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Egg in Pie Crust


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Having polished off a crumbly, moist serving of Dorie Greenspan's plum cake for breakfast, it's time to think about pie.*

I picked up In the Sweet Kitchen recently and was surprised by the recipe for pie crust. Regan Daley recommends using lard which delights me since I just rendered a batch. However, she also calls for an egg! to ensure tender, flaky results.

I bake desserts seldomly, so perhaps this is not news to seasoned pie people. I know pate sablée requires an egg, though I had to look up the name of this particular dough for tarts.

Does anyone else here incorporate eggs into pie crust for North American pies? If so, how would you compare the results to pastries made without them?

* * *

Edited to accommodate a narrower focus and to thank Rob for the helpful post that follows. Please feel free to add any comments regarding pie crust that you judge useful. :smile:

*Cf. topic devoted to Baking: From My Home to Yours.

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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IMHO, getting a really good, flaky crust is less about recipe than about technique. The above-mentioned threads, if I remember correctly, have fairly exhaustive discussions. It's all about not allowing gluten to develop. That's done by keeping equipment and ingredients cold, and by doing only minimal handling once the liquid is added to the flour. I also suspect that if you're using butter, the minimal liquid in the butter provides enough liquid to promote gluten formation, so handling needs to be minimal the minute the butter and the flour are brought together. I always use shortening, but am thinking about experimenting with both butter and lard.

As for the egg, I think it's just more liquid -- egg, as opposed to water or milk. The yolk would add some nice color. But maybe there's more to it than that.

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egg is traditional in some styles of tart dough. so is milk. i haven't personally tried etiher.

other things to keep in mind with technique (in addition to cold temps and minimal handling) are the sizes of the clumps of fat. small, uniform clumps result in a fine-grained, flaky/crumbly crust. completely blended fat results in a traditional crumbly tart crust. and uneven, varying sized clumps, with a lot of big ones, results in a traditional flaky pie crust.

the kind of fat you use is less important than the technique used to control the size and distribution of it. but butter is more challenging to work with (since it melts at lower temperatures). i think it's worth it to use butter for the flavor, though. either all butter or a 70/30 mix of butter and fresh-rendered animal fat (leaf lard, suet, goose fat, etc.). never supermarket lard, and never, ever shortening.

Edited by paulraphael (log)

Notes from the underbelly

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This was a summer of pie. There were lattice-topped, double-crust and open, tarts and galettes, and even hand pies. And the summer's not technically over yet!

I kept trying to improve on perfection. I've always used a butter/shortening crust, but I worry about the chemical properties of the shortening, as well as the impact on mouthfeel. (Unfortunately many of my friends are vegetarian or don't eat pork products, so lard is out of the question except on rare occasions.)

I tried lots of different kinds of pastry recipes, working my way through both the canonical Ruth Levy Berenbaum's recipes and the scribbled-on-the-back-of-envelope recommendations from friends. (I must admit that I rejected out-of-hand any shortening only recipes.) Only one do I remember having egg in it, but it wasn't flaky enough. (I blame the liquid fat of the yolk.)

In the end, I'm back to my tried and true. It works how I expect it too, it gets rave reviews all around, and with the trans-fat-free shortenings I'm trying not to worry too much.

The Kitchn

Nina Callaway

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Freshly-rendered lard is excellent, but not everyone has the time or inclination to make it.

I find that pie crusts made with European or European-style butters (and NO shortening) are flaky, tender, and easy to handle. The extra butter fat and lower moisture content in these butters makes a substantial difference over regular butter. I cannot abide the mouthfeel of shortening, and when I think about what it does to the body, I cannot bring myself to eat or use it.

Using a light touch is always beneficial when making pie crust.


Eileen Talanian

HowThe Cookie Crumbles.com


As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists. ~Joan Gussow

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I use an all-butter pie crust recipe that contains egg, water and vinegar as the liquid ingredient. The egg adds richness, the vinegar tenderizes the crust. I agree with paulraphael that the varying size of fat clumps, including large ones, is responsible for a flaky crust. It's hard to describe, but many of the clumps are much larger than "pea sized," which is the standard description in most recipes. I use a stand mixer with paddle attachment and add varying size pieces of frozen butter to the flour. Mix on slow speed. Every so often stop the mixer and stick your hand in the flour to check the size of the butter pieces; some will be very fine, like cornmeal, some will be pea size (1/4 inch or so), some will be larger (3/4 inch.) Add liquid and mix briefly until the paddle "grabs" the flour mixture into a big blob. I dump the blob on the counter in a piece of plastic film and bring it together in a sphere and flatten. I make large quantities and weight out portions, wrap in film, refrigerate or freeze.


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This is my recipe and I don't ever vary from it, no egg. I personally don't like the gumminess that I get with adding egg. I've tried substituting lard for the Crisco but I didn't like the heavier texture and flavor of lard so I stick to Crisco.

I never mix my pie crust by machine. Like others have said-it's a matter of technique-trying to get the right 'cut' if you will. In other words, you want the right size of clumps of fat (about the size of baby peas/butter and Crisco) so that the fat will melt into the flour during baking.

I cut the butter and Crisco into the flour using a pastry cutter that is probably over 100 years old. I want to be able to control the texture of the dough and I found that a food processor or a mixer doesn't give me as much control. I find that making pie crust dough in a food processor cuts the pieces of butter into basically grains of sand and that leaves me with a crust that falls apart after baking.

After I cut the butter and Crisco into the flour I add only enough ice water to form a ball of dough. So the 1/3 cup is only a basic guide, sometimes I use more ice water sometimes less.

I wrap the dough ball in plastic wrap and let it set in the refrigerator four about an hour. Then I roll it out or shape it into tart shells by hand. I try not to add too much flour when I roll the dough out because I don't want to change the texture of the finished pie crust by adding too much flour.

Here is a recent photo of the pie crust-tender, crisp yet light and flaky with a rich, buttery flavor. I added toasted hazelnuts to the dough. The filling is smoked cheddar pastry cream and poached apricots.

Pastry Crust (makes two 9" shells)

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ cup cake flour

1 tbsp. superfine granulated sugar

1 tsp. salt

1 stick unsalted butter, chilled

½ cup Crisco shortening, chilled

1/3 cup ice water


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I find that pie crusts made with European or European-style butters (and NO shortening) are flaky, tender, and easy to handle. The extra butter fat and lower moisture content in these butters makes a substantial difference over regular butter. I cannot abide the mouthfeel of shortening, and when I think about what it does to the body, I cannot bring myself to eat or use it.

good point; the high fat butters make a big difference. in texture and also flavor.

Notes from the underbelly

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My recipe uses yolks, vinegar and water or cream for the liquid. I use yolks because I need something to do with the yolks and cream whenever I have it left over from something else.

I think yolks provide better color and a different kind of richness that butter (never used lard before) alone cannot provide.

But as to flakiness, I don't know. My crusts are always flaky and I've never made pie crust the same way twice.


Totally More-ish: The New and Improved Foodblog

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Thank you all for your contributions.

Etalanian, sound advice! If I'm using leaf lard, I ought to combine it with a superior butter, too. And David, glorious picture!!!

Since I've never baked with lard before, I think I'm just going to leave it out for now, but try it at a later date.* After all, I'm interested in how it compares to my early years with a Crisco-butter combination and more recent habit of using butter alone, sometimes with vinegar. I'm curious to discover if flavor will be an issue.

Eventually, I'll add the egg to see if it enhances the tenderness of the pastry. Mylady, interesting point!

*Nina, I appreciate the feedback. Haven't tried the new shortenings yet. There may be a separate topic on the matter, but here's what Kim Severson wrote before her move to The New York Times: "...New Crisco..." (SFG, May 26, 2004)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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