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Pie Crust: How to Move from Beginner to Intermediate?

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Hello everyone,

 

I am trying to make an apple pie that will impress my mother, but I am getting overwhelmed with all the different strategies and techniques I have found for perfecting a pate brise style crust. I've read through a few different forum threads, in particular this one was helpful because I think that the original poster is in a similar situation to me. http://www.cheftalk.com/t/69872/pie-crust-shrinking

 

Here's a bit of a ramble about my experiences so far, hopefully this will give you an idea of just how much of a beginner I am. (I've only made three pies now.) On my first attempt my dough was way too sticky, so much so that I had to basically just pat it into the pie pan. So the next time I added less butter and was able to successfully roll it out. But then the baked pastry was too crumbly, I think I may have handled it too much and the butter mixed too much with the flour. My last attempt used a mixture of Crisco & butter, at a 2:1 ratio. I thought that I did everything right, carefully measuring each ingredient, chilling the Crisco & butter before carefully mixing it in with my hands (rubbing between thumb and fingers), then chilling the dough. But I ended up without enough dough to make two crusts! I had approximately 500 grams in total. So I am wondering if maybe when using Crisco I am supposed to roll the dough out much thinner? I never saw anything online or in forums that says that Crisco needs to be handled differently, so I don't know what's going on.

 

I'm sorry that this post is all over the place. I'm probably not giving the specifics that someone would need to answer my question. Heck, I'm probably not even asking good questions.

 

What I really want to know is, how do I get better? Where do I turn? Should I just stick with one set of ingredients and techniques and try to perfect that? If so, what would be the pastry techniques / ingredients that are easiest for a beginner to get a grasp on? Does anyone have any advice about how I can best teach myself how to improve? (It's awfully hard for me to get hold of any cookbooks as I live in Hong Kong, so online resources are much much better.)

 

Thanks so much for your help.

 

-jeff

post #2 of 10

One thing that makes it easier is a mixer.  I use a kitchen aid, but even a small hand held mixer can easily mix the butter to the flour without melting it, if you watch it and have already cut the butter up in small pieces. 

the stickiness can be from butter melting, or from too much water.

So if you don't have a mixer, cut the butter very small, or freeze it and grate it (careful holding it, use a towel to protect it from the heat from your hands) and then rub quickly with your fingers, till it's like oatmeal - sort of crumbly flakey. 

 

If you trmember the purpose, it's easier to get the feel.  YOu want each little bit of oatmeal sized butter to be covered in flour, and then when you add the water, the flour gets wet and makes paste.  The dough is rolled out and the butter becomes thinner and wider, and the flour is a paste coating every flat piece of butter.  In baking it, the paste hardens, and the butter keeps the layers of paste apart and melts off. 

 

So you don;t want to aim for a good mix, it should be uneven.  Some say rub half in to make crumbs, and then add rthe rest of the butter and rub in only to make small pea- sized or lentil sized pieces, and you get both tender and flakey.  But it's the same if not all the pieces are homogeneously amalgamated

 

I believe modern crisco is not good for piecrust.  If you want a very flakey and tender crust, replace some of the butter with lard.  But i usually do it with all butter and it's fine. 

 

I've given other indications elsewhere for rolling out and whether or not to refrigerate it before rolling.  If you do, you should flatten it before refrigerating - much easier to deal with a flat lump than a round lump of dough.  Hammer it with your rolling pin to soften, then roll out between waxed paper

with flour

 

good luck

"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #3 of 10

There is a reason why the best pies are baked by Grannies -- it takes practice!

 

Check out this resource and follow Joe's lead.  He leadeth you to success.  This is not the only page on pie crust he has so search around his site.:

 

http://www.joepastry.com/category/pastry/pie/basic-fruit-pies/

 

This one on basic pie crust is a very good one:

 

http://www.joepastry.com/category/pastry-components/pie-crust/standard-pie-crust/

 

Good luck... it is possible but, for me at least, it takes constant practice and there is a little frustration ever time.


Edited by BrianShaw - 11/23/13 at 5:49am
post #4 of 10

Once my butter has been rubbed down to the size of a dime, I whip out my pastry cutter that's been prechilled in the freezer.  Works great in reducing the fat to smaller size without raising its temperature.  And Jeffry, checkout my threads here at pastries concerning tart/tarte dough.  The posts may give you additional information.

Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
(1 photos)
 
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Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
(1 photos)
 
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post #5 of 10

A copy of THE BAKER'S COMPANION by King Arthur flour would help, along with RATIO by Ruhlman.

 

The first thing to do is learn Ruhlman's 3:2:1 ratio and once you've got it down, add an egg yolk or a couple of hard boiled egg yolks to the dough and move on from there.


Edited by kokopuffs - 11/24/13 at 5:53am

Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
(1 photos)
 
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Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
(1 photos)
 
Reply
post #6 of 10
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the ideas! Funny - "Ratio" was already recommended to me by a friend of mine who knows his stuff as a home cook.

 

One question to help me gain a better understanding of what I'm doing wrong. The crumbly nature of my crusts thus far, is that because I've mixed the butter and flour too much? As in, I don't have the oatmeal sized chunks of butter covered in flour that I want, and instead I just have a smooth even blend of flour and butter, which leads to a more cookie-like texture?

 

And another question. Would it be easiest as a beginner to use a hand mixer? Is that the most likely route to success? I keep on seeing a ton of different techniques out there but I am looking for the ones that are easiest for me to master. The joe pastry link has a wonderful quote: "sometimes being perfect takes a little too much time and energy."

 

In the meantime, thanks for the tips of where to look next, and thanks for the encouragement to keep on practicing!

post #7 of 10

The problem of wet dough in your original post sounds mostly like a problem of too much water.

post #8 of 10

being rather old fashion, may I suggest.....

 

ditch the power equipment for now.  first learn thru help / experience "how it works"

this because mixers / etc 'work so fast' unless you already know / recognize 'what is right' there is a big tendency to overdo things.

 

there are many time proven hand methods, but methinks the 'easiest' and most direct is a gadget called a pastry blender. 

it's a D-ring shaped doohickie that acts like multiple parallel knives to cut up the butter/lard/fat into small chunks.

this is not a major financial investment.

 

first chop up the fat in the dry ingredients until you get to the proverbial "pea size" chunks.

if the mix has warmed to even the slightest degree - chuck it in the fridge until the fat is 'firmly solid' again.

 

then add the water very slowly while hand mixing with a (wooden) spoon. 

for the water - use a bowl/cup/whatever of water with ice cubes floating around in the water - cold water is essential....

 

add water by the soup spoon until the dough is 'just coming together' - something akin to "sticky crumbly'

another technique is ice cubes in a plastic bag with water, very very small snip out of the bag corner so it just dribbles water into the dough.

 

let that mix rest in the fridge so the water is 'fully absorbed' then roll out.  20-45 minutes is a good guess start point.

a lot of people skip this step - and the dough is too soft, the fat softens - and the dough is sticky to the point of tearing / sticking to _everything_

 

as mentioned in "Why Granny makes such mean pie crusts" - all this is an experience factor. 

pay attention to what it looks like and how it turns out.  adjust the 'add water phase appearance' based on your observations.

 

remember that making small quantities - ala "one pie crust" means even slight mis-measures can produce not good results - coupled with the rate at which different flours and different environmental conditions (high/low humidity) affect "and 'zactly how much water is needed" - makes for need to "recognize" when the dough is "right"

 

to be absolute blunt, blindly using a 'recipe' of x flour and y tablespoons of water - just chuck it all in a bowl..... - has a very high probability to fail.

"add water until it is just right" works every time presuming one has 'learned' what a 'just right' consistency is.

 

once you know what 'looks right' then the power equipment can cut down on the time / effort.

however, me personally.... I just use the pastry blender.  it's a lot quicker than breaking out the blender/mixer and the ensuing clean up.

post #9 of 10

Excellent advice Dilbert.

I will add.....I like my equipment and ingredients very very cold so park everything in the freezer for a bit.

When I am making a butter crust the butter will be rock solid and grated on top of the flour mixture.

I then just scoop and drop everything a couple of times, just enough to coat butter shreds.

 

Carry on...

 

mimi

post #10 of 10

^^^^    ...as what flipflopgirl stated.  Once the butter has been reduced to the size of a dime, I whip out the pastry cutter and work it for less than a minute.  And by the time my pate brise/pastry crust is wrapped in plastic wrap and placed in the fridge to rest a bit, I still observe actual dime size pieces of whole butter within the dough.

 

Okay, what flour do you use for your crust?

 

Oooops, in reading the O.P., it seems you're making pie crust instead of tarte dough.  For pie crust, lard (or something called Crisco) is traditionally used.

Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
(1 photos)
 
Reply

Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
(1 photos)
 
Reply
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