There’s not a lot I’m afraid of. Snakes, clowns, needles, tripping while hiking and falling off a cliff — usual stuff. In the kitchen, I’m terrified that I’ll forget about proofing bread dough or leave a cake in the oven without a timer. But pie crust, one of the most fear-inducing recipes around, has never made me blink. That’s because I have this method for melted butter pie crust up my sleeve — and I bet it’ll help you cross pie off your fear list, too.
In the Test Kitchen, we often talk about why there is so much anxiety around making pie crust, and how we can empower bakers to overcome their fears and make more pie. We can’t stand next to everyone in their kitchens and whisper “You’re doing great! Keep going!”, but we can develop a recipe to expel their ever-common pie crust fears. Which led to this new method: a pie crust made with melted butter instead of cold. Let’s flip the script on everything you thought you knew about pie crust with an easy method that anyone can master.
Accessibility and approachability were top of mind when I set out to develop this recipe — I wanted to simplify the method to eliminate complicated steps and techniques. Have you ever made a crumble topping? You can make this pie crust. Ever pressed a graham cracker crust into a pan? You can make this pie crust. Don’t have a surface big enough to roll out a pie crust? Hate your rolling pin? Don’t own a rolling pin? You can make this pie crust!
Why melted butter makes great pie crust
The biggest benefit of making a melted butter pie crust is that it’s quick and super easy. When you make a melted butter pie crust, you’ll trade flaky (and sometimes finicky) layers for the quick convenience of mixing dry ingredients together in a bowl, stirring in melted butter and some water, mixing until crumbs form, then pressing it directly into a pie pan. No need to fret about making sure your butter and water (and flour, and ambient kitchen temperature, and mixing bowl, and hands, etc.) are cold. No need to chill the crust before rolling. No need to worry about the crust cracking when rolling it out — actually, you don’t have to roll it at all. And no need to worry about transferring the crust to the pan in one piece.
Let’s be clear and set some expectations: A pie crust made with melted butter will be different than a pie crust made with cold butter. Not better, not worse; just different. With cold butter, your pie crust will be light and flaky (that’s because as the cold butter melts in the oven, it produces steam that creates flaky layers). With melted butter, your pie crust will be thicker, sturdier, and reminiscent of shortbread cookies: tender, buttery, and flavorful. A melted butter pie crust is a close cousin to Hot Water Pastry, but with some added sugar (for flavor) and a touch of baking powder (for a lighter texture).
Let’s talk about another critical factor: flavor! Butter remains a prominent flavor here; meanwhile, White Whole Wheat Flour helps keep the crust tender while also adding another layer of flavor. A touch of cinnamon enhances the flavor of the whole grains, but you can also play around and replace the cinnamon with other spices that would complement your fillings. Apples and cardamom, cherries and black pepper, peaches and ginger. Go wild!
What to bake with melted butter pie crust
A pie crust made with melted butter will be sturdy without being tough, and while it might be too heavy to pair with a cream or meringue pie, it’s perfect for any type of fruit pie. Even when paired with the juiciest of fruits, this cookie-like crust is a strong vehicle, ensuring you get a clean slice of pie that doesn’t fall apart. That’s why it’s perfect for this Fast Summer Berry Pie, a recipe that will have pie on your table in just two hours, start to finish.
I know I’ll be busy making strawberry peach pies all summer long and am excited to pair this crust with pecan pie filling come fall. Tell me — what kind of pie will you bake first?
Cover photo by Danielle Sykes; food styling by Kaitlin Wayne.