Is there really anything better than pie crust (besides a chocolate chip cookie that is)? To me, it is the best thing about pie and plain pie crust is just perfect. But if you are like me, I bet you want to shake it up once in a while and give one of your pies a little flair.
My favorite pie crust recipe comes from the Ovenly cookbook, I use it in almost all my pie recipes on this site – adjusting for the type of flour I’m using, whether I’m using a flavor additions, etc. This recipe was created on that base; swapping some flour for cocoa and adding sugar for sweetness.
The recipe is comparable to most chocolate pie crusts you’ll find but the thing about those and this that the crust is made the three pillars: butter/flour/cocoa and without other sugar or liquid. It tastes like a pie crust with wonderful cocoa!
Butter: unsalted and should be very cold. Best way to start with the butter is remove it from the fridge, cube it and set it in the freezer while you measure out the rest of the ingredients. The goal is to keep this as cold as possible so that it melts in the oven, releases steam and gives us flaky layers.
Flour: Any all-purpose flour will do although I’m personally partial to flours that have a lower protein content for pie crusts. The finer mill
Sugar: We need just a bit and having this helps offset some of the bitterness that comes from the cocoa. Don’t use brown here, it doesn’t distribute as well in the pie crust.
Salt: If your butter is salted you’ll want to add less salt to the dough, a pinch or two will be enough. Best to use unsalted. Most important is that the butter should be COLD.
Cocoa: Dutch process cocoa will give you a deep, rich chocolate taste and a dark color.
Vinegar: I use just a bit of this and it’s something I learned in my brief stint at pastry school; it encourages the crust to stay flaky by inhibiting too much gluten formation.
Water: If you have access to very cold water use that, if you have cold or room temperature water, drop an ice cube into a bowl of water and measure the water from that.
Two ways you can make the crust: by hand or with a stand mixer.
Start by placing all your dry ingredients into a bowl and then whisking them together.
If using your hands you can either use a pastry cutter, or slice in the butter with the slicer part of a cheese grater and then work it in by hand. If you are using a mixer, run it until with the paddle attachment.
Stop cutting in the butter when you have a mix of pea and kidney bean sized bits of butter. Larger bits can be flattened by pressing them between your fingers and thumb.
Make a well in the center and add the water, into the water add the vinegar and vanilla.
If using a mixer, run it until the dough comes together around the paddle attachment and the bowl is almost clean. Don’t overwork the dough or you’ll lose all the butter pats! If using hands, stir the mix together then squeeze the dough and fold it over itself, over and over, until it comes together.
The dough should be shaggy and a bit dry looking. Lay out a sheet of plastic wrap and place the dough in the center. Loosely cover the dough with the wrap then roll it out into a disk with a rolling pin.
Chill the dough for a few hours or up to two days.
When it’s time to roll it out, do so on a floured surface.
Roll the dough out so it’s several inches wider than your pie pan.
Once you place the dough in the pan, press it into the bottom. Then trim the dough so it’s an inch wider than the pie pan. Having a thick layer of crust on the edges helps it keep shape so it doesn’t shrink.
Fold the outer edge under itself and press it together. You can crimp (press a fork into the outer edge) or flute the crust (press it between your index finger on your dominant hand and your fingers and thumb on the other hand:
Chill the dough then you can proceed with baking, a full blind bake or a partial blind bake.
Pie Crust, unless used in a double crust pie like apple pie, should always bee blind baked. Otherwise it will be doughy and raw on the bottom.
For fillings that need to be baked. If you were making an apple pie for example, you’d partially bake the crust with the foil and pie weights, then add the filling and return the pie to the oven so everything fully bakes together.
You’ll want a fully baked crust for fillings that don’t need to be baked (puddings that are cooked, or a no-bake cheesecake for example). To do this you’ll bake the crust twice; once covered and with pie weights then again without the foil & weights (after docking it).
Does the type of butter matter for pie crust?
I’ve read and heard a lot about European style butter being better for pie crusts because of its higher butterfat percentage, and I think there is some truth to it adding flavor. But truthfully I hate using it here because it melts very quickly and that is exactly what we want to avoid. I find that using American style butter (the cheap stuff from Trader Joes) gives me the flaky, flavorful crust we all love.
Because it’s so dark it can be hard to tell when this pie crust is done baking – especially if you are doing a full blind bake with no filling to give you cues. If you take the pie out to check on it, the edges (the thickest part of the pie) should be very firm and so should the bottom of the pie.
With proper chilling time between steps, and careful handling during bake time this crust will hold shape.
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