Flavored pie dough: Twists on tradition

One of the things I love most about pie dough is how it serves as a perfect blank canvas for so many kinds of fillings. You can use one dough and pair it with anything from sweetened fruit to toasted nuts to creamy custards. But the options don’t have to end with what goes inside the pie. The dough itself can be fun to tweak. Flavored pie dough produces a whole host of new combos when it comes time to bake your most impressive pies.

Personalize your pies! Flavor the dough with peanut butter, chocolate, or cream cheese. Click To Tweet

My go-to single-crust pie dough recipe

It’s simple, just four ingredients – and let it be heard that, generally, speaking, I’m an all-buttah girl when it comes to dough. Nothing beats the flavor, and if you’re careful while handling it, it works beautifully to create a tender, flaky crust.

To make a single crust (this recipe doubles easily to make a double crust pie!), you’ll need the following:

1 1/4 cups (5 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) cold unsalted butter
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) ice water, with more as needed

Start by mixing the flour and the pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Cut the butter into 1/2″ cubes. Toss the butter in the flour a few times until each piece is well coated (separate any big clumps with your hands). Cut the butter into the flour by pressing the pieces between your fingertips. The goal is to flatten the cubes into big shards, then toss them again with the flour to coat.

Flavored pie dough via @KingArthurFlour

What kind of pie are you making?

Answering this question will help you determine what kind of crust you need. If you’re making a fruit pie, you’re likely looking for a flaky crust, which is made by leaving the butter in larger pieces inside the dough. If you’re making a custard or cream pie, you might want a mealy crust, which is made by cutting the butter into slightly smaller pieces — producing a more crumbly (but still tender!) texture.

To make a flaky crust, continue working the butter into the flour until the pieces are about the size of walnut halves. For a mealy crust, continue to work the butter until it’s about the size of peas.

If you’re thinking you have to mix the dough by hand, think again. You can mix it up to this stage in a food processor – then transfer it to a bowl to complete the last step, adding the water. I’ve found that adding the water to the food processor can lead to improperly hydrated dough – it’s too easy to go over, and sometimes moisture gets stuck under the blade, producing a goopy mess toward the bottom of the bowl.

Make a well in the center of the flour-butter mixture, and add the ice water. Mix to incorporate, then add more water 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together. You can knead it a few times to make sure it’s fully combined. Over-mixing your dough can make it tough down the line, and can also warm it up, making it more difficult to work with. The dough should hold together and not look dry or crumbly – it also shouldn’t be overly wet or feel sticky. Form the dough into a disk about 1″ thick and wrap tightly in plastic wrap to chill for at least 30 minutes.

Cream cheese dough pie crust via @KingArthurFlour

Cream cheese pie dough

This twist on classic pie dough substitutes cold cream cheese for a portion of the butter. Reduce the butter to 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) in the recipe and add 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) cold cream cheese, cut into 1/2″ cubes.

Cream cheese is much softer than butter, even when well chilled, so it can be a little trickier to achieve the desired shingled look during the mixing stage. When in doubt, work the butter and flour to the desired level – it’s OK if the cream cheese is in smaller pieces, even for a flaky crust.

This pastry is very similar to classic pie dough to work with. The main difference comes in the texture and flavor. Cream cheese dough is a little lighter in texture – slightly less crisp but nicely tender. Best of all, it’s got a lovely, lightly tangy flavor that makes it a perfect base for so many pies. I love it with fruit pies, and it makes great free-form pies and galettes.

Peanut butter dough pie crust via @KingArthurFlour

Peanut butter pie dough

I always wondered about substituting nut butter for a portion of the butter in my regular pie dough. It’s even softer than cream cheese, so I turned to the freezer for aid. Spread 1/4 cup (2 3/8 ounces) smooth peanut butter onto a small piece of parchment paper into an even layer about 1/2″ thick. Chill the peanut butter on the paper until fairly firm, 30 minutes to 1 hour. Cut the peanut butter into cubes.

Reduce the butter to 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) and add it with the cubed, chilled peanut butter to the flour and proceed with the recipe. I find the increased protein content in the dough makes it slightly more elastic when you’re working with it, otherwise no major differences until you bake it. The result is a slightly denser, more crumbly dough that’s nicely crisp. It’s a beautiful golden brown color after baking, even without egg wash, and has a lightly nutty flavor that’s just crazy good. It pairs perfectly with nut pies, custard pies, or cream pies — my absolute fave is to use it when I make chocolate cream pie!

Chocolate dough pie crust via @KingArthurFlour

Chocolate pie dough

My favorite variation of all, this dough is best made with black cocoa, which gives it a super-intense color and deep chocolate flavor. Replace 1/4 cup (1 ounce) of the all-purpose flour with 1/3 cup (1 ounce) unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably black cocoa). Sift or mix the cocoa and flour together before you add the butter.

You’ll notice differences in this dough when it comes to handling. It’s extra prone to becoming sticky if too much water is added or if it’s over-handled at any stage. Try to mix and handle minimally, and be sure to allow plenty of chilling time after mixing to stay out of trouble.

The color can make it more difficult to determine when the pie is done, so pay attention to bake times and temperatures in the pie recipes you use it in. The baked dough is a gorgeous, deep chocolate color and has a rich flavor – all while still being flaky and tender. If you’re a chocolate lover, it works great in all kinds of pies, but I especially like it with nut pies and berry pies, doused in whipped cream.

Flavored pie dough via @KingArthurFlour

Roll and crimp your flavored pie dough

Once you’ve picked and prepped your dough, lightly flour your work surface. Roll the dough into a 12″ to 13″ circle, 1/4″ thick. Start in the center of the disk of dough and push outward with even pressure. Return to the center and repeat, rotating and re-flouring the dough as needed to keep it from sticking to the work surface.

For a single-crust pie, roll the dough onto the rolling pin, starting at the far edge of the dough. With the pie pan in front of you, start at the edge closest to you and gently unfurl the dough off the pin into the pan. Press gently to make sure the crust reaches all the way to the bottom, taking care not to poke any holes in the dough with your fingers. Trim the excess dough from the edges, leaving a 1/2″ overhang all the way around. Chill in the pan for 15 to 20 minutes or freeze for 5 minutes.

Tuck the excess dough under at the edge, working all the way around and pressing lightly to help the dough “seal” to the outer edge of the pie pan. Return to the refrigerator for 15 to 30 minutes or to the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes.

Crimp the edges as desired. The single-crust pie is ready to be par-baked, blind-baked, or filled and baked as the recipe directs.

The Fearless Baker via @kingarthurflour

A homemade pie is always a delicious pie, but why let creative fillings get to have all the fun? Try mixing up the crust recipe to create truly unique and especially delicious combinations!

You can get more pie dough details and tons of recipes that use these doughs in my new book, The Fearless Baker, due out October 24!

Erin McDowell
About

Erin Jeanne McDowell grew up in Kansas amidst a food obsessed family. She landed her first (after-school) job in a bakery, and was hooked! After pastry school in New York’s Hudson Valley, she combined her love of baking with her desire to share ideas, recipes, ...

comments

  1. Sonja M. Hickmon

    Hi Erin, love the idea of substituting some of the butter! I like to share with you using tumeric in your pie dough. Especially for quiche dishes. I also have used oatmeal flour instead of regular flour for my pie crust.
    Thank you for your ideas!

    Regards,
    Sonja

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You’ve chosen a fun recipe to begin your pie dough baking with, Jessica. These flavored versions will last for about as long as regular pie crust in the fridge and freezer. We recommend keeping the dough in the fridge for a few days (up to a week will be OK, but it may start to oxidize and turn slightly gray). In the freezer, pie dough can last for a few months (up to 3, maximum). Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  2. Judith Wilson

    Where would I find Black Cocoa? I think the Peanut Butter crust would be wonderful with a Banana Cream Pie👍🏻🤗

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You can pick it up right here on our site, Judith! While this dough could be made with another Dutch-process cocoa, As Erin mentions in the article, the Black Cocoa gives it a “a super-intense color and deep chocolate flavor.” Mollie@KAF

  3. Breed7

    Can we stop with the “sea salt” nonsense? ALL salt is sea salt. It’s all NaCl. Just because you pay more for it doesn’t make it different. Just buy kosher salt and grind it to the desired consistency.

    Reply
    1. Bobby

      No, not all salt is sea salt. Most salt is mined.
      There are subtle taste differences in the various types of salt. Slice up a cucumber and sprinkle with different salts. You’ll be surprised!

    2. Kimberly

      All salts are not pure NsCI. They contain trace minerals that effect their flavor. Additionally, how it’s harvested or mined impacts the flavor as well. Table salt is mined via one of a couple methods…deep shaft mining and solution mining. Sea salt is not from a mine, nor is it harvested through either of those methods. It is harvested by hand from solar evaporation ponds. Because they’re not heavily processed, the salt is cleaner, fresher and retains trace minerals that would be removed by the refining process the salt from mines goes through. Where it is harvested also changes it because the minerals in the area are different. For example, in the Himalayas, the pink salt gets its color and distinct flavor from calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and carotene. Hawaiian red salt gets its color and metallic tang from iron oxide in the volcanic clay. “Black” salt (which is really gray) contains iron, lava, and charcoal.

      So no, salts are not all the same. The difference is not in the price, it’s in the flavor. The flavor is the reason for the price.

  4. Judi Klobuchar

    I love your flour. I find that using your recipes is the way to go because of the texture of it. My pizza dough has never been so good as it has been since using KA bread flour.

    Reply
    1. Carla K White

      Nancy, my late husband always talked about his grandmother’s lemon meringue pie – he insisted that she used lemon juice in the meringue, as well. But we were never able to achieve success with that! Your idea for lemon zest & juice in the crust would be good with a blueberry pie, I think!

  5. Susan A Wozniak

    I know I made a chocolate pie crust once but I have no idea what sort of pie I made it for. I never put salt in a crust meant for a dessert pie but I put salt, pepper and herbs in crusts for savory pies. I almost always put cinnamon in a crust for a fruit pie. With a peach pie, I add ginger.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Mmm… savory crust. Yum! We have a recipe for a Cheddar Apple Pie that uses shredded cheese in the crust to pack a savory note. You could use the crust recipe for other things like quiche or pot pie. Similarly, we have a recipe for Breakfast Pies with a Cheddar Cheese Crust that uses our VT Cheese Powder, which provides more of a Parmesan/asiago flavor. Adding cheese can be tricky since it’s high in fat, so we’d recommend using one of these recipes as a base. As for your herbs, you can add them as you wish as they won’t change the hydration of the dough. You might consider using garlic powder if that’s the flavor you’re looking for. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Interesting question, fellow baker. We haven’t done much test baking with coffee flour, but our Research & Development teams are intrigued! We plan on doing some more extensive testing in the coming months, at which point we’ll be able to give you more definitive answers. At this point, we recommend using it in very small amounts to replace some of the regular flour, about 10%. It has a deep, earthy flavor that will pair well with chocolate, so you might want to try it in the cocoa-pie crust variation shared here. (Try replacing 1/4 cup of the flour in the All-Buttah Pie Crust recipe with 1/4 cup of cocoa powder and 2 tablespoons of coffee flour.) You’re welcome to be more adventurous and make larger substitutions noting that coffee flour is gluten-free and therefore baked goods will be more crumbly and may not rise the same way. Good luck! Kye@KAF

  6. Carla K White

    I’ve not tried any of these suggested variations on pie crust. But I have added cheddar cheese to crust for an apple pie – and I try to keep at least one crust in the freezer with cinnamon & nutmeg added to it, for just about any fruit pie! A friend of mine who is an excellent cook has raved about my pie crust to friends, so I guess it’s a good idea! And I have used herbs & pepper in crust for savory pies. Susan A Wozniak, the suggestion of ginger for a peach pie sounds really tasty!

    Reply
  7. Peggy Corra

    I’m a gluten-free baker, so I like to add a bit of extra flavor to my baked goods wherever and whenever I can. (GF flours sometimes have a rather flat taste, especially if any rice flour is included.) So… here’s what I’ve experimented with:

    While keeping the ingredients and proportions the same in your wonderful GF pie crust recipe…
    I press some very finely shredded cheddar cheese into the finished crust (in the pie plate) for quiches…
    …and…
    I press some ground walnut, almond, or pecan flour into the finished crust for fruit or nut pies or pumpkin.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      That’s what we like to call “VB,” or visible butter. Leaving some of the butter in large, visible pieces ensures a delightfully flaky texture. If the butter is all mixed in evenly, the texture will be more mealy/crumbly than it otherwise would be. Kye@KAF

  8. Debra

    Can’t wait to try some of these pie crust recipe I put apple juice in my pie crust for an apple pie. That I make in the fall.

    Reply
  9. Janet Dyer

    I like to substitute some nut flour or fine nut meal for some of the flour. I nearly always use this when making cherry or peach pies and sometimes add a bit of almond extract to the filling. If I can’t find almond meal or flour, I will grind the nuts in an old-fashioned nut-mill. This finely chops the nuts and makes a crust that doesn’t roll well, but works when pressed into place with one’s hands. I then crumble additional dough and sprinkle with sugar as a top crust for the pie. If you use pecans or walnuts, the crust is wonderful for an apple pie.

    Reply
  10. Susan

    We were having a discussion on pie crusts one evening and I wondered about using bacon grease to replace some of butter/shortening/lard in a crust for, say, a chicken pot pie. Is there a good reason that wouldn’t work?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Here’s what our experienced team of bakers had to say about using bacon grease in pie crust: it would probably be just fine, but it might be a good idea to combine it with another fat, like butter. Bacon grease is generally softer than lard since draining the fat from bacon at home isn’t as effective as rendering commercial lard. It’s helpful to chill the grease before trying to incorporate it into the crust. As for the taste and texture, expect the crust to be more mealy rather than flaky (that’s what the butter will help with). Also, note the crust will have a porky flavor so choose your filling wisely. Good luck! Kye@KAF

  11. Mezzoma

    Peanut butter is such a great addition! The crust texture would be irresistible. One could use any nut butter, no? Like almond or cashew or ??? Those flavors could take things in a European direction…

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We’re glad to hear that you’re feeling inspired, fellow baker! We hope you’ll consider doing some experimenting of your own and reporting back. We’d be curious to hear how other nut butters come out too. Mollie@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Lorry, Black Cocoa is a specialty product that we offer for purchase through our catalog and website. If you’re interested in giving it a try, you can pick up a bag right here. Mollie@KAF

  12. B

    The new peanut butter powders may be easier to work with than the actual peanut butter. I am guessing you would just substitute equal amount of powder for flour.
    Speaking of powders… in some of the prepper items you see powdered fruit like strawberry that sounds really good.

    Love
    Ranchmama

    Reply

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