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stellabella

In search of the perfect pastry crust

209 posts in this topic

:rolleyes: At the moment, the best recipe to beat the crispy/flaky thing is Alton Brown's from the Good Eats show on FoodTV. It should be available on their website, but if not, send me a private reply and I'll dig up the recipe from his "I'm Only Here For The Food" and e-mail it to you. :cool:

"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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Hmmm...can't say from direct cooking experience, but my eating experience has been that pie crust made with lard are a lot flakier...maybe you should try that if you're so inclined?

Someone correct me if I'm wrong!


Nikki Hershberger

An oyster met an oyster

And they were oysters two.

Two oysters met two oysters

And they were oysters too.

Four oysters met a pint of milk

And they were oyster stew.

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After many different crust recipes I've stuck with this one due to it ease of mixing and rolling. It looks very similar to yours.

Yield: double crust

285 g all-purpose flour (2 cups + 2T)

2 T sugar

1/2 t baking powder

1/2 t salt

130 g unsalted butter (1 cup + 1T)

75 g shortening (4T)

90 ml ice water

15 ml fresh lemon juice

Occasionally I exchange the all-purpose flour with varying weight of whole wheat, or I add wheat germ, flax seeds etc., making sure not to compromise the gluten with the sharp grains.

I use a food processor to mix this, processing the dry ingredients first, then the cubes of fat, and lastly the liquid. I make two discs and wrap them in cling wrap. This way I can make a lot at once and pull it out of the freezer or fridge when I need them...very handy.

One time I omitted the shortening and made it ALL butter...very yummy. I think I will do that from now on. They both puffed up quite well but was not as flaky as lard crusts.

Lard will give you the flakiest crust and the most heart-blockage. I choose the healthier alternative.

Good luck! :smile:

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I love cooking with lard, and it's way better for you than Crisco is.

But to your point....I've made crusts with various combinations of butter, shortening and lard. The main thing to keep in mind is that you should actually be able to see distinct globs of fat in the dough. The best crust I ever made was one where I figured I'd ruined in because I had gotten lazy and not "cut into 1/4 inch pieces" the butter before tossing it into the food processor for a quick spin. The more minimally you mix the crust (it should barely come together), the flakier it will come out. Biscuits are the same way.

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Hmmm...can't say from direct cooking experience, but my eating experience has been that pie crust made with lard are a lot flakier...maybe you should try that if you're so inclined?

Someone correct me if I'm wrong!

I agree about the lard, but I would say that regular lard will taste inappropriately porky in your typical dessert pie dough. If you can get it, use leaf lard. This is rendered from the fat found around the kidneys of the pig and it works wonderfully for dessert pastry.

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Lard will give you the flakiest crust and the most heart-blockage. I choose the healthier alternative.

I disagree. I'll take a tasty fully saturated fat like lard over a less tasty partially hydrogenated (trans) fat like shortening anyday and it can be argued that it's actually better for you...

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Make an enriched mealy dough for your bottom crust (enriched with egg and the fat cut to a cornmeal consistency) for the top make a flaky dough (larger pieces of fat to form steam and lighten the crust) Use pastry flour because it is the lowest in proteins, so it will develop the least amount of glutens. Also be sure you don't over work your doughs so they remain tender.


Turnip Greens are Better than Nothing. Ask the people who have tried both.

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My best tips are to keep everything really cold - chill the bowl, the ingredients and keep your hands as cold as possible - I run mine under a cold tap before starting.

Another good technique is the Nigella method of putting the flour and fat into the bowl of a food processor and putting the whole thing in the freezer for half an hour before whizzing it all up.

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I put the dry ingredients in the food processor, then pulse in chilled butter (cut up) and then chilled shortening. It's quick and I don't have to worry about my hands heating things up. Also I use as little (very cold) water as possible - just enough to bring the dough together.


allison

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Lard will give you the flakiest crust and the most heart-blockage.  I choose the healthier alternative.

I disagree. I'll take a tasty fully saturated fat like lard over a less tasty partially hydrogenated (trans) fat like shortening anyday and it can be argued that it's actually better for you...

Many commercial lards are partially hydrogenated, so you both may be right...err, wrong...well, whatever :biggrin:

=R=


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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.

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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!


"I just hate health food"--Julia Child

Jennifer Garner

buttercream pastries

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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:

stovetop


Cook To Live; Live To Cook

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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?

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


Cook To Live; Live To Cook

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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.


Don Moore

Nashville, TN

Peace on Earth

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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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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.

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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.

LA

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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.

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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.

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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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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!


What would be the right food and wine to go with

R. Strauss's 'Ein Heldenleben'?

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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.

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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?

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