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Berlinsbreads

Your favorite "tool" for making Pie Crust

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There is a neat little attachment that came with my Hobart N-50 mixer called a pastry knife. It is the bottom one on the left.

KAATTACHMENTS.jpg

It really makes cutting the shortening in easy, but alas, it is no longer available.

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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.

Bringing this back up with a question...

Is your pastry cutter the type with wires, or blades? I've read that one is better than the other, but I can't remember which. I need to bring one back to Japan with me. I've been cutting in the butter with my bench scraper (as we learned in baking class) but I find it too tedious for US-sized crust recipes--especially double crust recipes. Can't get a decent food processor in Japan without spending a fortune, so pastry cutter it will be!

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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.

Bringing this back up with a question...

Is your pastry cutter the type with wires, or blades? I've read that one is better than the other, but I can't remember which. I need to bring one back to Japan with me. I've been cutting in the butter with my bench scraper (as we learned in baking class) but I find it too tedious for US-sized crust recipes--especially double crust recipes. Can't get a decent food processor in Japan without spending a fortune, so pastry cutter it will be!

I recently bought this pastry cutter from King Arthur and am VERY happy with it. I had a wire one for years and this is so much better. It also does a great job of mashing potatoes, avocados, etc. It is very sturdy and comfortable to use. It makes very quick work of cutting in butter.

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I don't like pastry cutters/blenders with wires because they tend to be flimsier than the ones with blades. Most wire cutters are too flexible and don't cute well into cold butter (much less frozen or near-frozen butter).

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FWIW, there's an interesting recipe for pie crust by Jim Dodge which doesn't rely on a food processor or a pastry cutter. I'm pretty sure it's in a Julia Child book called in Julia's Kitchen WIth Master Chefs. It's in one of his books too but probably our of print. The concept is that you cube the cold butter, mix it with the flour and pour on a work surface. Then you flatten the cubes with a rolling pin, pour the butter flour mix back in a bowl and add the cold water and mix by hand. You then pour the dough, which is still loose back on the work surface and go through a process of rolling and folding. This ends up with a pie crust which is almost like a rough puff pastry.

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go through a process of rolling and folding.

It seems as though that would develop the glutin and produce a tough pastry.

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I am a huge fan of the food processor - the trick for me is to have the butter cubed and frozen, and I also put the dry ingredients in the freezer for at least 1/2 an hour. We're making lots of fresh cherry hand pies right now, so the processors are getting their workouts...

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Since moving into a house without a dishwasher, definitely the hands. With a dishwasher available, though, I prefer the food processor for the butter and dry ingredients. I'd still fold in the wet stuff by hand because I always overdo it by machine.

It's much easier to wash hands than a food processor. Also, there's much less risk of cutting yourself on your own hands. :biggrin:

MelissaH

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Are there preferred techniques according to the fat being used? My pie crusts (w/shortening) are always best made by hand but my tart doughs (w/butter) are always best in the processor.

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I use a plastic scraper and I make my dough right on the countertop, rather than in a bowl.

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Interesting topic. I first started off with two butter knives. The alternative at the time was to hand/fingertip rub the butter into the flour. Later I started using hand held pastry cutter with wires rather than blades, but found it tiresome when working on large dough batches. After that I move over to a coarse mesh seive, kinda like a cake rack or biscuit cooling rack, this worked exceptionally well, producing uniform pea/corn sized kernels of butter/flour mix but is was tough on the hands.After that I discovered the "Creaming Method" of making Piecrust in a four volume set of bakers books from around the 1900's, wich made using the Kitchen mixer for piecrust a boon. The only food processor I have at the moment is driven by a stick blender, and I've only used it (recently) for making small amounts of pasta dough. I find the steel blades tend to cut the dough up too much for it to form a cohesive ball. Having said that, its realy fast and dumping the dough out for half a dozen turns to knead together is not a troublesome issue. 

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I'm old school.  I use a hand-held pastry cutter.  It's got thick blades that cut through the butter, Crisco or lard I'm using for the pastry dough.  I don't know if it's operator error, personal preference or both, but I just don't have good luck with food processors.  For the recipe I use as my gold standard, the food processor blades work so fast it turns the butter into dust, even on a pulse of the blades. 

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LOL Depends what I've got at the time. 

 

I've used my hands, a fork, two knives, a big-ass floor-standing Hobart, my 80s-vintage Cuisinart, and both wire- and blade-type pastry cutters. I've used commercial and premium home-made lard, Canadian and European-style butter and even leftover chicken fat; all-purpose flour (rather high in gluten here in Canada), stoneground whole-wheat pastry flour, commercial pastry flour, regular whole-wheat flour, spelt flour and some kind of gluten-free mix I was given by a friend who decided she wasn't celiac after all (facepalm). On one occasion, on a bet, I made pie crust with room-temperature margarine and bread flour. It came out fine, though the flavor was not of the best.

 

Most of the time now I use butter, and my Cuis. I add about 2/3 of the butter and pulse until it's mealy, then add the remaining 1/3 and pulse until it's just a bit chopped. I find that's about right for a utilitarian, general-purpose dough that's easy to handle but still bakes up nicely flaky. I add the water and mix by hand, because (like most others) I find the Cuis overworks a the dough in a heartbeat once you've added water. 

 

Overall, I think Wendy DeBord nailed it upthread. Pick a tool and technique you're comfortable with, and do that until you know how the dough is supposed to feel. Once you've gotten that far, you can get to the same destination with any other tool and technique. 

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My favorite "tool" to use with pie dough is my big, rolling DOCKER, which I use on the counter after rolling it out to the correct thickness and before it is cut to size - for small pies - or draped over a pie pan for blind baking. (I bake it on the OUTSIDE of pie tins the way my grandpa's cook did 80 or 90 years ago.)  Or fitted into a tart pan or ???

 

It's also very handy for docking crackers and some yeast rolls that require the application to flatten them prior to baking. 

I can't understand why everyone doesn't have one.  Poking holes in dough with a fork takes way too much time.

Screen Shot 2016-10-10 at 12.05.09 PM.png

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I've been fooling around with using a 10" tortilla press to press out the final product instead of rolling with a rolling pin. I found a coated aluminum handheld model that I put in the freezer, while leaving the dough a little soft. Like corn tortillas, the process is easier with plastic clingfilm. I thought of this while watching a professional pie crust press. It's been summer and I haven't been baking much, once it's a bit cooler, I will be more willing to heat up the house with more tests.

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3 hours ago, andiesenji said:

My favorite "tool" to use with pie dough is my big, rolling DOCKER, which I use on the counter after rolling it out to the correct thickness and before it is cut to size - for small pies - or draped over a pie pan for blind baking. (I bake it on the OUTSIDE of pie tins the way my grandpa's cook did 80 or 90 years ago.)  Or fitted into a tart pan or ???

 

It's also very handy for docking crackers and some yeast rolls that require the application to flatten them prior to baking. 

I can't understand why everyone doesn't have one.  Poking holes in dough with a fork takes way too much time.

 

 

A rolling docker is decidedly on my shortlist. Once I've found a home for the several drawers of other little gizmos still sitting out in the open, 4 1/2 months after moving into my current home. :P

 

I find it super-useful for puff pastry especially, on those occasions I want it crisp and flat (ie, millefeuille) rather than big and poofy. 

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5 hours ago, chromedome said:

 

A rolling docker is decidedly on my shortlist. Once I've found a home for the several drawers of other little gizmos still sitting out in the open, 4 1/2 months after moving into my current home. :P

 

I find it super-useful for puff pastry especially, on those occasions I want it crisp and flat (ie, millefeuille) rather than big and poofy. 

I have all those "little gizmos" in plastic bags that HANG UP OUT OF THE WAY. The bags keep them clean and EASY TO FIND.  

I use shower curtain rings to hang several gadgets that are used for similar tasks.

I can't tell you how much time this has saved me since I began doing it about 15 years ago when I got rid of the drawers in my kitchen because I needed slide-out shelves for bigger items.

This bunch of bags usually hang over my baking center but I moved it around to this side so it is easier to see without all the other bags on that side.

The docker is in one bag, a large pizza wheel I use for cutting pastry is in another, a flour duster and a press crimper in with a dough bowl scraper.  I store all my mixer beaters in bags like this, one bag holds several dishers of different sizes.  Even my rolling pins are in jumbo bags, hanging out of the way but are easy to access.

Screen Shot 2016-10-10 at 9.50.39 PM.png

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My late wife and I got one of those flour dusters in a grab-bag of kitchen stuff at the thrift store (I no longer remember which item in the bag was the one we actually wanted). Neither of us could identify it for the longest time, but we Googled it periodically until we found the correct answer. 

 

That was when I was away from eGullet...I can't imagine why I didn't think to pop in here with a photo and ask you!

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