Flaky all butter pie crust made with brown butter. Browning the butter ahead of time, then chilling it allows us to cut it into the flour as usual but the addition of brown butter adds depth of flavor from the caramelized milk solids.
I’ve been working on this one for a while. Like maybe a few years?? You know by now I will brown butter all the things (muffins. scones. Brioche. Cheesecake…. The list goes on). I’d always wanted to do a brown butter pie crust and finally, this is the year to share =)
But first, why brown butter? And what is it going to change about the recipe that we need to adjust for?
The browned butter simply makes it taste better. In a way, a plain pie crust that has no flavorings is the perfect vehicle for brown butter to shine. You really will taste those toasty, nutty, caramelized milk solids.
But as you may know, you need cold and very solid butter to cut into a pastry. This is so that the butter bits will melt in the oven as the crust bakes, and as they do, push the layers of dough apart; this is what makes a flaky crust.
I started working from this pie crust recipe which is based on Ovenly’s cookbook pie. Obviously the method changes quite a bit, but also the browned butter becomes compositionally different and we need to adjust the liquid added accordingly.
Once we’ve browned the butter, it’s melted and has lost some of the moisture (have you ever browned a stick of butter? It starts at 113g and after browning it will weigh around 90g!). We can chill it to make it solid again, that’s an easy fix. But replacing the lost moisture is a bit trickier, just water won’t do it because in addition to the water, some of the fat is also gone. I replace it in this recipe with a mix of water and sour cream (the sour cream trick is taken from these egg yolk cookies from wayyy back).
And a note: two pie crust tips I learned from watching my friend Kelli on IG (she blogs at Everyday Pie): make the crust in a stand mixer (it’s easier! Quicker! And you don’t have to worry about warm hands!) and wrap the dough in plastic wrap then roll it. This makes it easier to handle and roll out later on. She’s a pie genius btw =)
Butter: Use american style butter (this is regular butter to americans). In my opinion, for pastry projects where the butter needs to be kept cold, it’s simply easier to work with a butter that doesn’t have as much butterfat (american is about 80%, european is 83%) because it won’t melt or soften as quickly. You can use salted butter if you like, just reduce the amount added later on.
Flour: I use king arthur all purpose flour. If you are measuring by cups, fluff the flour with a fork then sprinkle it into the measuring cup and level the cup. If for some reason you’re out of all purpose but you have cake flour and bread flour, do a combination of half of each.
Sugar: Fine granulated sugar. The smaller granules dissolve more easily into the crust.
Salt: Fine sea salt.
Sour cream: Full fat. This helps replace some of the moisture and fat lost in the browning process. If you are anti-sour cream you can use greek yogurt though the crust might have a bit of tanginess in it’s flavor.
Water: ice cold water. The lower temperature helps keep the pie dough cold while we work with it.
Vanilla: This isn’t a traditional pie crust ingredient, but it does add flavor (and works nicely here with the bb!). Use pure vanilla extract or a vanilla paste.
Brown the butter
Set the pan over medium heat. It’s best to use a light colored pan so that you can see what’s happening in the bottom as the milk solids toast. Once the butter has melted, it will begin to sputter. Use a rubber spatula to stir it, to scrape the sides of the pan into the center and ensure an even browning. Once the butter slows in it’s foaming and all the solids are a medium brown, immediately transfer to a bowl.
Chill the butter
You can do this quickly in the freezer, or if you have a bit more time, in the fridge. I usually brown the butter the night before I want to make the dough so that it’s sufficiently chilled before I need to use it. If you remember, halfway into the chill time while the butter is creamy but not solid, stir it to evenly distribute the brown butter bits.
Whisk together the dry ingredients
The flour, sugar and salt.
Cut in the butter
The butter should be a solid block before adding it to the dough. If it comes out of the bowl in one piece, chop it up into 1 inch cubes before adding to the dough.
Turn the mixer on (you can also do this by hand with a pastry cutter) and run it on low speed until the butter bits are bean sized. To check it, stop the mixer and feel the mix by hand. Rub the bigger butter bits between your fingers and thumb to flatten them.
Whisk together the wet ingredients
In a separate bowl, mix the sour cream, the water and the vanilla. This way we can add it together and it will mix into the dough more easily and quicker.
Mix until dough comes together
Turn the mixer back on (or use a rubber spatula) and mix until the dough mostly comes together in a ball. It should still be shaggy, you don’t want to break up all the butter bits.
Lay a large sheet of plastic wrap on the counter then dump the butter in the center. Loosely wrap the dough, then, using a rolling pin, flatten the dough into a disk. Roll the disk on the counter on its sides to even them out.
Pie crust should chill for at least 2 hours in the fridge but it can stay in the fridge for 2 days. To store it longer than that, stick it in the freezer.
Roll out & Shape
Take the dough out of the fridge 5-10 minutes before you’re ready to work with it.
Important: I use 3/4 of the recipe below for JUST the bottom crust. I find rolling it more and thicker dough helps keep the shape at the edges so it won’t shrink as much. I’ll still have enough leftover after cutting the sides and using the reserved pie crust to make a top crust.
Flour the countertop and place the dough over the flour, then flour the top of the crust too. Roll out the crust, turning the disk about 45 degrees with every roll. Roll until the crust is just over ⅛ th of an inch thick and is at least 2 inches wider in diameter than your pie pan. Use flour as often as needed to prevent the crust from sticking to the rolling pin or counter.
Lay the crust over the pie pan and press it into the bottom edges. Trim the outer edges of the crust then fold them under and gently pinch to stick the crust together. Crimp with a fork or flute with your fingers (place the crust between your thumb on one hand and your index and thumb on the other hand).
Once the pie is shaped and molded into the pie pan, set it in the fridge or freezer for 20 minutes to firm it up.
Why we blind bake a crust
For open pies (no pie crust on top), even when a crust is baked with a filling, you should always par-bake it so that the bottom actually cooks under the weight of a wet filling. Otherwise, while the edges will brown and bake crispy, the bottom will still be doughy.
To partially blind bake the brown butter pie crust
Wrap the pie dough with foil, I use two overlapping criss-crossed foil sheets and gently wrap them around the edges of the cold, hard crust. Then, fill it with pie weights.
Bake the crust, wrapped and weighted down, at 400 for 30 minutes.
When you take it out, the edges should have already started browning and the crust at the bottom starting to turn solid. Dock it with a fork to prevent air bubbles. Now you can set the crust back in the oven with the filling and bake as needed.
To fully bake the crust
Once you take the pie out of the oven after 30 minutes at 400 F, use the foil to lift the pie weights and set them aside. Dock the crust with a fork (especially at the bottom and the bottom edges) and lower the oven temperature to 350 F. Bake the crust for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown all over.
Apple pie! Pumpkin pie! But also, anything with chocolate or peanut butter. I recommend using this crust especially for these two:
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