When I first became allergic to dairy 20+ years ago (and my daughter was born around the same time with a lactose intolerance she didn’t grow out of), the only readily available options to replace real butter for baking were margarine (and not all was dairy-free) and shortening. Unfortunately, both were made with partially or fully hydrogenated oils. Luckily, many healthier options are now available, including Earth Balance vegan baking sticks, non-hydrogenated shortening and coconut oil for baking. I have tested all of the above in pie crusts and like the Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks the best, so this dairy-free pie crust recipe calls for these. In addition to being non-dairy, they are gluten-free, non-GMO, certified kosher and made with expeller-pressed oils. Earth Balance also makes a soy-free version. I can typically find the Earth Balance sticks at a Signature Kroger store, Whole Foods and Central Market plus Tom Thumb or Albertson stores. Earth Balance has a store locator on its website.
But what if you don’t have a dairy allergy? Does this pie dough recipe work with real butter? YES. I have made it with real butter too, and it turns out beautifully and, I’m told, delicious.
There are a couple tricks I have found to making this dough:
- Your buttery sticks and water need to be COLD.
- It’s best to use an electric mixer or food processor, but you can do by hand if you have to (make sure you get the dry ingredients and “butter” blended really well (to pea size), before you add the water.
- Pie does can get tough to work with if it’s overworked, but the biggest concern here is after you add the water, so don’t be afraid to mix it all really well before you do that.
- You can make and bake this dough up to a day in advance.
- I find this dough easiest to roll out immediately, rather than chilling first as some pie recipes suggest.
- I do, however, find it easier to make the edges pretty if I refrigerate the dough AFTER I have rolled it out, put it in the pie plate, trimmed it and tucked it under. Note: making the edges pretty is a challenge for me with any crust – I can hardly draw a straight line and have to REALLY focus to get somewhat pretty pie edges 🙂
- Follow the recipe exactly.
- If you need a pre-baked pie shell (pumpkin pies call for a pre-baked pie shell; cherry and pecan pies do not, for example), use my mom’s method (prick it with a fork all over, including sides before baking) or use pie weights or pie weight stand-ins, such as dry beans or popcorn kernals in aluminum foil to vent or weight down the pie dough so it doesn’t bubble up while it’s baking. If you use the fork-pricking method, just keep an eye on it … if it starts to bubble up a little in a spot, open the oven and carefully prick it in that spot with your fork
- Use a pie shield to protect your crust … or tent it with foil. I tented it with foil most of my life and finally bought pie shields. I have no idea what took me so long. They’re relatively inexpensive and save you the hassle of tearing off strips of aluminum foil and carefully arranging them around your pie. I wish I would have bought one much, much, much sooner!!! You just carefully plop that baby on top and boom – no burnt pie edges. 🙂 There are various sizes and options available.