Why You Should Try Using Cream Cheese For Your Next Pie Dough

The only thing that might be worse than a soggy bottomed pie is one that has a tough, over-worked crust. And to achieve the perfect light and flaky pie crust, fat is the key ingredient (per Baking Kneads). 

While there are several baking fat options, including lard and shortening, butter tends to be one of the most common choices for pie dough. There is, however, another option that you likely haven't tried — but absolutely should. 

According to Epicurious, cream cheese is a surprisingly perfect fat to make the best — and possibly easiest — pie crust. It's the ratio of water, 51%, to fat, 37.7%, that allows cream cheese to create one of the best flaky crusts. (Butter, by comparison, is 80% milk fat and around 17% water, per Taste Cooking.) Though cream cheese has a lower fat content, its ratio of water to fat brings special characteristics to pie dough recipes. 

What cream cheese can do for your pie dough

Fat and water both play important roles in building a tender, flaky crust. According to Baking Kneads, fat creates little pockets within the dough that melt in the oven and create the delicate layers and flakes everyone loves so much. 

Fat also coats the flour, which hinders gluten development. When gluten forms in pastry dough as it's being formed, it makes the pastry tougher. But water also plays a vital role by creating the steam inside the dough that makes flaky layers. According to Epicurious, the higher water content of cream cheese helps the dough stick together without overworking it. 

Because the amounts of water and fat are relatively close in cream cheese, the dough will have all of the delicious layers you expect from a great pie crust. Better yet, the crust should be incredibly tender because of the higher water content. Try swapping cream cheese into your next pie dough recipe — you might be surprised by the results.