Pie crust, also known as pâte brisée. It is the nemesis of many cooks. I would guess that it accounts for many feelings of inadequacy and failure especially around the holidays. Many mother- in- laws have found reason to scorn their daughter-in-laws because their pie crusts are sub-standard (the MIL can’t do any better herself, but that isn’t the question at hand, is it?)
This week I shared my favorite pie crust recipe. But there is a method that will create flakier consistency with any recipe, including your favorite (whether or not your favorite is my favorite). It is the way you mix the fat and dry ingredients . Traditionally, you cut the butter or shortening into the flour with a pastry blender, two knives, a food processor or your fingers. There is nothing wrong with those methods. I often use my fingers when I am feeling lazy. But when I really want a good flaky crust I use the following method.
To create flakiness we need to create layers of fat and flour. The fat layers creates a barrier between the flour layers. Which keeps the flour from becoming one solid tough crust. The more layers you create the more flaky the crust. Cutting in the butter the traditional way does create layers, but the butter tends to form little balls or crumbles rather than thin layers. The following method creates thin layers of butter and flour, which helps makes a flaky crust. The method can be used with any recipe, but here is my favorite.
DO NOT look at the amounts of the ingredients in the photos. This is not a recipe, but a demonstration of the method.
Scrape back into a pile and roll it out again.
See the butter getting thinner and thinner?
Continue this process until the fat is in very thin layers throughout the flour. It should look like flaking paint.
It should look like this.
From this point, you will continue with your recipe as normal.
A few general pointers on pie dough:
1. Use very cold fat and water. This will keep the fat from melting as you mix it and roll it out.
2. Mix it as little as possible. The more you mix it, the more gluten will develop and gluten is the enemy in pie crust.
3. Butter tastes good, but melts at a very low temperature. Shortening doesn’t taste great, but gives a better texture because it melts at a higher temperature.
4. You want the fat to melt as slow as possible in the oven. This allows the dough to start to set up while it still has a barrier of fat between the layers of flour. This will also help to keep the shape of the crust
5. Freezing your crust before placing in the oven will make the fat melt more slowly and keep the shape better.
6. You can always put the dough in the freezer at any stage of mixing if the fat becomes soft.
7. Try to use the least amount of flour you can get away with when rolling out the dough.
8. To transfer the dough from the counter to the pie plate. Gently fold the flattened dough in half, then gently fold in half again, so it looks like 1/4 piece of pie. Pick it up and transfer it to the pie plate, then un-fold.
9. When shaping the crust. Give yourself more overhang than you think you need. The crust will usually shrink at least a little.
Good luck with your pie crust making. What tips do you use when making pie crust?