Making pastry by hand is actually pretty easy, but it’s temperature-dependent enough to be intimidating. A good pie crust has flaky layers, which you get by manipulating butter that’s pliable — not soft or melted — into long, thin sheets. But the window between “pliable” and “soft” is just a few degrees Celsius, and confidently working within it takes a lot of experience. If you live in a warm climate — or just have an overly aggressive radiator — keeping the butter in that sweet spot is only possible if you really know what you’re doing.
A stand mixer levels the playing field. Swapping in a paddle attachment for your hands eliminates butter-melting body heat from the equation altogether, and if your kitchen is unusually warm, you can pre-chill the bowl and paddle for added melting insurance.
The mixing process is basically a hands-off fraisage: Where food processors turn butter to rubble and box graters reduce it to delicate slivers, the paddle gently smushes it into — you guessed it — long, flat sheets. Since mixers combine ingredients so efficiently, the dough comes together fast. This is obviously convenient, but it also gives the butter less time to think about melting on you.
You can use any recipe you like, but if you’re not familiar with making pie crust at all, check out King Arthur Flour’s guide to stand mixer pie crust for a more detailed how-to. The steps will look familiar to anyone who’s attempted pie crust even once: Chill cubed butter (and the bowl and paddle, if desired) in the freezer.
Combine the dry ingredients on low speed, add the cold butter, and mix until each piece is flattened and coated in flour. Gradually drizzle in ice water and mix until the dough just holds together when squeezed. Done.