Set out the butter at room temperature to soften just enough to mix. (I set mine out for an hour, but if your home is hot, you'll need less time.)
Beat the butter and sugar until blended into fluffy pieces. (Do not overbeat, or it will make the dough too soft.)
Add the egg, milk and flavored extract and mix. Add the sifted flour and baking powder, and beat on low, then medium.
When the dough is smooth and combined, shape it into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, and freeze it for 25 minutes.
When the dough has chilled, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9-inch pie plate and a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.
Unwrap the chilled dough and cut away about ¼ of it to set aside for the cookie topping. If you have a kitchen scale, use it to weigh the larger portion of dough. You will need 16 ounces of dough for the bottom crust.
On a clean work surface dusted with powdered sugar or flour, use a rolling pin to roll out the 16 ounces of dough into an 11-inch circle about ½ inch thick. Transfer the dough into the pie plate by wrapping one half of the dough around the rolling pin, and carrying the rolling pin with the dough over to the plate. Gently set the dough into the pie plate and use two fingers to flute the edges along the inside rim. If you mess up, just use your fingers to press the dough into place evenly.
Use a fork to poke tiny holes in the bottom of the crust and where it meets the sides of the pan. Freeze the crust for 10 minutes before baking.
Bake the crust for 13-15 minutes, or until it is golden around the edges, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the crust cool on a wire rack.
Sugar Cookie Topping
While the bottom crust is baking, prepare the cookie topping. Roll out the small portion of dough into a circle about ¼-inch thick. Use a large cookie cutter to cut out shapes. (You'll need 4 or 5 large cookies for the top of the pie. You may end up with one or two extra cookies.
Bake the cookies on the greased baking sheet for 9 minutes, or until just barely turning golden at the edges. (You can bake them in the same oven with the crust.) Cool the baked cookies on a wire rack.
Assemble & Serve
Spoon chilled pie filling into the cooled pie crust. Place the cookies on top in a decorative pattern.
The unfilled sugar cookie crust and cookies can be stored, covered, at room temperature for up to five days. A pie with filling will need to be stored in the refrigerator for up to four days.
I've improved the crust technique over the years so it will be easy to work with and holds its shape in the oven. Start with butter softened just enough to mix. Don't overbeat the butter and sugar, and be sure to freeze the dough for 25 minutes before rolling. Freeze the shaped, unbaked crust for 10 minutes before baking.
If you're not good at rolling dough, no worries! Just press the pie dough into place.
If you don't want to use almond extract, you can substitute vanilla, lemon, coconut or even maple. For an apple, pear or pumpkin pie, use vanilla extract and add a little cinnamon and/or ginger. Use your imagination and have fun with it!Can you bake the crust with filling?I have only experimented with baking the crust without filling. Once the crust cools, I add cooled, cooked filling.If you want to try baking the raw crust together with filling, such as for a pumpkin pie, I would choose a pie recipe that doesn't bake for more than 30-40 minutes. Still, you'll need to make sure the crust edges don't get too browned. You may need to add foil or a pie crust shield(affiliate link) to cover the pie crust edges when they're nearly golden brown.I still recommend baking the cookies separately on a sheet pan as directed, then adding them atop your baked, cooled pie.