How to make pie crust in your stand mixer: easy does it

Is it a good idea to make pie crust using a stand mixer? Or is it really better to combine all of the ingredients — the flour and salt, fat and water — by hand?

The vast majority of pie crust recipes (including those here on our recipe site) direct you to combine the dry ingredients, then work the fat in using a pastry blender, pastry fork, two knives, or your hands.

As far as using one of your handy countertop appliances, some folks say you can make pie crust using a food processor. But never will you see anyone espousing the use of a stand mixer (or electric hand mixer) to make pie crust.

Why is that? We use our trusty stand mixers for everything from brownie batter to bread dough — why not pie crust?

Some say a mixer toughens crust. Others say it doesn’t flatten the fat in just the right way. And for some, I think it’s simply resistance to change: Great-Grandma didn’t use a mixer, and neither do I!

Well, I’m going to tell you a little secret: I’ve been using my stand mixer to make pie crust for years. Nay, decades, ever since I got my first mixer by saving S&H Green Stamps (and if you know what those are, you know how long ago that was!).

Truthfully, you may get marginally flakier pie crust by flattening each little piece of cold butter by hand as you work it into the flour. But these days, my aging hands, wrists, and shoulders — to say nothing of my patience — are sorely tried by the process.

I’ve used a stand mixer to make pie crust forever, and people have always raved about my crust. And I believe that using a stand mixer to make pie crust is a perfectly reasonable solution for those who don’t want to work fat and flour together by hand.

Can you make pie crust using a stand mixer? Yes indeed — and here's how. Click To Tweet

I’m using our recipe for Classic Double Pie Crust here, which combines both butter and shortening. The recipe yields crust with a textural combination of tender shortbread and flaky croissant — with a generous measure of crispness thrown in.

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To make pie crust, first combine flour, salt, and shortening

I put 2 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 cup vegetable shortening into the bowl of my stand mixer. I then use the beater attachment at speed 2 to create an evenly crumbly mixture. (I’ve poured the mixture out onto a piece of parchment so you can see it clearly.)

This first step, thoroughly combining shortening with flour, is what produces a tender crust. Fat coats the flour, which helps prevent gluten from forming strong bonds. When you cut into your baked crust, it breaks easily — which registers as “tender.”

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Next, cut ice-cold butter into small cubes

This recipe uses 10 tablespoons of unsalted butter. A baker’s bench knife is very handy here. These butter cubes will separate from one another as you mix them into the flour.

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Add the butter to the flour/shortening

Beat on a low setting (speed 2) until the mixture is unevenly crumbly. That’s unevenly crumbly: you want dime-sized chunks of butter to remain unmixed.

Make pie crust via @kingarthurflour

Like this.

Make pie crust via @kingarthurflour

Add ice-cold water as the mixer is running

The recipe I’m following calls for 6 to 10 tablespoons of water. However much water your recipe calls for, don’t add it all at once; drizzle it in slowly. When you see the mixture start to form larger clumps, stop adding water (and stop the mixer).

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Stop mixing when the dough becomes cohesive

Grab a handful of the crumbs and squeeze. Do they hold together? If not, continue to drizzle with water until the dough is cohesive when squeezed. When that happens, you’re ready to add enough of the remaining water to make a crust that comes together nicely, without any crumbs remaining in the bottom of the bowl.

You can add this last bit of water using the mixer — or try the following method, which requires a bit more effort but makes an outstandingly tender crust.

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Try this method for extra-tender crust

Pour the somewhat cohesive crust crumbs onto a piece of parchment, waxed paper, or plastic wrap. Spray with cold water, paying special attention to any dry/sandy spots. You don’t want to liberally soak everything; just moistening is good enough.

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Fold the crumbs over on themselves and press down, using the parchment as an aid.

Make pie crust via @kingarthurflour

See how this crumbly mixture is coming together?

Make pie crust via @kingarthurflour

Press the other side into the center. Even these couple of folds will help add layers of flakiness to  your crust.

The pastry may still look quite dry at this point, but don’t panic; as it rests in the fridge, the flour will absorb the water, and the pastry will solidify nicely.

Make pie crust via @kingarthurflour

Divide the dough

Shape the cohesive dough into two disks. For a double-crust pie, one disk should be about twice as large as the other. The larger piece will be the bottom crust, the smaller one the top crust.

Make pie crust via @kingarthurflour

Chill and roll

Refrigerate for 30 minutes or so, and you’re ready to roll. This short chill lets the flour absorb the water, as mentioned above, and solidifies the fats, making the crust a bit easier to roll.

See that white patch in the photo? That’s a flattened piece of butter, and that’s exactly what you want to see in your unbaked crust: flat chunks of butter, big and small. These butter chunks will translate to flakiness as the pie bakes.

So at the end of the day, how do you know if it’s really OK to make pie crust using a stand mixer?

Make pie crust via @kingarthurflour

The proof is in the pudding — er, pie!

I’m betting there aren’t many who’d turn down this slice of Apple Pie, made with the crust you saw prepared above.

Now remember, there’s no such thing as baking police; if you’ve always made your wonderfully flaky and delicious pie crust using a pastry blender, food processor, or your hands, keep on keeping on. If your pie crust prep ain’t broke – don’t fix it!

But if you hesitate to make pie crust because you’re unsure of your hand-blending technique, or your arms and hands can’t take it, or you simply love the convenience of your electric mixer — go for it. Put away that pastry fork for good — no one will ever be the wiser!

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Frank

    I am a fan of following a recipe as written for the first time. I’ve had mixed success in making pie crusts even so. Do you have a recommendation as to the shortening (which from the way this is written I take to be NOT the butter)? I do not mind using liquid vegetable shortening. Is there any reason not to use lard? I went for years buying the line that lard was terrible. Vegetarianism aside, the research I’ve done is that lard is NOT all that bad, and I prefer using it. Coconut oil in is solid state is my substitute if I need to avoid lard because of dietary restrictions. Comments?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Frank. Because it’s also 100% fat, lard behaves quite similarly to shortening in pie crusts. This article has you combine the shortening with flour at first, then add the butter later on. You could use lard in place of the shortening if you’d like, but it’s wonderful that you’ve found that coconut oil works well for your diet! The only downsides we’ve found when using coconut oil in pastries is that if it’s the main fat, things can be a little gummy and greasy, but if you’re using it in combination with the butter, it should be just fine. If you have any other questions, our free and friendly Baker’s Hotline is available at 855-371-BAKE (2253). Annabelle@KAF

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