3-2-1 Pie Dough

January 22nd, 2011 by Erin Gennow
Combined and Ready to Refrigerate

Combined and Ready to Refrigerate

3-2-1 Pie Dough

Many people often fear making pie dough from scratch.  I happened to make a 3-tier wedding cake before ever attempting to make my own pie dough.  Do not be afraid.  Just have a little patience, make sure everything is cold, and cut the butter up into tiny pieces and re-chill the pieces before using them.  If you do not have a food processor, a pastry blender is a helpful tool.  You can use just a fork and your hands though.

The more you make the dough, the easier it will become and you will learn to look for specific textures and consistencies of the dough.  The first few times I made pie dough I was so afraid of adding too much water or overworking it, I think I made it harder on myself.  No matter what, homemade dough will test better than store bought anytime (except for if it’s burnt).

This is called 3-2-1 Pie Dough after the common ratio of flour, butter, and water used in the recipe.   Pastry chefs use common ratios as the base of their recipes, and then customize them with additional ingredients from the basic ratio.  This recipe makes enough for 2 single crust pies, or 1 pie with a top and bottom crust.  Here I’ve added a couple tablespoons of sugar to make the dough a bit sweeter for a desert pie.  If you plan to use the pie dough for a savory pie, such as chicken pot pie, leave out the sugar.

Prep Time: 10-15 minutes

Chilling Time: About 1 hour


12 ounces flour

8 ounces (2 sticks) cold, cold butter, cut into tiny pieces about the size of large peas, (use good quality butter, since this is a predominant ingredient)

4 ounces (1/2 cup) ice cold water

Salt, a pinch

2 tablespoons granulated sugar, for sweet pie dough


Any one of the tools below is helpful, but not necessary.  A fork and your fingers work too.

Pastry Blender, Food Processor, or Stand Mixer with Paddle Attachment


Put the flour in the bowl.  Put the butter pieces in a bit at a time tossing with a fork to coat the butter pieces in flour.

Weighing the Flour

Weighing the Flour

Cutting in the Butter

Cutting in the Butter

Next, using your fingers (or the paddle) squeeze the butter pieces and the flour with your fingertips to combine and blend in.  Or use a pastry blender, or pulse on the food processor.  It should start to resemble course sand.

Once blended, sprinkle the ice water in a tablespoon at a time, tossing with a fork at first, then squeezing a bit with your hands, until the dough just comes together.  (In a food processor, pulse slowly until just beginning to combine.  Don’t let the processor run, because the heat from the machine will start melting your butter more than you want.)  You may not use all the water.  It will be a tad crumbly.  Remember, with pie dough you don’t want to over mix or it will become tough.  If using a mixer use the lowest speed possible.

Overturn the dough onto the cutting board and gather into a ball.  With the heel of your hand smear the dough from bottom to top.  Gather into ball.  Do this 4-6 times total.

Gather into a ball, flatten into a disc (helps to roll later), and wrap in plastic wrap.  Don’t worry if it’s still a bit crumbly. Refrigerating it will help to hydrate the flour into a dough.  Place into a zip top bag with the air squeezed out and refrigerate.

Combined and Ready to Refrigerate

Combined and Ready to Refrigerate

After at least an hour or so, remove the dough from the refrigerator (It may stay in for up to two days).  Let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes or so.  Divide it in two equal pieces.  Roll one dough piece into a round and gently lay and press into your pie dish.  Don’t worry about it looking even.  Roll it out so you have enough extra to trim the ends along the edge of the pie pan.  Trim just a little over the edge, as the dough tends to shrink a bit when baked.  Remember, it does not have to look perfect.  Patch areas if necessary.  No one will ever know once the pie is baked.

Follow the directions for baking the dough based on the pie recipe you are making.


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