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5 Genius Pie Tips for Our Beloved Super-Flaky, No-Stress Dough Recipe

A slice of pie on a plate.
James Ransom

When I discovered Stella Parks’ no-stress, super-flaky pie dough technique (that requires no food processor, and no prior pie know-how) last year after seeing the Food52 community rave about it, I loved it so much that I haven’t gone back to another dough recipe since.

In one of the easiest cookbook-building decisions I’ve ever made, I then decided to make it the standard flaky crust for every pie and galette in Genius Desserts.

I did my due diligence first, of course—putting it to the test with bakers across the Food52 team (from my pie-pro bosses to one brave volunteer who’d never made a homemade pie) and the Food52 Baking Club, to make sure it was a dependable all-purpose dough in many cooks’ hands—the answer was a universal yes. Many of the reviews from Food52ers since I shared it here last year have glowed with that same enthusiasm:

This was my first attempt at making pie crust and what a win! — STACY I., FOOD52ER

Heavens… I have been making pie crusts for umpteen years … This beats them all to heck and beyond. —KATHY K., FOOD52ER

But there are also a handful of pesky issues that have popped up for bakers on Food52 and over on Serious Eats where Stella first published the recipe—like melty butter and not quite enough dough to crimp fancily—and we want to do whatever we can to steer you clear of them! (Seriously, go check out how dedicated Stella has been in troubleshooting any time there’s a question on Serious Eats.)

Four images show a lump of dough rolled out, into a square, then folded in on itself.
James Ransom

The basic rule to live by is, as usual: Follow every one of Stella’s instructions and recommendations in the recipe. They are all there for good reason, and you will be all-but-guaranteed spectacular pies.

But to help you understand some of Stella’s specifics, in consultation with the genius herself, I gathered the five most important tips to follow closely, and why off-roading from them isn’t advisable.

Whole pie
James Ransom

5 Tips For Success With Stella Parks’ Genius Super-Flaky Pie Dough

1. The #1 rule in all of pie baking: Any time your dough starts to get sticky or melty, give it a brief time-out in the fridge or freezer.
Prevents: Sticky dough, breakage, personal meltdowns.
Bonus tips: In warm kitchens (warmer than 72°F / 22°C), Stella likes to cool down her counter with big Ziplock bags full of ice and a little cold water before she rolls. Also, lots of pie pros—Rose Levy Beranbaum, Dorie Greenspan, and many Food52 team members included—like to roll their dough between two floured sheets of plastic wrap (no tears!).

2. Choose bleached all-purpose flour, preferably Stella’s favorite Gold Medal brand (or if you must, use unbleached brands that aren’t too high in protein, like Gold Medal’s unbleached cousin Immaculate that’s 10% protein), and don’t work the dough more than the recipe says.
Prevents: Elastic dough that springs back and tough crusts (i.e. too much gluten development).

3. Roll your dough out 1/8-inch (3mm) thick, not thicker.
Prevents: Running out of dough!
Bonus tips: After you chop in “half,” one portion of dough will likely be slightly bigger—use that for your bottom crust. And if your pie pan is wider than 9 inches (23cm), you may need extra dough—double the recipe and freeze any leftovers for future spontaneous galettes.

4. Use glass pie pans (Stella’s favorite) or metal—not heavy stoneware or ceramic.
Prevents: Butter melting and pooling before it can steam and puff the layers.
Bonus tips: Don’t try to get fancy with high-fat, European-style butter either—use regular American unsalted, which has enough water content to steam and poof into flaky layers.

5. Don’t bake on a pizza stone or baking steel (or very close to the bottom or top of the oven, or in an oven hotter than 400°F/200°C—if your recipe calls for 425°F, just turn it down to 400°F to be safe).
Prevents: Same deal as above with melty butter, but in more concentrated hotspots.

Now you’re armed not only with the Genius pie dough technique that might just ruin you for all others, forever (hi, ruined over here), but the hows and whys of all the particulars. Happy pie partying, and let me know what questions you have! I’ll try to do them justice, just like Stella would.

Stella Parks’ No-Stress, Super-Flaky Pie Crust

• 1 3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon (8 ounces/225g) all-purpose flour, preferably Gold Medal bleached flour, plus more for dusting
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, preferably Diamond Crystal
• 8 ounces (225g/2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch (1.3cm) cubes
• 1/2 cup (120ml) very cold water

See full recipe on Food52.

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