How to fix dry, crumbly pie dough

Kirsten asks: I am making pie dough with lard. When I try to roll it out, it is dry and crumbly.  What should I do to fix it?

Baking S.O.S. says: As with any pie dough (regardless of the type of fat used), if the dough is dry and crumbly, try adding just a little bit more water to moisten it and bring it together in a ball.  Be certain the water is ICE COLD, and add just a few drops at a time. Pie dough can become too wet very quickly, so err on the safe side and add just a little at a time until the dough comes together in a neat ball.

Next, flatten the ball in a disk shape, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about 20 minutes. This relaxes the gluten in the flour and makes it less elastic, meaning the pie dough will roll out more easily.

Note: The importance of using ice cold water is to keep the fat in the pie dough (lard, shortening, or butter) from melting. Cold pieces of fat will create a flaky pie crust. Warm, melted fat will turn your pie crust mushy.

10 comments to How to fix dry, crumbly pie dough

  • Jonathan

    Or you can use vodka in your pie crust, making it more pliable without adding gluten, a favorite trick of America’s Test Kitchen. Plus, if you keep your vodka in the freezer (as you should!), it’ll be cold.

  • I love this solution–I know you have suggested it before, but for some reason, I have never tried it! I need to put vodka on my grocery list, and THEN I can test it for myself! :)

  • amy

    Ice cold vodka….great tip!

  • Nita

    You’re sure the vodka needs to go in the dough :D?

  • Good question! I suppose you could follow Julia Child’s example and use a little in your cooking and enjoy a little on the side :)

  • Jay

    My done pie crust is too crumbly, it breaks apart when I hold it. What could be the problem? Too much liquid or butter too soft or over knead? The dough was lovely, but the baked crust is too crumbly.

  • Hi there, it sounds like your pie crust was too dry if it came out crumbly once baked. Or, if the dough came together into a ball without crumbling apart when you first mixed it, then perhaps it was not too dry. So the other explanation could be that the butter was too soft and made for a “mealy” pie crust rather than a flaky pie crust.

    Of course, “flaky” is the texture that you want in a pie dough, so the crust SHOULD flake apart once it is baked. So some crumbling is OK and even desirable, as long as the crumbs are flakes of dough, not tiny little crumbs like a cookie crumb.

  • Heather

    If the pastry is too crumbly to roll, put it back in the food processer, give it a few blasts until it resembles breadcrumbs again (but they will be bigger than before) add one tablespoon of water at a time (1 or 2 max) until it is right. Saves starting from scratch and works great!

  • Margaret

    Whenever i make a pie crust with butter, I take it out of the fridge as the recipe calls for cold butter. Every time I make it I can never seem to add enough water to make a ball. What am I doing wrong?

  • When making pie crust, it is important to use a cold fat–either butter or shortening. (or lard if you prefer) To start, dice the butter into small pieces. Then use a pastry blender to cut the cold fat into the flour until it is the size of small peas. When you add the water, it is important to use ice cold water and sprinkle it into the flour-butter mixture a little at a time. It is OK to use a little more water than the recipe calls for in order to bring the pie dough together into a ball. But be careful to continue adding just a little water at a time so that it does not become too wet. It should eventually come together into a ball when you get the right ratio of water to flour. Good luck!

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