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In search of the perfect pastry crust


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#61 therdogg

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Posted 14 July 2004 - 03:09 PM

A lard crust for Cornish pasties or chicken pot pie or other such savories is delish, but for peach pie I like an all-butter crust. Try chilling the flour/salt mixture and if you don't have a food processor, a pastry cutter or knives may keep it cold better than your fingers.

#62 jgarner53

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Posted 14 July 2004 - 03:29 PM

One other thing I'd do is chill the rolled out dough before you fill the pie, then again after it's filled, sealed, before baking (so cold pie goes into hot oven). The goal is to keep the dough as cold as possible until it gets baked.

Don't overwork the dough when you roll it out, either. Roll outward from the center, not back and forth, turning the dough 1/4 turn as you go to keep it round.

Beautiful looking pie, though!
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#63 stovetop

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Posted 14 July 2004 - 03:37 PM

A lard crust for Cornish pasties or chicken pot pie or other such savories is delish, but for peach pie I like an all-butter crust. Try chilling the flour/salt mixture and if you don't have a food processor, a pastry cutter or knives may keep it cold better than your fingers.



Good point!, I agree with you, question though which freezes better?


jgarner53, good points too.


I like butter my self, if it is a hot day, I will put ice in my water, then take it out before I make the pie, like jgarner53 says do not work your dough to much.

Keep going and make more, you are now hooked on pies :wub: :wacko:
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#64 fiftydollars

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Posted 14 July 2004 - 03:37 PM

What about a clarified butter crust?

How'd that work?

Without the water would it create pastry that is flaky like you get with shortening/lard?

#65 stovetop

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Posted 14 July 2004 - 03:39 PM

From what I understand about the chemistry does not the milk fat have something to do with the good quality of the dough???
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#66 bleachboy

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Posted 14 July 2004 - 03:47 PM

It's worth noting that Julia Child says she makes "pie crust" type dough in the food processor exclusively these days. Admittedly, I've never tried it. I went through a phase of baking lots of pies, quiches, etc. just because I felt it was important to learn to make a good pastry dough by hand. I used the technique described in Jeffrey Steingarten's article on the subject, which described in explicit detail the Marion Cunningham technique. Your friendly local librarian would be glad to look it up for you.
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#67 Toliver

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Posted 14 July 2004 - 04:38 PM

I believe it is the cold fat (lard, butter, etc) melting during the baking process that gives the crust its flakiness. That's why some recipes stress that the butter should be cold, that any water added should be ice cold, as well.
The purpose of the refrigeration of the completed dough (before rolling it out) is twofold...to relax the dough/gluten and to keep the fat in the dough cold so it will melt in the oven during baking and not on your counter as you roll it out.
That's why the cutting of the fat into the flour is a key process. You are blending the fat into the dough to help facillitate the later-melting process to achieve the flakiness...the smaller the fat bits, the better.
I think Julia use the processor to get the fat cut into miniscule bits which regular cutting can't really produce. I'd be afraid of friction of the blade warming the fat/dough up but if she uses it, it must work.

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#68 lorea

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Posted 14 July 2004 - 04:49 PM

What about a clarified butter crust?

How'd that work?

Without the water would it create pastry that is flaky like you get with shortening/lard?

I haven't tried it, but I would think it would result in a crumbly crust, rather than a flaky crust. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that flakiness is caused by the water in the butter that puffs the crust to form flakes.

#69 Heartsease

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Posted 14 July 2004 - 04:50 PM

I think most of the best pie crust in the world is made by little old redneck ladies who have a back forty down in the river bottom and a waiting list for their pies at every church supper. Butter gives a good flavor but the flakiest crust comes from good lard. When I am making a pie that needs the butter flavor to do it justice I make my crust using lard then chill it and brush the crust with melted butter then sugar it real good before I put my filling in. I would suggest buying lard from a amish family that has a good rep as it will have better flavor as a rule over reg store bought. Processing is not always a good thing. Instead of lemon juice we grew up using vinegar. I think it gives a flakier crust but don't know enough chemistry to say for sure it does over lemon juice. Course this is all coming from the resident red neck so ymmv.

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#70 Ling

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Posted 14 July 2004 - 06:55 PM

I always use lard in my pie crusts. I've heard of putting ALL your pie crust ingredients in the refrigerator to chill (including the flour and vinegar) before assembling, to make the dough even colder. I did that once and didn't notice much of a difference. My pie crust recipe is very close to the epicurious one, except I use lard and an egg yolk. I save the egg white for brushing on the top crust, and sprinkle with sugar before baking.

#71 Wendy DeBord

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Posted 14 July 2004 - 08:22 PM

The bigger your particals of fat are the flakier it will be. If you over mix your fat into your flour you'll get a mealy crust (which was mentioned already). If your mixture is the consistancy of corn meal or close to it, you've over mixed and have created a mealy crust. A mealy crust doesn't have the air pockets which make up a flaky crust......so it works best on the bottom layer when baking a wet fruit pie....putting a flakey crust on top.

The flake comes from the release of steam and the fat melting out leaving distinct air pockets. Thats why it crumbles so easily. Flake also happens with kneading/turning/folding over like when you make danish doughs or other laminated doughs. I've never folded my pie dough to increase flakiness. But when I rework scraps that's what happens technically and I think those pieces are heavier and less flakie.....I'd need to experiment to see.

My prefered recipe uses vinager, I think it tenderizes the gluten more the lemon juice also (as was previously suggested). I use apple cider vinager, which you don't taste after it's baked. I also use all butter. I used to use 50/50 butter with crisco. But once you learn how to not over handle the butter you'll get just as flakie of a crust, but it tastes better with-out the shortening (shortening has no taste). I mix my crusts in a stand mixer. I used to use the cusinart buI now think the mixer works better because it works less.

I also bake my fruit pies from a frozen state. By the time the fruit in the center gets hot enough to thicken, your crust will be crisped. Theres really no diference between what a fresh fruit pies fruit turns out like then a fresh fruit frozen then baked. Either way the fruit becomes soft. When the fruit is frozen going into the oven it takes longer to defrost insultating it from heat until the crust catches up......so you fruit will actually seem fresher this way.

I wrote a class on making pies crusts for eg........it should be posted soon.

#72 bloviatrix

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Posted 14 July 2004 - 09:27 PM

I wrote a class on making pies crusts for eg........it should be posted soon.

Do you include pointers on rolling the dough out? I can't seem to master that skill no matter how many crusts I roll.
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#73 project

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Posted 14 July 2004 - 10:16 PM

One of the cooking topics that goes way back in my family is pie crust.

My father grew up in the country in western New York state, a little south of Buffalo. There his mother, in a classic Victorian house with a root cellar and a wood burning stove, made a fruit pie a day for decades.

Yes, one of the more important goals of the crust is that it be 'flaky'.

Yes, it is generally true that lard makes a crust that is exceptionally flaky.

Pie crust was one of the worst challenges my mother faced on getting married! While she did learn quite well, early on she was terrified. She never liked it.

My father was the person that thought that good pie crust was easy.

Basically, he was correct.

Dad only used flour, shortening, salt, and water.

While it is possible to make a good pie crust with butter for some or all of the shortening, the substitution is not trivial and all my trials yielded poor results.

Nearly all of the detailed advice commonly given, my family didn't and doesn't do.

The fat to flour ratio is not wildly critical. So, weighing the flour is not a big deal. Dad's mother, making a pie a day for decades, was so practiced that she didn't measure anything. Also, with practice, the whole effort can be blindingly fast. It is easy to spend much more time and effort getting out the pastry board, rolling pin, etc. and on the clean up afterward than on the work. So, for more efficiency, Dad's mother had a special cabinet in the kitchen just for making pies; mostly she didn't clean anything and, instead, just scraped off the pastry board and the rolling pin and closed the cabinet.

The key to a flaky crust is a theoretical 'secret'. Essentially every traditional diligent highly dedicated bride will miss this secret and end up in tears!

The 'secret' is that in the final pie crust, each individual flake was from a chunk of fat that was NOT well mixed with flour. So, the bride that mixes thoroughly is nearly guaranteed a uniform homogeneous isotropic crisp cracker drenched with tears.

So, we want to LEAVE chunks of fat. To this end, there are three important considerations: (1) Don't mix very much. (2) Don't handle very much. (3) Keep the mixture cool so that the chunks of fat remain distinct and do not melt into the flour.

In particular, for the shortening, have it still cool from the refrigerator. For the water, use ice water. For your hands, keep the heat of your hands AWAY from the mixture to the greatest extent possible. Under NO circumstances MIX the fat and flour with your hands. It is good to have a cool kitchen. Dad never bothered to chill the flour, but he didn't expect it to be hot, either.

For the mixing, there is just absolutely positively NO role for any powered machine -- not a chance.

The best tools for mixing the fat and flour are a dinner fork in one hand and a table knife in the other. Then with the flour in the bowl and the shortening in the middle, cross the knife and the fork and pull the knife in one direction and the fork in the other so that the knife CUTS a chunk of fat into two pieces and lets flour coat the cut surface. Two knives also work. The process is appropriately called 'cutting' the fat into the flour. Really, you are cutting the big chunk of fat into smaller chunks and coating each of the smaller chunks with flour.

The person that said that the goal was to cut the two together until you had "peas" likely died laughing at all the problems this advice caused! Instead, basically for each cut, aim at a chunk of fat. When you can see no more chunks of fat that really are too big and should be cut, QUIT. So, for each cut, you have to watch. Until a machine can have good machine vision, forget about any machine being useful.

Then use enough ice water to get the stuff in the bowl to stick together. In this work, think a little as you proceed to MINIMIZE the handling of the dough.

Here is the right attitude: This is not 'haute cuisine' by the king of chefs and chef of kings. Instead, this is just PIE DOUGH that was part of what fueled the explosion of US population coast to coast across a continent in less than 100 years. That is, this is FOOD intended to be full of food energy, that is, calories. So, imagine that you are making this in a boarding house where you have 15 really hungry railroad workers due in, soaked with sweat and hungry as bears, and less patient, in less than an hour. You can use this pie dough for fruit pies, custard pies, savory pot pies, to wrap pieces of meat, as parts of other desserts, etc., but time you don't have.

When you get the dough together, you will have a sticky blob in the bowl. Note: The sticky blob will not have uniform moisture level -- uniformity would mean too much handling.

Now, to continue, you need a supply of just flour. You start by coating the pastry board with flour.

From now on, there will be two distinct parts to the dough: (1) the inside and (2) the surface. The surface will always have been coated with flour and relatively dry and able to be pressed without sticking. The inside will still be moist and sticky.

The next step is to go from the sticky mass in the bowl to two globs on the pastry board, each glob fairly smooth, one a little larger than the other, maybe 55-45.

To take this step, think a little about how you will get nearly all sticky stuff from the surface of the bowl into the two globs. Note: It is permitted and can be useful to pick up the bowl and tilt it so that gravity can help the glob roll.

To take the next step, sprinkle loose flour on the surface of the glob in the bowl. I roll the bowl to get help from gravity while using a spoon to separate the sticky dough from the surface of the bowl. When I get the glob mostly together, I roll it onto the pastry board. Then I use a spatula or knife to cut the glob into two globs.

Now a lot of highly concerned very picky super expert modern advisors talk about wrapping the globs in plastic wrap, setting in the refrigerator, and letting 'rest'. Nonsense. Unnecessary nonsense. No one in my family ever did any such thing. Remember those railroad workers -- you don't have time for anything to 'rest'; if they don't eat your pie crust, then they might eat YOU.

In particular, my grandmother didn't have time for such nonsense -- not even 10 seconds. She was a wife and mother in the country in 1910 and had PLENTY to do without ANY 'resting'.

So, just keep going. Generally, the faster the better because time lets the dough get warmer and that and more mixing gets rid of the chunks of fat.

The larger glob is for the bottom crust and is the one to roll out first.

With practice, you can roll the dough into something close enough for the purpose QUICKLY. If you believe that your rolling pin work has failed and have to gather the dough back into a glob and start again, then you can still get a pie from this glob but will get a noticeably less flaky crust.

If you have a tear in the dough, then use water as glue and maybe a stray piece of dough as a patch and do a repair. It does NOT have to look good.

In all of this, you should touch the dough with your hands very little or not at all.

Work quickly; minimize the handling of the dough.

The result won't be 'puff pastry' but will be 'flaky' pie crust, and that's all you are after.

Lard is more sensitive to temperature than shortening, but, handled quickly as described here, DOES definitely make a more flaky crust.

If you have left over pie crust, then roll it out, dot with butter, sprinkle sugar and cinnamon, bake it, and serve it as a treat. It can be better than some pies!
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#74 Wendy DeBord

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Posted 15 July 2004 - 07:29 AM

I can't really disagree with anything you wrote Project, thats all great advice! A traditional pie crust is just as you posted, flour, salt, shortening, water. Adding or subsituting anything else turns it into an enriched pie dough verses a traditional. Shortening is a cheap readily available fat-but it doesn't have flavor. This is the one thing I disagree with you on........using butter will give you a better tasting crust then all shortening.

I think I need to clairfy one point. When I use a mixer to make my dough I'm making a huge batch in a 40 qt mixer. It's been so long since I've made 1 crust....yes I agree mixing by hand would be best. Use a rubber spatula when you add your water, so you won't over work it. Just toss it around in the bowl until it's starts to form together. Dump it out on your table and bring it together into one mass with your hands and your done.

The whole process of making pie dough involves knowing what to look for and then stopping. I think most mistakes happen because people want to do too good of a job, putting in more effort then needed.

Adding the right amount of water to bind is definately the next biggest stumbling block. Following your recipe isn't always accurate, in that flour reacts differently daily according to the humidity in it. Somedays you need more then a recipe states-some days less, dear ole grandma went by looks and feel... and to do a good job you should too. Having the right amount of moisture also makes a huge difference in how easy or hard you dough is to roll out. If you don't have enough water your dough will break as you roll it, it also takes a fair amount of effort and to flatten it as you roll. Where as a dough with the right amount of hydration rolls out easy.

The thing about rolling is you have to factor in the temp. of your dough. If your dough is perfectly hydrated you might give it 5 minutes (or less) to warm up from the cooler.......then it should roll with perfect ease.

If you give your dough a little time to warm up from the cooler and your dough cracks or is hard to roll or rips at the edges as you roll it, your dough is too dry. If it's too dry or too wet you really can't correct it without over working it, so start over. If it was too wet, it would warm up quickly and flatten with little pressure exerted.

So Bloviatrix....if your able to roll out other items and just your pie dough is giving you problems......most likely your dough is too dry. Second possibility is it's too cold-but it would have to be damn cold to cause you any real struggle.

As Project wrote chilling your dough before rolling it isn't exactly necessary..........but just like using butter instead of all shortening it can improve your experience. Keeping it chilled is just extra insurance so your fat doesn't warm up and incorporate too much into your flour. Thats why you are instructed to use ice water too, but technically you could use any temp. water and it will work......but cold protects the fat particals from blending. Rechilling a formed pie before you place it in the oven rechills the fat so when it goes into your oven the outter most surface starts to set in place before the inner. This helps hold crimps in place and prevent them from sagging.

I think making pies is definately more difficult then many baked goods. Unlike other baked goods it's temp. and humidity sensitive and you have to make your own judgements along the way that a recipe can't factor in for you. That's why grandmas always made the best pies-experience. I think it you really want to master this in a shorter time period then grandma had you should do some experimenting in your own kitchen. Make 4 crusts at the same time and to each add a different amount of water-see what happens, how differently they roll and handle. Same thing with your fat, experiment in side by side trials. Try all shortening, 50/50 butter and shortening, then all butter........see what tastes best. Do the same trail with how much you incorporate your fat into your flour. Unlike many baked goods doing trials with pie crusts doesn't take alot of time. In one afternoon you can teach yourself alot. If your worried about waste, pie dough freezes beautifully for extended time periods and it can be used in savory cooking too.

#75 Reap

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Posted 15 July 2004 - 08:50 AM

What a great thread!


Got me thinking about how I like my pie dough. Flaky is definately an element I like, but I have to say I really appreciate a "tender" crust.

I'm a novice at pie dough, so I was wondering= Does a flaky crust equal a tender crust? And if not what is needed for a more tender crust?

#76 TrishCT

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Posted 15 July 2004 - 10:55 AM

This family recipe for pie crust is too good to keep to myself. It's my yankee New England mother-in-law's recipe and has won her accolades for years.

Although seemingly basic, it's unique in that you make a large batch of the dry ingredients/shortening and keep that mixture chilled till you are ready to make a pie. Then you measure the amount of dry ingredients you need and add ice cold water accordingly. Your dough is cold (because the shortening is cold) and good to roll out immediately -- no waiting.

Joan's Yankee New England Pie Crust

6 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 1/3 cups shortening

Combine flour and salt, cut in half the shortening to make coarse crumbs. Cut in the remaining shortening. Place in an airtight container, store in refrigerator up to 2 months (or longer).

For a nine single crust inch pie:

Put 1 1/4 to 1 3/4 cups of the flour mixture in a mixing bowl. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of ice cold water and stir to combine. Roll out crust immediately.

For double crust 9 inch pie:

Put 2 cups flour mixture in a mixing bowl and add 4 - 5 tablespoons ice cold water and stir to combine. Separate into 2 balls. Roll out crusts immediately.

#77 stovetop

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Posted 15 July 2004 - 12:48 PM

Wow; I am impressed with all the knowledge this site has with things pastry, there is a huge pool of resources and experiences that are bursting at the seems and exploding through my monitor and into my office
I can just taste all the pies that everyone is making; an inspiration to make one myself.
Thanks all :biggrin:
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#78 phaelon56

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Posted 15 July 2004 - 12:58 PM

I've been so humbled and overwhelmed by the flood of info that responding seemed futile :smile:

Not ready to make a pie again yet but tonight I'be whipping up a Fruit Frangiapane tart and will report back on the results. Half of my guests are vegetarian so lard will not be included but I will include some of the other hints and tips into my process. My only existing food processor is the mini FP attachment for my immersion blender. Works great for small stuff but not a big enough receptacle foa batch of dough. I'll try the knife and fork or two knife method for cutting the butter into the flour. Thanks again to all.

And - the crust on the pie I discussed in this article was tender but not flaky. There is a difference and a good crust can exhibit both qualities or so I think.

#79 ludja

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Posted 15 July 2004 - 01:13 PM

Not much to add to all the good advice already... but here's a few thoughts:

My go to piecrust is from Bill Neal's Southern Cooking-- half butter and half lard (good lard that you render yourself from pork fat or buy from a butcher, etc). Great flavor (for any filling) and tender and flakey. I wonder how the original recipe would improve just by substituting the Crisco for lard...

Definately chill everything down and use ice water (I usually cut butter into bigger pieces first and let chill with flour in bowl in fridge before cutting it in).

To incorporate the fat I really like to use a sturdy hand held pastry blender. It is less easy to over process the fat into too small pieces as one might do with a food processor. (A fork and knife are ok too, but I find the pastry blender easier to use and a worthwhile investment even if you aren't baking pies and biscuits every week...).

Edited by ludja, 15 July 2004 - 01:24 PM.

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"


#80 jgarner53

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Posted 15 July 2004 - 05:27 PM

To incorporate the fat I really like to use a sturdy hand held pastry blender. It is less easy to over process the fat into too small pieces as one might do with a food processor. (A fork and knife are ok too, but I find the pastry blender easier to use and a worthwhile investment even if you aren't baking pies and biscuits every week...).



I second Ludja's comment here. Before I learned/discovered using a food processor for my crusts (which I did for speed's sake as much as anything), I used a pastry blender, which is what my mom and her mom had used. I find that the kind that look like u-shaped blades works a little better than the wire kind, but either will do.

Such a great thread! Pies are one of my favorite desserts, and I love anything with crust: tart, quiche, you name it. And Sinclair's right - it's experience. My first crusts were tough nuggets of dough, and I was always trying to get my mom's homogenous mixture. Little did I know that you WANT those lumps of butter! :laugh:

Another trick I picked up from an ex-boyfriend. His mom made her crust with vegetable oil (insert green, nauseated emoticon here), and rolled out the dough between two sheets of waxed paper. It's a crutch, I know, but then my dough isn't sticking to my counter or my rolling pin, and I don't need to add extra flour either.
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#81 fiftydollars

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Posted 15 July 2004 - 05:30 PM

...Another trick I picked up from an ex-boyfriend. His mom made her crust with vegetable oil...

I'm sure everyone can agree that we're glad you got rid of that pervert...

#82 jgarner53

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Posted 15 July 2004 - 06:22 PM

I'm sure everyone can agree that we're glad you got rid of that pervert...


:laugh:

Mr. Garner would think so. And he calls me the Pie Queen. :wub:
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#83 project

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Posted 15 July 2004 - 06:31 PM

No kidding, this is a great thread.

Likely fewer than 1% of the people that have made 'from scratch' pie crust have had such good advice.

For the recommendation to cut the fat into the flour until you have "peas", here is a clarification: Yes, maybe the larger pieces of fat coated with flour will look like peas. But, such peas will likely constitute less than half the total weight of what you have in your bowl. The rest of what is in the bowl will vary from pieces of fat smaller than peas down to loose nearly pure flour. So, my concern about the advice of mixing until "peas" is that not nearly all of the bowl contents will consist of such peas so that a novice looking for a bowl of peas might just keep mixing, never get a bowl of peas, and over mix the dough. If a way could be found to have nearly all the bowl contents peas, then this would likely be A+ quality mixing!

On the amount of water to add, you want the dough to be sticky enough to hold together. A dough that keeps cracking and breaking as you roll it out is too dry. For the amount of water to add, the recipe suggestions are good guidance but might be off by a little in a particular bowl due to variations in moisture of the flour.

If you add too much water and get the dough a little too wet, then the dough will tend to stick to your pastry board and rolling pin. In this case, just keep dusting the exterior surface with more flour. In effect you will get slightly more total weight of pie crust with a slightly lower proportion of fat; that is, no big harm done.

The recommendations for chilling the bowl, starting with a chilled mixture of flour, salt, and fat mixed possibly days before, chilling the dough just before rolling it out all likely can help. Such chilling might be more important in a hot kitchen or when using lard. But, with cold shortening, ice water, a cool kitchen, making the pie crust AWAY from the heat of the preheating oven, keeping heat of fingers away from the dough, and working quickly, 100 years of experience in my family (I believe that my father's mother was born in about 1871), good flaky pie crust that works well -- even directly with very wet fruit pies -- is fully reliably doable.

Using butter no doubt can give a better flavor. I only tried butter a few times; since I do not have my trial notes readily available on my computer, I can't easily comment on what I did wrong. I may have used clarified butter, but that is only a guess. People on this thread that have made butter work are good sources of information.

ludja mentioned a pastry blender. That is a relevant remark. The pastry blender I have consists of a (chrome plated or stainless steel) sheet metal U with a wooden handle joining the two top points. The bottom of the U consists of dull blades stamped from the sheet metal.

Some pastry blenders have wires instead of blades.

The idea of a pastry blender is to speed the 'cutting' of the fat into the flour.

So, we are supposed to use the blades to mash the fat and let the loose flour coat the mashed pieces of fat.

A pastry blender is faster than a knife and fork or two knives, but I fear that, especially for a novice, the results will be less good due to less precise control of the cutting, more 'mashing' instead of just cutting, and a risk of over mixing. Using two table knives is likely the slowest but, still, actually doesn't take very long; turn on the radio or TV or something, watch wildlife in the backyard, have your children do it, or some such. I believe that my father concluded that two knives gave the best results.

Also my pastry blender is a pain to clean: The handle is wooden, and long ago soaking caused the wood to swell and connections to become loose. I need to take the thing to the workshop and apply some epoxy, etc. In contrast, table knives and forks are much easier to clean!

My family's most common pie is apple. When Fall comes and there are terrific supplies of nicely tart cooking apples, a simple apple pie can be one of the best foods going.

My family just assembled the apple slices directly on the raw dough to become the bottom crust and didn't take special efforts to waterproof the dough, prebake the crust, or precook the apples into a 'filling', steps that might actually result in a better pie.

But the real glory of apple pie is the fresh tart apples, the sugar, the butter added with the apples, any nutmeg or cinnamon, and the flaky browned crust. The flavors are off the tops of the charts. Putting excellent vanilla ice cream on top of a slice should be illegal as overwhelming over stimulation of human sensibilities!

For including raisins, a crumb top crust, etc., they might be still better. But mostly people that have had the basic real thing will just rush to make it and eat it and not delay for anything 'more'!

My personal favorite is a cherry pie on those rare occasions when good fresh sour cherries are available.

Where my father grew up, the backyard, and elsewhere in the area, had apple trees and cheery trees. Pros and cons of various special apple varieties were common conversation. There were plenty of wild raspberries in the hills and plenty of game. The stream beside the house was choked with terrific watercress.

He did well financially: His father ran the general store, and his stepfather ran the feed and grain mill. In college during the Depression, he had an Auburn roadster, an Indian motorcycle, a bearskin coat and spent plenty of time bowling, playing cards, and dancing. He went on to office work but should have returned home and concentrated on local business and real estate and kept feasting on the local bounty!
What would be the right food and wine to go with
R. Strauss's 'Ein Heldenleben'?

#84 maxmillan

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Posted 15 July 2004 - 06:46 PM

Wow, lots more to consider when making pie crust. I will make one by hand and compare it to the one made from the food processor. Before getting my processor I would cut the fat into flour but the crust wasn't memorable but that was very long ago.

I bought a strange cylinderical glass bottle from an estate sale and was told that ice was put inside and it was used as a rolling pin. I haven't used it yet as I bought it for a conversation piece. I assume the ice would create condensation on the outside of the glass and render the crust too wet. But one could put their wooden rolling pin the the freezer.

For a savory pie, I have some bacon fat and was wondering if this might work for a meat pie?

#85 stovetop

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Posted 16 July 2004 - 01:28 AM

I saw my Grandma use chicken fat or rendered pork fat to make dough for meat pies. I guess on the farm you have to make your own shortening, rendering some kind of fat, probably your own butter too, that stuff probably made great pies.
Butter Fat Rules!!
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Cook To Live; Live To Cook

#86 Wendy DeBord

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Posted 16 July 2004 - 05:19 AM

Maxmillan-you don't need a cold rolling pin, room temp. is just fine. It only takes me seconds to roll out a crust.

I also don't use ice water, just cold tap water. The only thing that must be cold is your fat. I mix this up so quickly it doesn't get warm.

Just for the record I use 12 oz of dough for each pie layer.........since I make large batches I scale them out before freezing.

I've never owned a pastry blender, I'd guess you could over mix with this utensil. You can just cut up your butter on the counter like you do for other cooking processes (into tbsp's). Toss the butter chunks into your flour, then mix together with your hands. I break apart big clumps with my fingers and it's done........thats all there is to it.

I like the idea of having pie crust premixed and on hand but I have to think that it's ultimately not a good idea. Your flour will absord more moisture from the refidgerator and odors. This will play with how much water you'll need to hydrate your flour. I'd rather see you mix it all up at once, portion out and freeze your extras.

I've heard of people using all different types of fat.......I don't see why not. If you like that taste go for it.

Tender crusts have less gluten worked up, so they've been lightly handled. I'm not exactly certain what creates them.......it could be a couple factors.........could be a mealy crust which is closer to a short crust (like a shortbread cookie where your fat is binding your flour together).

Yesterday I had to whip together a couple apple pies (it's on my menu at work, one of my monthly specials and I didn't have any left in my freezer) and I didn't have time to chill them before baking. They looked beautiful going into the oven. Nicely domed with a generous amount of filling. My dough was still cold (I work pretty quick). Anyway after baking them as I always bake my pies.........I pulled them out of the oven-they looked great nice and full. THEN once they chilled out completely my filling did the great sink, pulling away from the top crust. It had been a long while since I'd baked a fruit pie I didn't pre-freeze and this only did another big confirmation for me: bake your fruit pies from a fozen state-the fruit won't over cook this way........it gives the best results. Baking a fresh fruit pie over cooks your filling before the crust is done.

Oh.........also rolling between wax paper or parchement paper is a great tool/trick. I do so with all my rolled cookie doughs. But for pie, I tend to think your being to careful..which leads to over worked crusts. Roll it out in as much flour as you need, then take a dry pastry brush and brush the excess flour off of it before placing it in your pan. Your crust isn't going to absorb that much flour-unless your crust is too wet and soft to begin with.

Project made another great point- your fat won't be all in consistant sizes. Pea size is what you aim for, but a few bits larger and smaller is fine.....it will look mostly like a bowl of flour with lumps of butter in it. It isn't a evenly consistant-don't even try to get it that way.

#87 KatieM

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Posted 16 July 2004 - 07:39 AM

Ditto this being a great thread! I actually have very strong opinions about pie, but none of them are new, so I'll mostly keep them to myself! :wink:

My mother is known as the "Pie Lady" in my small hometown in Illinois, so I learned how to make pies from a very early age. It's probably the pies that first fueled my passion for pastry. My mom gave me little jobs like stirring the sugar and cinnamon for the apples from as early as age two or three. So I learned how the dough should look and feel at every stage. And sometimes, how it should NOT look! As every pie baker knows, sometimes there are just some doozies! But you move on, and you make it again until you get it right. My mom's a strictly Crisco, flour, salt, water pie baker, and she never chills anything. She also uses a fork. Just one fork, and she spins the bowl while she's doing it. She too has very cold hands, but she also has Raynauds, so maybe that's the trick for good pies! Her crust is very tender, but not as flaky as some others I've tried. She also rolls her dough almost paper-thin. Somehow it always holds up, though.

When I grew up, and became more serious about baking, I started trying other crust recipes. I now use any number of different crusts, depending on what I'm using it for. If I have a dozen pies to make for a church supper, and I've only got 2 hours, I use all shortening. If I'm having a dinner party, and I know there will be foodies there, I'll use my "fancy" crust, which has butter and cream cheese in it. Honestly though, so few people even make pies anymore that any sort of homemade crust usually impresses people. So all of you should pat yourselves on the back for even trying! And really, as Wendy said, the best pies are always made by grandmothers because of the experience. So the best way to learn is just to do it.

In any case, I just wanted to submit my favorite cookbook of all time for those of you who are interested in pie. It's called "Pie Every Day", by Pat Willard. First of all, I think the title is a great philosophy. I would eat pie for breakfast every day if I could. Also, the book has a lot of great autobiographical stuff, and the American history of pies. So I actually curled up with it under a blanket on the couch and read it like a novel - with a cup of tea. That, to me, is the quality that a great cookbook should possess. It was actually this book that inspired me to write my own cookbook. Not all the recipes are perfect, but I can guarantee that if you've had a really awful week, nothing can fix it better than Hershey Bar Pie! Anyway, enough of my reviews of this book. Here's a link to an epicurious review for anyone who is interested.

Pie Every Day


Happy pie baking, all!

Katie
"First rule in roadside beet sales, put the most attractive beets on top. The ones that make you pull the car over and go 'wow, I need this beet right now'. Those are the money beets." Dwight Schrute, The Office, Season 3, Product Recall

#88 achevres

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Posted 16 July 2004 - 08:12 AM

I have used Martha Stewart's Perfect Pie Crust for years and was happy with it. It's still good and fool-proof.

I always start in the food processor but don't over do it. You need to leave some fat visible if you want flaky pastry. I'm in the "no-Crisco" camp. initially, because I wanted my fat to contribute flavor, and lately because of the trans-fat issues. I would use lard, but the available one is partially-hydrogenated and making my own is more than I want to tackle.

Recently, out of curiosity, I tried Rose Levy Berenbaum's cream cheese pie dough and got rave reviews. Ms. Berenbaum stacks the deck by using cake flour, baking powder and vinegar, plus the cream cheese and butter. I can't explain all the food chemistry, but definitely try this recipe! (BTY, I use salted butter, because I like a little saltiness with the sweet filling and I think most dough recipes are too bland as written. Also, I used half cake flour and half all-purpose).

The recipe is in this link from Minnesota Public Radio's The Splendid Table:

The Best All-American Apple Pie with Flaky Cream Cheese Pie Crust

Edited for punctuation.

Edited by achevres, 16 July 2004 - 08:16 AM.


#89 phaelon56

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Posted 16 July 2004 - 08:54 AM

I made my fruit tart last night and this morning but opted for a cream cheese based filling rather than Frangiapane. I didn't have lard handy but the recipe I decided to try for "sweet pastry crust" called only for butter. Remembering bits and pieces of the sound advice here.... I threw the butter in the freezer for a bit first along with the mixing bowl and the butter knives I planned to use to mix the flour and butter.

The recipe called for one lightly beaten egg to be mixed into 125 grams of butter along with 1/4 cup sugar. 1 1/2 cups flour along with a dash of salt are to be sifted (I have no sifter!) and then mixed loosely until pea size chunks are achieved. Instructions called for "blending" the butter and sugar until it was "fluffy". I chopped the butter and sugar together with cold knives and then used an elctric handmixer for a minute or so to get it a bit softer, then mixed in the flour. Did the cutting in mostly with knives. It was still too dry so I did have to add a tbsp or so of ice water but it came together nicely in a ball. Flattened in disc and threw wrapped in fridge for about 20 minutes. I know some have advised here that this is not necessary but I had clean up to do and it made things easier.

It rolled out beautifully and prebaked very nicely despite my screwing up (note to self: remembr to read instructions carefully!). It actually called for lining the raw crust in the tart pan with foil before putting the pie weights in place and prebaking. I forgot the foil and also let it bake a few minutes longer than necessary. It wa s trifle browner than light golden brown. Have not taste tested it yet but based on appearance it is way flakier than my previous attempt, despite the absence of lard or shortening.

This really is a great thread - I think I'm on my way to killer pies and tarts :biggrin: The fundamental tips about keping things really cold and ensuring that there are lumps of fat still in the raw dough are so helpful.

I wil report back on how well this one does on the Flake-O-Meter but I'm optimistic.

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#90 ludja

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Posted 16 July 2004 - 09:01 AM

It's definately 'to each his own' re: how to incorporate the fat. It can be done well with a number of different techniques and tools. I guess the main theme has come through that with whichever method one uses, one is shooting for fat pieces that might seem larger than desirable to someone new to pie dough making and also to have the fat cold!

(I've made pie dough by hand, with two knives, a food processor and with a pastry blender and settled on the last as 'good for me' in accomplishing the desired end. I had a wire pastry blender and did not like that--it was flimsy and did kind of mash and push the butter around. My current one is more solid with blade-like sections--pretty close to what project described... :smile: but it's been holding up well so far!
"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"