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May 11, 2010 10:54 AM

Why did my all-butter pie crust come out hard?

Normally I use part butter and part non-trans fat shortening (made of palm oil). This time I had only butter so I used all butter. The crust is hard and the part without filling is a bit crunchy. This never happened to me before. Also, the butter I used was European style with a higher fat content than usual. Can anyone explain?

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  1. Need more info.

    Did you overwork the dough? Was your butter and water cold enough?

    Also, please note that crust made with a combo of butter/shortening will generally be more flaky than one made with just butter, although the all-butter crust will be tastier. That said, an all-butter crust should still not be "hard" by any stretch of the imagination.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ipsedixit

      I've made plenty of pie crusts, so I know not to overwork the dough. Butter and water were both cold.

    2. I think you just found out why cookie/cracker/etc manufacturers use trans-fat shortenings. It makes baked goods stay soft, (as well as making pie crust flakey). I would imagine your shortening, even though trans-fat free...has some similar properties. left out the salt. That can cause hard, tough pie crust.

      2 Replies
      1. re: danna

        I think you might be onto something with the salt question! One of the people who was going to be eating the pie is on a low-salt diet, so I cut the salt down a good bit. I had no idea this would affect the texture of the crust. Do you know why this is?

        Perhaps it was a combination of all butter and not enough salt.... Darn, I hate when that happens.

        1. re: danna

          That's odd. I forgot to add salt to my shortening crust this weekend, but it still came out very soft and flaky.

        2. What you made was a tart crust, not a pie crust.

          1. An all-butter crust will be crispier (like a shortbread) and less tender/flakey than a crust made with part butter and part shortening. Shortening is 100% fat, whereas butter is about 80% and the rest is water. The higher amount of fat in shortenings results in a more tender crust. Fat tenderizes by coating flour particles so that gluten doesn't form and also traps air between the flour molecules to give the crust a layering effect.
            Salt has nothing to do with flakiness. It rounds out the taste of the crust like seasoning food.

            5 Replies
            1. re: PBSF

              That's always what I thought about the salt... but then again what danna said struck a chord, because I did cut down the salt of this recipe, which I normally never do because I love me some salt.

              I expected the texture to be crispier like a tart crust, but I did not expect it to be harder. I wonder if maybe the harder texture of the butter made me unconsciously press a bit harder to roll it out....

              1. re: visciole

                Every once awhile, the pastry god is just not with us.

                1. re: PBSF

                  Now THAT I believe!

                  It is more of an art than a science, ain't it?

                2. re: visciole

                  Seriously, I forgot the salt recently, and the crust was appalling. Harder, and very tough. I didn't really know what I had done, but my Mom (isn't it typical you have guests when this stuff happens) said lack of salt was a well known cause of tough pastry.

                  1. re: danna

                    I think good pie crust just has to have lard or shortening, or it gets tough, or hard.
                    It;s the lard/shortening that creates the tender.