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Berlinsbreads

Your favorite "tool" for making Pie Crust

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Given that this is the time of year I feel like making pies, I decided to buy the book Pie by Ken Haedrich. I have a ton of recipes for pie dough but I found his explanations and instructions very helpful. One thing that made me wonder, however, is that he doesn't recommend using a food processor unless it's a large capacity one---the 14-cup Cuisinart or the like. He says that the large one has enough room for the fat to be cut in properly. I have been making pie dough in my 11 cup for years and found this to be an interesting point since I haven't noticed a problem.

I tried making pie crust in my Kitchenaid today for the first time and found that the butter didn't cut down very small. I was using the whisk attachment since that's what the author recommended, noting that this would simulate the cutting in of a pastry blender. I also have a lot of experience doing it by hand, as well. So I'm wondering what all of you prefer? Any tips or experience with these various methods?

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Ling   

I've only used my pastry cutter. It's quick and easy, and does the job. Plus, I only have that pastry cutter to wash.

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Staximo   

I usally make pie crust by hand. The most important rule for me is: use the butter that comes directly from the fridge.

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jackal10   

I use the food processer (steel blade) normally for pastry. However recently I've been using the melted butter verion of the oil-based pie crust (recent thread here), which just needs a bowl and a spoon.

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For me, the processer was revalation in crust making. I was convinced I could not make crust by hand. The steel blade in my processer works magic for me . Now, pie is easy.

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BarbaraY   

I first learned to do it by hand and have never tried any other method. May try it in the Cuisinart one day but doubt that I could get the result I want from the Kitchenaid.

I love light flaky pie crust like my grandmother made and that is what I try to achive.

I do it quickly so that it doesn't have a chance to get too warm.

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I maker pie pastry by hand. It just would not be as much fun any other way. I have never tried making them by machine.

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chefpeon   

Well, it sorta depends on how many pies I'm making....but,

if I'm at home and making a couple pies, or one pie, I do it all by hand. I even go to the lengths

of pre-measuring all my ingredients and sticking 'em in the freezer for a half hour beforehand.

I also use my precious precious leaf lard that makes the worlds best crusts!

At work, when I have to make pie dough for eleventy million crusts, I use the big ol' Hobart

mixer with the whisk first (to cut the fat in) then switch to the paddle when I add the ice water.

Makes a pretty nice crust, but not as nice as I make at home.

I've used a Cuisinart a few times.....it's ok.....I can see how you can easily "overdo" it since those blades are so fast and sharp.....just remember to use the "pulse" feature very sparingly.

I've always figured though, if I'm going to use the Cuisinart, I might as well do it by hand, since I can't really make any more pie dough in the Cuiz, than I can by hand. Not only, that, but I'd have to wash out the Cuiz bowl. I'm lazy when it comes to dishes! :raz:

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I used to use a pastry blender when I started making crusts, but switched to the Cuisinart years ago and haven't looked back. I swear my crusts are better now than they were before, and not just by virtue of the experience of time.

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I'm in the food processor camp. And, if I am doing quantities, just do my mise en place for several quantities, line 'em up and whiz 'em up, one by one, without having to clean the food processor in between. Must admit that once I've added the fat to the flour, I dump it out of the processor into a bowl and add the ice water by hand.

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Mottmott   

The Processor RULES. Since I began using it my crusts are the best. (No modesty here).

But I think if you use the processor it is necessary to use frozen butter. Also, I don't cut it into uniform sized chunks which helps promote the flakiness.

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I'm with Kit on this one. Just line up the mises for a larger quantity. As far as washing the cuis? That's what a dishwasher is for. And the lard? Yeah, it's best, but here in Philly, fresh, high quality leaf lard, which is the only kind to use, is extremely hard to come by.

And one more "tool": For those of you who haven't tried it, European style butter makes a wonderful crisp, flaky crust. A lot of people use part shortening to get flakiness. Personally, I think shortening should be outlawed. Yuck.


Edited by etalanian (log)

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I was pie crust phobic for many years until I found the cuisinart.

I also just found this recipe that makes a really good hearty crust. I recently used it for a swiss chard and goat cheese tart.

Oatmeal crust

1/2 cup each

whole wheat flour

white flour

regular oats

1 egg yolk

1/2 cup butter cut in small pieces

1 tsp salt

1-2 tbls water( might not use)

process flours and salt, add eggs and butter. Add water thru feed tube until dough comes together. Form into disk, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 min. Makes 1 crust.

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several years ago i did a summer of pie crust, trying to conquer my longstanding fears. i made 3 or 4 every day, using food processor, kitchenaid and pastry cutter. i did find that finally the pastry cutter crusts always seemed to turn out lighter and flakier. kitchenaid was my second favorite. of course, this could just be me never mastering the timing on the food processor.

my favorite crust these days is made in the kitchenaid. its the one from the bouchon book. you work the butter into half the amount of flour, then add the rest of the flour, then the ice water. this dough is a dream to work with. i'm not sure exactly why, but it always rolls out really easily and evenly and it has great flavor. i use it for both sweet and savory.

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I really like Steingarten's method of making pie crust by hand in The Man Who Ate Everything.

My second favorite method is the food processor (close second). Both methods work very well and are really, really easy, but with Steingarten's I get to look down at people as I brag about my hand-made crusts and credit their flaky buttery perfection to innate skill.

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I live in Manhattan, where many kitchens (especially in rentals, where the landlord is required to pay for heat and water) do not have dishwashers, so I try to use my food processor as sparingly as possible.

For that reason (and because I find the task therapeutic) I use a pastry cutter. I put the mixing bowl and the cutter (and sometimes the flour and butter) into the freezer for a few minutes before beginning.

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jgm   

My grandmother taught me to make pie crust. The woman, long after dementia had set in and she no longer recognized anyone, was still an incredible cook and baker. One of our favorite stories to tell about her happened during this period. In the middle of making dinner, she went over to the freezer, lifted the lid, and stared into it for several minutes. Suddenly she slammed the lid down, turned around, and with eyes on fire, proclaimed, "Lord God almighty, someone's stolen the eggs!"

Fortunately, her pie crust recipe didn't include eggs. The method: with a fork, scoop out a hunk of shortening (about the size of one fist for a single-crust pie, two fists for a double crust) and smack it into a mixing bowl. Cover it completely with sifted flour and several good shakes of the salt shaker. Use the side of the fork to cut through the mixture, repeatedly, while turning the bowl with the other hand. Continue to work until the mixture is close to uniformly the size of small peas. Splash about a glug of milk into it, and gently work it in with the fork. The "working in" motion was kind of a cross between folding and stirring. Add more milk in small amounts if necessary, just until all of the dough hangs together. Scrape it out of the bowl onto a pastry cloth, sprinkle lightly with flour, knead about 4 or 5 times and roll out. She didn't worry about refrigerating the dough or using chilled utensils, but I do refrigerate it at least an hour before rolling it out.

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I would say it depends on the type of texture I am looking for. If I am looking for a soft unparbaked texure, I use the mixer. If I want a flaky parbaked crust, I use my hands.

I like to use butter as it has more flavor. I don't use a pastry cutter any more. It does not give as good of a texture. I cut the butter into cubes and squeeze one cube at a time with flour in my hand. The flat pieces of butter make a much better flaky texture. I then add ice water and refrigerate covered in plastic wrap. I do not use any other utensils until I roll it out. I roll it out with a whole lot of flour on both sides. I then pick it up on the rolling pin and dust off the excess flour with a pastry brush.


Edited by foolcontrol (log)

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Your favorite tool should be your mind/brain/eyes for this item. It doesn't matter what machine or if you don't use any machine to make pie crusts. To make a decent pie crust you need to know when to stop mixing the ingredients together, over-working the dough, or adding too much liquid or not enough liquid.

Once you understand what makes a flakey or a mealy crust that should be your guide as to how much mixing of your ingredients you do.

I make huge batches of pie dough and making that by hand would be too time consuming, so I use a 40 gallon mixer for that sized batch. If I need a pie crust at my home for personal use, I might just use my hands only. If I have my cusinart out on the counter I might use it instead, or my kitchenaid.

Just like most items in baking the most important thing of all is understanding the item your making. That's the core of baking I try to empathize here at eG. Understanding proper mixing technique, what to look for, what to avoid, what happens when you do this or that to the item............that's what you need to know/learn. Your tools shouldn't ever really matter that much. Once you've learned about the item you then can manipulate it, choose what you bake it in and use any tools to achieve great results.

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I'm in the pastry-cutter camp. That's what I had when I started out making pie crusts and it worked/works for me; maybe I've been too lazy/whatever to try the food processor. Probably don't want to wash the thing any more often than I have to. What makes pie crusts easier for me now is my use of parchment paper instead of wax paper....but that's straying from the original question.

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Your favorite tool should be your mind/brain/eyes for this item. It doesn't matter what machine or if you don't use any machine to make pie crusts. To make a decent pie crust you need to know when to stop mixing the ingredients together, over-working the dough, or adding too much liquid or not enough liquid.

As usual, Wendy, you're right on the money. Our mothers/grandmothers didn't have food processors, and many may not have had even a pastry cutter, yet how many of us have fond and/or idealized memories of what their pies were like?

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joaquin   

I live in California's San Joaquin Valley where we grow the best peaches, cherries, nectarines, etc for pie baking. But it is also consistently above 95 degrees every day.

So the only possible time to have pie crust work out is early AM with everything ice cold. Special tricks include the leaf lard mentioned by "Chef Peon," an unglazed pie dish and fearlessly using the maximum amount of water. Marion Cunningham, I believe, recommends dumping the entire amount into the flour/fat mixture and never looking back.

It seems to work.

P.S. The special pastry flour offered by King Arthur helps, too.

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Darcie B   

I use either the Cuisinart or pastry cutter, depending on how bad my carpal tunnel is acting up. Even after working on my crusts for over a year, I am still frustrated by them as something always seems to be wrong (although my husband tells me to "shut up already, it's great!").

I wondered if anyone has tried the method (forgot where I read about it) wherein you start with frozen butter chunks and roll them into the flour with a rolling pin. Supposed to be the ultimate in flakiness, but it made such a mess the one time I tried it I didn't bother again. I can't even recall if it was extraordinarily flaky or not. Anyone else try it?

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