Puff Pastry vs Pie Crust: What’s the Difference?

Do you love pies? Who doesn’t? But have you ever wondered what the difference is between puff pastry and pie crust?

Puff pastry vs. pie crust: Both are used to make delicious pies, but they are made in different ways. The biggest difference is that both pastries are made from different techniques/ processes; hence, they have very different textures. 

In this blog post, we will discuss the differences between puff pastry and pie crust and how to make each one. We will also provide some recipes for you to try!

What is a Puff Pastry?

sausate rolls
Sausage rolls wrapped in puff pastry. Credit: canva

Puff pastry is a type of dough made from flour, butter, and water. It is rolled out into a thin sheet. Then it is folded over several times and chilled. This process creates layers of dough that puff up when they are baked.

What is Pie Crust?

chicken pot pie
Chicken pot pie with pie crust lining. Credit: canva

Pie crust is a type of dough made from flour, fat (usually butter or shortening), and water. It is rolled out into a thin sheet and then lined with a pie dish. The filling is added to the pie crust, and then the pie is baked.

Puff Pastry vs. Pie Crust: What’s the Difference?

Categories of puff pastry vs. pie crust

Firstly, it is essential to note that Pie Crust falls under the category of Shortcrust Pastry and Puff Pastry falls under its namesake Puff Pastry.

Shortcrust pastry is a dough made from flour, fat (usually butter or shortening), and water. It is rolled out into a thin sheet and then lined with a pie dish. The filling is added to the pie crust, and then the pie is baked.

On the other hand, Puff pastry is a type of dough that is made from flour, butter, and water. It is rolled out into a thin sheet. Then it is folded over several times and chilled. This process creates flaky layers of dough that puff up when baked.

Ingredients used in puff pastry vs. pie crust

Puff pastry is made with flour, butter, and water, while pie crust is made with flour, fat, and water.

Puff pastry is also folded over several times and chilled before it is baked, while pie crust is just rolled out and used to line a pie dish.

Puff pastry will puff up when baked, while pie crust will not. This is because puff pastry has more layers of dough, which allows it to puff up when it is baked.

The method used in making puff pastry vs. pie crust

 You will need flour, butter, water, and a rolling pin to make puff pastry.

You will need flour, fat (butter or vegetable shortening), and water to make pie crust.

Puff Pastry, while delicious, takes a long time to make and can be deemed labor of love as it requires manual rolling of the dough.

Puff pastry is a laminated dough. It is made by rolling out the dough, folding it over several times, and then chilling it to maintain the coldness of the butter. The folding and rolling create lots of layers of dough separated by the butter. 

Pie Crust is a pie dough that is formed by using a simpler and quicker method. Cold shortening or butter is rubbed into plain flour by hand or mixer to create a loose dough. That is then bonded using a small amount of ice water. 

Pie crust is made by rolling out the dough. It is then shaped and refrigerated before being placed to create the top or bottom of a pie.

The texture of puff pastry vs. pie crust

Puff pastry has a light and fluffy texture. It is fluffier and crispier than pie dough. It is, however, more delicate and has many flaky, tender layers as compared to pie dough. 

While pie crust has a flaky and sturdier texture than puff pastry.

Pie dough/crust Pie Dough is much thicker and sturdier than puff pastry. It provides a more solid bite and thus foundation to hold pie fillings. 

Puff pastry has a buttery taste, while pie crust has a neutral taste.

Puff pastry vs. pie crust calories

Puff pastry has fewer calories than pie crust.

Puff pastry is made with butter, which is a high-fat ingredient.

Pie crust is made with shortening or butter, which are both high-fat ingredients. And both contribute to higher calories count.

Puff Pastry vs Pie Crust: What's the Difference?
Australian meat pies, with pie crust base and puff pastry top. Credit: canva

Which one should you choose?

If you are looking for a light and fluffy dough with a buttery taste, puff pastry is the right choice for you.

If you are looking for a flaky dough with a neutral taste, then pie crust is the right choice.

Puff pastry can be used for various dishes, such as pies, pastries, tarts, and more.

Pie crust can be used for sweet or savory pies, quiches, and more.

Can You Substitute Puff Pastry and Pie Crust in Place of the Other?

Puff pastry can be used in place of pie crust, but it will not have the same flaky texture.

It would be best to use puff pastry instead of pie crust for the bottom crust of a pie because generally, the puff pastry will not support the filling inside of a pie. However, you can use store-bought puff pastry for the tops of pies. It will give your pie crusts a crispy, flaky texture.

Pie crust can be used in place of puff pastry, but it will not puff up when it is baked.

You can’t replicate the flakiness of puff pastries with a pie crust/ pie dough, but it can be used as an alternative to puff pastry in dishes such as beef Wellington. You can also use either homemade, store-bought pie dough or frozen pie dough to top pot pies or make turnovers.

How to Make Handmade Puff Pastry?

Puff Pastry vs Pie Crust: What's the Difference?
Rolling the dough for making puff pastry. Credit: canva

This is how to make a from-scratch homemade puff pastry dough variation using a “rough puff” method.

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks; 170g) unsalted butter, very cold and cubed
  • 6–8 Tablespoons (90-120ml) ice-cold water

Instructions

Making the dough:

  1. Whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together in a large mixing bowl. On top of that lay the cold and cubed butter. Using your hands, gently combine the flour and pieces of butter until they are combined. You do not want to break down the slab of butter too much in this step.
  2. At this point, the butter is still in large cubes/chunks. Begin adding 1 Tablespoon (15ml) at a time of ice-cold water until you form 1 huge shaggy clump in your bowl with your hands. After each Tablespoon, use your hands to mix the dough.
  3. As the dough begins to hydrate after 4 Tablespoons (60ml) of water, you may start lightly squeezing or clumping it together with your hands to help it come together. The mixture will still be rather rough or shaggy.
  4. Remove the dough from the bowl, then turn the shaggy clump of dough out on a lightly floured surface. There will still be large chunks of butter at this stage, which is excellent.
  5. Using lightly floured hands, pat the dough down until it’s 3/4 – 1 inch thick, forming a 5×8 inch rectangle. Fold the dough in half lengthwise, as though folding a business letter. Any cracks in your dough should be smoothed and flattened using your hands.
  6. Wrap it up tightly in plastic wrap, parchment paper, or aluminum foil, or place it into any tightly sealed container.

1st Refrigeration:

  1. Refrigerate dough for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

Roll & Fold:

  1. Take the dough out of the refrigerator to begin rolling and folding it. If you chill the dough for longer than about 3 hours, it’s most likely frozen stiff, so give it a 5-minute rest before starting to roll.
  2. Flour a work area lightly. Gently flatten the dough into a tiny square with your palms. The dough becomes sticky, so make sure you have some additional flour on hand as you roll and fold it.
  3. With a rolling pin, roll the dough into a 6 inch by 12-inch rectangle that is 1/2 inch thick. The exact size isn’t critical, although the thickness must be precise. It’s a good idea to flip the dough over once or twice while you’re rolling it to ensure it doesn’t stick to your work surface.
  4. Fold the rectangle into thirds like a business letter. Roll it out into a 6×12 inch 1/2 inch thick rectangle again and then turn it clockwise or counterclockwise. Then repeat the rolling and folding four more times for a total of 6 cycles. So you’re left with a set of dozens of layers of thin dough, with very thin layers of butter between them. 

2nd Refrigeration:

  1. Wrap tightly and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes but no more than 24 hours before using in a recipe.
  2. You can also freeze the dough at this point. 

How to Make Homemade Pie Crust?

Puff Pastry vs Pie Crust: What's the Difference?
Making pie crust. Credit: canva

This is how to prepare our simple flaky all-butter pie crust, which produces consistent pie dough every time and is a joy to roll out.

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups (325 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt or use 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, optional
  • 1 cup (230 grams) very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (2 sticks)
  • 4 to 8 tablespoons ice water

Instructions

Method When Using Food Processor:

  1. In a food processor, combine 2 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar (optional)—pulse 2 to 3 times until combined. The final cup of flour will be added at a later time.
  2. Scatter the cold butter over the flour mixture and process until a dough or paste begins to form, around 15 seconds. (There should be no uncoated flour.)
  3. Place dough in a well-oiled bowl, add oil and melted butter (1 tablespoon for 8 ounces of flour) and turn once to combine. Scrape out the bowl before redistributing the flour-butter mixture; then add the remaining 1 cup of flour: pulse 4 to 5 times until all of the flour has been dispersed and a little crumbly.
  4. Place the crumb-like dough in a large mixing bowl, add ice water to about half of the mixture (4 tablespoons), then work your way up. With a rubber spatula, press the dough down into itself. The crumbs should start to clump together. It’ll be ready if you pinch off a piece and it holds together. Add 2 to 4 additional tablespoons of water if the dough breaks and press until the dough comes together.
  5. Remove dough from the bowl and place in a mound on a clean surface. Work the dough just enough to form a ball.
  6. Cut the ball of dough in half to make two discs with a pastry cutter. Wrap each disc with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least an hour, but no more than two days. It can also be frozen for up to three months (unwrap it before using it).

Method When Making By Hand:

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar (if using). Stir 2 to 3 times until combined.
  2. Using a fork or spatula, carefully pat the butter into the flour until fully coated.
  3. Cut the butter into the flour with a pastry blender, working until the flour has a coarse, mealy texture comparable to fresh bread crumbs. Approximately 1 – 2 minutes.
  4. Add another 1 cup flour. With the pastry blender, combine the butter and flour until thoroughly blended—about 20 seconds (Dough should look crumbly with pea-sized pieces).
  5. Sprinkle ice water over the top, then add 4 tablespoons at a time. Using a rubber spatula, press the dough into itself. The crumbs should begin to form larger clusters after pressing. If you pinch some of the dough and it holds together, it’s ready. If the dough breaks apart, add 2 to 4 more tablespoons of water.
  6. Remove the dough from the bowl and place it in a mound on a clean surface. Form the dough into a ball by working it only enough.
  7. Cut the dough ball in half, then form each piece into a disc. Cover each disc with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, but no more than 2 days. It can also be frozen for up to 3 months (just thaw it overnight in the fridge before using it).

Rolling Out Dough:

  1. Remove one of the dough discs from the refrigerator and sit at room temperature for 5 minutes.
  2. Flour the counter, top of the dough, and rolling pin lightly. When necessary, add a little bit of flour to the surface below to ensure that the dough does not adhere. Then use the rolling pin to roll out the dough into a 12-inch circle (about 1/8 inch thick).
  3. To transfer the dough into the dish, start at one end and roll it around the rolling pin before unwrapping it over it. Invert the pie dish over dough round to check for size. The edge of the pie dish should be at least 1 inch thick.
  4. Carefully press down the dough to line the bottom and sides of the dish. (Use caution not to pull or stretch the dough). Then, using a knife or pair of kitchen scissors, trim the dough to within 1/2 inch of the edge of the dish.
  5. Fold the dough’s edge underneath itself to give it a thicker, 1/4-inch border that sits on the lip of the plate. Then, using one hand as a pointer and two knuckles of the other hand as a lever, crimp the edges by pressing your pointer finger from within the dish while softly pushing with two knuckles from outside.
  6. Refrigerate dough for at least 20 minutes or freeze for 5 minutes before baking.
  7. Then, after putting the pie filling inside the pie, top it with a second dough round. After that, trim the edges and crimp them. Don’t seal the edges yet when you make a double-crust pie dough recipe.

How can you bake store-bought frozen puff pastry?

If you plan to use frozen puff pastry, follow these instructions carefully.

  1. First, defrost the puff pastry thoroughly in the refrigerator.
  2. Then, remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to come back to room temperature.
  3. Next, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  4. Place the puff pastry on the baking sheet, leaving enough space between pieces, so they do not stick together.
  5. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes until golden brown.
  6. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before serving.

FAQs

Can I substitute pie crust for puff pastry?

Yes, you can substitute pie crust for puff pastry. However, the results will not be the same. The pie crust will not puff up when baked, while puff pastry will.

Difference between puff pastry and phyllo dough?

Puff pastry is made with flour, butter, and water. Phyllo dough is made with flour and water. Puff pastry is also folded over several times and chilled before baking, while phyllo dough is not.

Can I use pie crust instead of puff pastry for baked brie?

No, you should not use pie crust in puff pastry for baked brie. The pie crust will not puff up baked, and it will not have the same light and fluffy texture as puff pastry.