Messy dough makes for a flakier crust, and other crucial pie lessons from star baker Alice Medrich.

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“Whenever I see somebody rolling a beautiful, malleable pie dough, I assume it’s overmixed or overhydrated,” says master baker Alice Medrich, who is legendary for her precise, always-reliable recipes. (Her latest cookbook is Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts.) According to Medrich, home bakers often add too much water to a pie dough—the result is supple and instantly workable, but it won’t yield an ideally flaky, tender crust. Instead, she says, the dough should just barely hold together (it will relax and become more moist while it rests). She also suggests adding the butter in two stages: rubbing the first portion into the flour until it’s completely incorporated, then tossing in thin shavings for flakiness. Lastly, she replaces some water with yogurt, which she says “adds a complex dairy flavor, like French cultured butter. The acid in the yogurt also tenderizes the dough.” To practice, try Medrich’s perfect crust with her recipes for a single-crust ginger-pecan pie, and a double-crust apple-apricot pie.

Flaky Pie Crust Tips

  • “All the ingredients need to be cold, so some of the butter remains in pieces,” says Alice Medrich. “That’s what creates the flakes.”
  • “Even though I’m not a big fan of bleached flour, it makes the most tender crust,” says Medrich.

Step-by-Step Guide to Making Pie Crust

While you can make this dough by measuring the flour in cups, a scale will ensure the best results. To make a double-crust pie, double the ingredients here and divide the dough into two disks, one slightly larger than the other. Use the larger one for the bottom crust.

Video: More Holiday Desserts