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Demo: Pie Pastry Crusts


Wendy DeBord
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I'd like to talk about "pastry flour", an ingredient not normally available to the home baker. When a recipe calls for pastry flour, I have three choices: AP flour, cake flour, and whole wheat pastry flour. What should I be using?

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Abra,

I use unbleached white pastry flour or all purpose, depending on what I have on hand. I've never noticed a drastic difference, though the pastry flour produces a more tender product IMO. The other day I made Wendy's All Butter Pie Crust (in RecipeGullet) using white pastry flour and it came out great.

Cake flour is bleached and has a lower protein level than either pastry or A.P. and I tend to think it would not make a good pie crust....but I never tried it. I've never used whole wheat pastry flour either. I think it would depend on how finely milled it is; mixing it with A.P. would probably work.

There's an interesting discussion about different flours here.

Ilene

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But where can one get unbleached white pastry flour, or any white pastry flour, for that matter?  I always look for it, but have never seen it anywhere.

Is there a Whole Foods market near you? Most natural foods stores carry pastry flour in the bulk bin section. You can also purchase it direct from Bob's Red Mill . The 2005 catalog offers the following: 1-24 oz. bag for $1.46; a case of 4-24 oz bags for $5.26; a 5 lb. bag for $2.51, a case of 6-5 lbs for $13.22 and a 25 lb. bag for 11.89. Shipping from Oregon shouldn't be too expensive to your area.

Ilene

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If you have both All purpose flour and Cake flour, you can follow Rose Berenbaum’s suggestion of blending (by weight) 2/3 AP flour with 1/3 Cake flour. This is exactly what we do at the shop. I inquired from my supplier about Pastry flour but it was $5 more per 20 kilogram bag whereas AP and Cake flour were priced the same.

Gato ming gato miao busca la vida para comer

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Ah, I see that King Arthur does indeed have it, but only in the "pro" size of 50 lbs. I shop there a lot, but I'd never looked at the pro section.

My local grocery does carry some Bob's Red Mill items, so I'll ask them whether they can get me some flour. But in the meantime, thanks for the formula, Apicio. I can blend it myself, for sure, now that I know the ratio.

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If you have both All purpose flour and Cake flour, you can follow Rose Berenbaum’s suggestion of blending (by weight) 2/3 AP flour with 1/3 Cake flour. This is exactly what we do at the shop. I inquired from my supplier about Pastry flour but it was $5 more per 20 kilogram bag whereas AP and Cake flour were priced the same.

This is what I was going to say also. When you don't have pastry flour....make your own. You know pastry flour is in the middle (protein-wise) of AP flour and cake, so you just mix the two. Just like when you're out of half and half.....mix milk and cream. Or when you don't have any whole milk, mix cream with water. Or when you're out of brown sugar, mix granulated with molasses....... :smile:

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Ah, I see that King Arthur does indeed have it, but only in the "pro" size of 50 lbs. I shop there a lot, but I'd never looked at the pro section.

I think King Arthur has changed their product line recently. If you go to their Bakers Catalogue site, they are selling a "Mellow Pastry Blend" in 3 lb. sizes.

KA Pastry Blend

The only pastry flour I have seen at Whole Foods is whole wheat.

Edited by rickster (log)
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The last pie I made, I used the crust recipe from the latest (Sept. 2005) issue of Cook's Illustrated, which they'd intended for use in a deep-dish apple pie but which I used with cherries. The ingredients:

12.5 oz AP flour

1 tsp table salt

1 Tbsp sugar

2 sticks butter, cubed (they said frozen for 10 min; I didn't)

3 Tbsp sour cream

1.3 c ice water

They used a food processor method. I have no dishwasher and dislike cleaning that machine, so I made my crust by hand, hence my reason for not freezing the butter. They buzzed the dry ingredients together, buzzed in the butter, mixed together the sour cream and water, and buzzed that in too, half at a time. I whisked together the dry stuff, flattened each individual butter cube with my hands, making sure that at least some of the cubes broke down even more, and then folded in the wet stuff with a big rubber scraper. From there, I divided the dough into two parts, shaped each into a disk, wrapped the disks in plastic wrap, and stashed them in the fridge for an hour or so.

My husband really liked the pie I made, and this crust was a big reason why he liked it so much. Therefore, I'd like to do it again. My dilemma: I don't normally like to keep full-fat sour cream on hand. This recipe only uses 3 Tbsp/batch of crust, which leaves me with lots of leftover sour cream. I suppose I could just make lots and lots of pies or cakes in a brief timespan before the sour cream goes bad, but I don't want to do that to my waistline.

My question: would it be possible for me to portion out the remnants of my sour cream into 3 Tbsp. blobs, possibly in ice-cube trays, freeze the portions, and then bag for later use? I'm sure it wouldn't be much good for eating on baked potatoes or the like, but would my pie crusts suffer, since it just gets mixed with water and added in? I have freezer space for sour cream ice cubes, but I don't have freezer space to store crust for two dozen pies. :laugh:

MelissaH

I tried CI's new pie crust recipe too and I liked it a lot -- it was almost like puff pastry. I would encourage you to not skip the 10-minute freezing of the (already cold) butter before blending -- I think it made all the difference in preventing over-processing, at least in the food processor, (which I prefer to use because I'm lazy and find it easier). I noticed that this recipe from CI is almost identical to Sherry Yard's all-butter "1-2-3 Flaky" crust in her wonderful "Secrets of Baking" book (save the sour cream - she uses 1/2 t vinegar instead) -- right down to the 10-minute freeze of the butter.

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Ah, I see that King Arthur does indeed have it, but only in the "pro" size of 50 lbs. I shop there a lot, but I'd never looked at the pro section.

I think King Arthur has changed their product line recently. If you go to their Bakers Catalogue site, they are selling a "Mellow Pastry Blend" in 3 lb. sizes.

KA Pastry Blend

The only pastry flour I have seen at Whole Foods is whole wheat.

I've tried their Mellow Blend for pie crusts, which lowers the protein to around 10.3%, but I actually think their regular AP unbleached 11.7% produces a better pie crust -- at least in the all-butter pastry I make. I find it makes a flakier crust -- maybe the extra gluten provides more structure for the butter to do its flaky-layering thing. Maybe the same reason why some bakers call for bread flour when making danish pastry?

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  • 2 weeks later...

A little late, but thought I would add one more technique I hadn't seen here. It is from Shirley Corriher's Cookwise, called "Flaky Crisp Crust." The technique that differs from others is that you use a rolling pin to flatten cubes of butter as opposed to a mixer, food processor or by hand. Ms. Corriher states "Rolling near-frozen 1/2 inch cubes of butter with flour flattens and coats the butter for a very flaky crust."

I had made this a few years ago, when I first got the cookbook, but hadn't made it since. I couldn't remember what kind of result I had so thought this would be the perfect opportunity to try it again. It sounds so promising...

Here are the ingredients:

1 3/4 cups bleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup Wondra flour

(note: I used 1/2 & 1/2 cake and unbleached AP flour since I had neither bleached AP flour nor Wondra flour)

1/2 teaspoon salt

12 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter in 1/2 inch cubes

2 tablespoons very cold lard or shortening in tablespoon-size pieces

8 ounces sour cream

1 to 2 tablespoons cold whole milk if needed

She instructs you to mix the flour and salt and roll the flour with butter a few times, chill in the freezer, roll it again, this time adding the lard, and chill again. Then add the sour cream and mix, pat into a disk, and chill again. Next, roll into shape and place in pan, then a final 15 minute rest in the freezer before baking. She instructs using graham cracker crumbs on the bottom of the crust to keep it crispy and nicely browned but I omitted that because I was running out of time.

When looking at this recipe again it seemed to me that 8 ounces of sour cream seemed like a lot. Should have trusted my instincts. Anyway,

gallery_22732_1836_24570.jpg

Here is what the cold butter and flour looked like after resting 10 minutes in the freezer as instructed.

gallery_22732_1836_40055.jpg

Here is what it looked like after the first go-round with the rolling pin. Gathered it up and rolled two more times.

gallery_22732_1836_6935.jpg

This is the next go-round with the rolling pin, after the 10 minute rest in the freezer. You can see the butter forming large flat pieces (which one would think would make the crust quite flaky indeed). Corriher says the butter/flour mixture should look like peeling paint.

gallery_22732_1836_28326.jpg

This is the last roll, after adding in the lard. Quite flaky-looking.

gallery_22732_1836_24112.jpg

This is what the flour/butter mixture looked like in the bowl right before I added the sour cream.

gallery_22732_1836_39604.jpg

YIKES! This is what it looked like after adding the sour cream. Did it really say 8 ounces! Look how wet this mess is!

I decided to proceed with the recipe, hoping against hope that after a sit in the fridge for 30 minutes the moisture would redistribute, leaving me with a better dough.

gallery_22732_1836_43485.jpg

One half of the dough after being in the fridge for about 1 hour. Still very wet. The dough is very, very soft and hard to work with. It wants to stick and tear so I added probably 2-3 tablespoons (maybe more) of flour while rolling to keep it together. It tore when I put it in the pie pan and ended up like so:

gallery_22732_1836_15703.jpg

Whew! I rolled out the other half of the dough, put in my apple pie filling, and popped it into the freezer as instructed.

gallery_22732_1836_24302.jpg

Here it is after 1/2 hour in the freezer, going into the oven.

The final product:

gallery_22732_1836_69176.jpg

gallery_22732_1836_25983.jpg

gallery_22732_1836_14466.jpg

The crust is pretty flaky but that's a lot of work for a crust that would probably be just about as flaky using a less intensive method. Also, we couldn't wait until the pie was cooled enough, so we had a very runny pie. Tasted good, though!

Edit to clarify instructions

Edited by Darcie B (log)
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The crust is pretty flaky but that's a lot of work for a crust that would probably be just about as flaky using a less intensive method. Also, we couldn't wait until the pie was cooled enough, so we had a very runny pie. Tasted good, though!

Yeah, you're right! That's a lot of work! Doesn't seem too practical. Your pie looks beautiful though! :smile:

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I made a pretty quick apple pie last night/this morning and I used your all-butter crust, Wendy, for two reasons. First, I wanted to see if I liked the flavor more than I like RLB's cream cheese crust; and second, I wanted to see how flaky it would be.

I scaled Wendy's recipe down to 1/8 size, but because I was making the pastry at about midnight last night, I didn't do a lot of chilling in between steps, or put any of the components in the freezer before I got started. I simply followed Wendy's directions, but I tried to be quite quick about it, and tried to leave rather sizable bits of butter in the dough.

The scaling down left some of the measurements mysterious. I used a teaspoon of vinegar, about 2/3 of an egg, and I just added 2 or three tablespoons of cold water--until it felt correct to me. I also used AP flour-- I forgot to use pastry flour.

Anyway, the results were outstanding, and quite flaky! I will never use RLB's fussy freezing and mushing in a plastic bag method again. I also loved the flavor, and I have to disagree with Wendy about whether you can tell the difference in pie crust between butter and other fats. I think you can. Certainly the flavor of the filling dominates much of the time, but one gets numerous opportunities when eating a slice of pie to munch on crust alone. And at these times, there's butter, and then there's "not exactly."

"I don't mean to brag, I don't mean to boast;

but we like hot butter on our breakfast toast!"

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I am baking a frozen apple pie from the raw state this afternoon. I have read Wendy's demo stating that this is how she does it.

My question is at what temperature do I cook this pie? I think I read that she cooked it for something like 2.5 hours. Normally I cook pie at a high heat for a few minutes, but am concerned that the crust will get too brown if it in the oven for that long at too high a heat.

Thanks for the help.

Life is short, eat dessert first

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I bake it at 350F.....no turning the heat up or down along the way. I don't need to cover the top of the pie to protect it from over browning either.

There's another technique you can try if you want. You can bake it closed up in a clean brown grocery bag. Believe it or not it works really well. It insultates the pie from the dirrect heat, the whole pie bakes perfectly even.

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The time............truthfully I rarely look at the clock when I bake.....It took me that time based on my oven and how full it was.

For you, I'd say you can bake it for 1 hour with-out even checking on it. Then you will need to judge when it's done and it might be 2 1/2 hours or it may be less. For instance if your pie isn't a full as mine was it will take less time to bake........

To know when your pie is done, I always let it bubble over thru the slits I have on it's top. Then I'm certain it came to a boil in the center to set my thickeners.

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i'm having problems. I've made pies for years and been very happy with my crusts. In the last week the 2 crusts I've made have been very tough. The first I made in the Food processor, the second using a pastry cutter. Both doughs had chunks of fat in them when they were done, and both had streaks of fat once they were rolled. I worked the dough as little as possible.

Are there any other reasons why the dough may be tough? There was some vinegar in it as well. Any thoughts?

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i'm having problems.  I've made pies for years and been very happy with my crusts.  In the last week the 2 crusts I've made have been very tough.  The first I made in the Food processor, the second using a pastry cutter.  Both doughs had chunks of fat in them when they were done, and both had streaks of fat once they were rolled.  I worked the dough as little as possible.

Are there any other reasons why the dough may be tough?  There was some vinegar in it as well.  Any thoughts?

It appears you are an experienced pie-dough maker, so technique doesn't sound like the problem. Was the flour different? Did you switch from low-gluten (cake flour, pastry flour, ap flour) to bread flour?

He who distinguishes the true savor of his food can never be a glutton; he who does not cannot be otherwise. --- Henry David Thoreau
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