish the flour and butter together with your thumbs, fingers, and knuckles. Work the butter into the dough until you have what resembles a coarse meal with some flattened chunks of butter.
4 Add sour cream: Add the sour cream to the flour butter mixture. Use a fork to incorporate into the mixture.
5 Form dough into disks, refrigerate: Use your hands to gather the pastry dough together into a large ball. Use a knife to cut the ball in half. Form into two disks. As you work the dough into disks, it should end up smooth, having the consistency of Play-Doh. Don't worry about over-working this dough. Form the disks so that there are no cracks.
Sprinkle all over with a little flour. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Once you wrap the dough disk in plastic wrap, you can massage the dough and the edges with your warm hands to close any cracks. Chill in the refrigerator for an hour or up to a day ahead.
If you want to freeze for future use, wrap again, this time with aluminum foil and freeze (leave in refrigerator overnight to thaw before using).
6 Remove dough from fridge, let sit for a few minutes, then roll out: After the dough has been sitting in the fridge for an hour, remove it and let it sit for 5-10 minutes at room temperature to become more malleable before rolling out.
If it still feels too stiff to roll out, hold your hands around the edges to soften.
To roll out, sprinkle a clean, flat surface with flour. As you roll the dough, check to make sure the bottom is not sticking. If it is, lift it up and sprinkle a little flour underneath.
Roll out to 12 to 14 inches wide, to an even thickness.
You can use this pastry dough for unstructured rustic pies or galettes, or single or double crusted traditional pies. It can also be used for a savory pot pie.
Whether you use the dough for a galette or a double crust pie, it will be prettier with a light egg wash. Just whisk one egg in a small bowl, add a teaspoon of water, and brush lightly over the exposed crust with a pastry brush, right before baking.
Blind-baking this pie crust
This pie crust recipe is difficult to pre-bake. There is more fat in it than a regular crust, which can cause the sides to slump if you bake it without a filling. That said, I have successfully pre-baked this crust by fluting the edges of the dough extra high above the edges of the pie pan, freezing the crust for at least 30 minutes first, lining it with heavy foil, filling it all of the way with white granulated sugar, then baking it at 350°F for 50 minutes. (See our instructions for blind baking a pie crust.)
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