Whole Wheat Pie Crust: it's easy as pie!

Flaky, buttery, crispy… whole wheat pie crust?

Doesn’t seem like that’s how to describe a pie crust made with whole wheat, does it? Well folks, put this on your “must bake” list. This crust, made with white whole wheat flour, looks and acts just like its all-purpose cousin – but comes with all of the nutritional benefits that whole wheat brings.

How to make Whole Wheat Pie Crust via @kingarthurflourMaking a pie crust can be a daunting feat for many. It’s the sort of thing that you need to make a few times before it becomes second nature.

I learned to make the perfect pie from the ever-knowledgeable Susan Reid, editor of our new magazine, Sift. She’s pretty masterful, so if you’re starting at square one, it’s well worth reading her pie crust blog. And re-reading it, and printing it to tape on the countertop. Maybe turn it into wallpaper?

Maybe you’re perfectly comfortable making pie, but the thought of introducing whole wheat into the equation is giving you pause. It certainly did me the first time I attempted it. Just breathe, remember that you’re a super-awesome baker who can do anything, and give it a shot!

Traditional whole wheat flour (as opposed to white wheat flour) is going to give you a significantly darker crust; you’ll also to able to taste it. For those who enjoy the taste of whole wheat, this is a benefit. But for those who are trying to add nutrition without anyone being the wiser, white whole wheat is your flour of choice.

How to make Whole Wheat Pie Crust via @kingarthurflour

Same nutritional benefits – totally different taste. How is that possible?

It’s simple. White whole wheat flour is ground from white wheat berries, rather than from red wheat berries, the kind that become traditional whole wheat flour. Both are 100% whole-grain; but the white wheat berries yield flour with a milder taste and lighter color.

Here are a few things to remember when creating a whole-wheat pie crust:

1) Give your whole wheat pie crust a rest before rolling it out.

Your dough will soften up and roll out smoother after the wheat has had a chance to rest. Without that rest, it may tend to crack and split.

I attempted to roll a round of whole-wheat dough immediately after mixing, and it cracked and crumbled. It truly does need at least a 30-minute rest before any rolling and shaping. Once it had a chance to rest, the crust rolled out and crimped up like a dream.

2) Whole wheat flour absorbs more liquid than all-purpose flour.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to add more water to your dough. Treat whole wheat flour the same as all-purpose; it will let you know when it’s had enough. Grab a handful and give it a squeeze. If it sticks together, you’re good.

You can easily add more water; but it’s far harder to adjust dough consistency when there’s too much water. If you try to compensate by working in more flour, the result is often a tough, dry crust.

3) Substituting a little orange juice for water helps with whole wheat pie crust’s flavor.

This trick works well, whether you’re using white whole wheat or traditional whole wheat. OJ tends to temper the wheat’s assertive taste, without adding any orange flavor of its own.

4) Handle the dough for whole wheat pie crust as little as possible.

As with making any pie dough, it’s best to keep handling time to a minimum. Hot hands = melted butter = less flaky. Using a pastry blender will keep the friction down, which will keep your butter cold.

5) For best texture and flavor, use a combination of butter and shortening.

Could you make whole wheat pie crust with all butter? Yes, though your fancy fluted edges might not turn out so well. Shortening gives the pie structure. Butter gives it great flavor. And both fats add to the crust’s flakiness. I think the combination of the two will give you the ideal whole-wheat crust with proper edges.

My fellow blogger PJ Hamel wrote up a fabulous blog comparing the two fats. It explains in far greater detail what using each will produce.

How to make Whole Wheat Pie Crust via @kingarthurflour

Top left: white whole wheat flour; Top right: traditional whole wheat flour; Bottom; all-purpose

I did a little experimenting to see how the process of making an all-purpose, white whole wheat, and whole wheat pie crust compared. Honestly? There isn’t much difference. However, the rest period is more crucial with the whole wheat than the all-purpose.

Concerned that your picky eaters won’t touch a whole-wheat pie, even when stuffed full of sweet fruit? You can see that there’s a huge difference in the appearance of the traditional whole wheat crust versus the one made with all-purpose flour. So maybe that’s not a good start. White whole wheat has a lighter appearance, as well as mellower taste.

Can you make a pie that’s half all-purpose and half whole wheat? Absolutely. Just follow the basic guidelines, adding water a little at a time. The result should be that flaky yet tender crust you’re after.

Fresh Raspberry Pie via @kingarthurflourCreating a whole wheat pie crust is well worth the effort. How else could you justify filling it with chocolate cream and enjoying an extra big slice?! Though personally, I think a Fresh Raspberry Pie should be the first thing on the menu!

Please bake, rate, and review our recipe for Whole Wheat Pie Crust.

Print just the recipe. Don’t forget, you can adjust the font size at the top left of the print page.

Gwen Adams
About

Gwen Adams grew up in northern New Hampshire, on top of a mountain, surrounded by nature and not much else. After graduating from Lyndon State College in 2010, Gwen sought a career that combined her passion for writing with her love of baking. She found ...

comments

  1. Linda

    I confess that I have not read PJ’s blog on the two different kinds of fat used in baking, but please address the issue of trans fat, which the FDA has classified as unsafe. I refer specifically to the trans fat in shortening. Will shortening even be available for us to use in the future?
    Thanks for your input!

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Hi Linda,
      In the test kitchen, we use trans-fat free Crisco, which has been around since 2004. You should be able to find it at your local grocery store. ~ MJ

    2. Shannon Murphy

      My mom came up with the idea to use Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks as a great substitute for shortening with no trans fats – it’s a combination of plant-based oils e.g. coconut, olive, etc and it acts a lot like shortening. Lard is also supposed to be excellent, but I’ve never tried it.

  2. Tom

    I have finally had success making pie crust. And, not only pie crust, but crust using WWW flour. I’ve been substituting coconut oil for the shortening. My intent was to replace shortening with a medium chain fatty acid. The result has been flaky crusts! I’m not sure if it’s the lower melting point of coconut oil or some other property of the fat, but it seems to be working for me.

    Reply
    1. Janis

      Tom, do you chill the coconut oil before putting it in? I find that coconut oil is almost liquid in the summer; doesn’t seem like it would work well that way.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      When we use unsalted butter we have the ability to regulate the amount of salt we add to the recipe. Some bakers like more while some like less. If you choose to use salted butter in a recipe calling for unsalted butter, reduce the amount of salt. 1 stick of butter is typically equivalent to 1/4 t. of salt. Happy baking! Elisabeth@KAF

  3. grandma tomato

    Should one use whole wheat pastry flour for pie crust? If not, what does one use it for? And what about lard?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Yes, whole wheat pastry flour would be great for pie dough. You will need to regulate the amount of liquid carefully. It is also great to use in place of some or even all of the all purpose flour in muffins or quick breads. The rise may not be as high so a blend of all purpose and whole wheat would help. Take a look at these other recipes with whole wheat pastry flouron our site. Sure, you can use lard. It is similar to using shortening in that it is a solid fat (only animal verses vegetable) so you will get similar results in texture. Flavor is not similar, however, given the different sources. Baker’s choice! Elisabeth@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Sure, you could try using some whole wheat flour in an oil pie crust recipe. Increase the liquid to achieve the correct consistency. You know what you are looking for since you are experienced with your recipe. Have fun! Elisabeth@KAF

  4. Cynthia

    I use two cups of white whole wheat flour and two cups of your unbleached all purpose flour in the Foolproof Pie Crust recipe from the Chickens in the Road site:
    http://chickensintheroad.com/cooking/foolproof-pie-crust/ I like this one because it makes four crusts that freeze beautifully. I’m happy to report that two years ago, I won the first pie contest I ever entered thanks to this pie crust, your good flour, and your piemaking tips! Definitely try the half and half approach for people who think they don’t like whole wheat.

    Reply
    1. Gwen Adams, post author

      So glad this works for you, Cynthia! Congratulations on your win! -Gwen

    2. Mary

      I saw the name of this recipe and was immediately curious as to whether or not it was similar to my late Grandmother’s recipe for ‘Never Fail Pie Crust’. I swear by that recipe, even with the modifications of White Whole Wheat Flour, all butter or half butter, half shortening. My Mom, sisters and I have been using this recipe successfully for over fifty years. So, I had to smile when I looked at the recipe for ‘Foolproof Pie Crust’, because it is identical to Grandma’s. I can say without trepidation that folks will be very pleased with the result if they try this particular recipe.

    3. The Baker's Hotline

      You can always trust Grandma’s recipes. It is always a joy when people find their way to a Foolproof Pie Crust Recipe.JoAnn@KAF

  5. Tiena

    I learned to make pie dough from your Baking companion cookbook. Couldn’t get my mother’s recipe to work, but using one from the book it came beautifully on my first attempt. Now I get invited to family gatherings and am always asked to bring pie. I think there’s some pie in my future!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Shhh… don’t tell you mother that! But we are pleased that you were able to achieve pie magic with the help of the Baker’s Companion. That’s exactly what it’s for. Happy pie baking! Kye@KAF

  6. Kalisa

    Mmm, look at all those streaks of butter! I made a pie crust recently. It was mediocre, but people were delighted by the scraps of pie crust that I dusted with cinnamon sugar and baked into little snacks. Made no waste of the leftover crust and it made people smile. I got the idea from the KAF blog, so thanks!

    Reply
  7. Rosa

    I never understood the saying “easy as pie” as, in my experience, pie is very difficult! I made KAF Strawberry Rhubarb Pie last night. Although it was the first success I had with pie crust (flaky, tender, tasty!) the filling was “eh”. I am sure it was user error. ;-). I will check out Susan’s pie blog and since I had great success with your pie crust last night, I am going to give this beauty a go, too.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We hope you do give this recipe a try, Rosa, and if you’d like some additional tips regarding pie filling, please give us a call at the Baker’s Hotline at 855-371-2253. We’d love to help you take your pie from “eh” to “AH-MAZING!” Happy pie baking! Kye@KAF

  8. James

    I generally like the editing on this blog. It’s generally well written, but these two sentences could have been formulated better:
    “Maybe you’re perfectly comfortable making pie, but the thought of introducing whole wheat into the equation is giving you pause. It certainly did me the first time I attempted it.”
    In context, it’s understandable, if awkward, and could easily have been remedied by changing the second sentence to “It certainly gave me pause…” or “I attempted it the first time with some trepidation” or “I approached the concept cautiously…”.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We’re glad to know you’re a frequent visitor to our blog, James! Thanks for taking the time to let us know how these lines came across to you, and for your suggestions. We aim for a high mark in all our work and appreciate hearing the constructive feedback of our readers. Jesse@KAF

    2. Alison

      Thanks for this post! Great information – just what I was looking for. Because adding whole wheat did give me pause 😉 I think I’ll try that OJ trick 😉

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *