"Discover Cooking, Discuss Life."

Go Back   Discuss Cooking - Cooking Forums > Recipes & Ingredients > Desserts, Sweets & Cookies & Candy > Pies & Pastries
Click Here to Login
Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
 
Old 09-12-2004, 12:06 AM   #1
Senior Cook
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 375
Help with pie crust

A few months ago, I made a godly pie crust. It was flaky, tender, and perfect in every way. Unfortunately, since then I have been unable to repeat this success. Using the exact same recipe, every subsequent attempt (I have made at least eight or nine crusts in the interim) using the exact same recipe have been totally mediocre. The crusts are serviceable, but they are not flaky, and have more the consistency of a cookie than a pastry. In tonight's attempt, I was especially fastidious. I made sure that the lard and butter chunks were chilled about an hour in the fridge prior to use, and the water was ice cold. I even wore gloves when I worked with the dough, to ensure that the heat from my hands wouldn't melt the fat. Yet I ended up with yet another mediocre crust!

One problem I have been having is with regards to the water. While the recipe calls for 40 ML of ice water, I have had to use closer to 60 ML to get the dough to stick together. Otherwise, it is not moist enough to form a coherant dough. I know I could solve this problem by using a mixer instead of my hands to mix, (I guess the mixer more effectively distributes the moisture) but my recipe is very insistent on NOT using a mixer, and on using one's hands to mix the dough. First off, is this extra water my problem? If so, how do I get the dough to come together without using extra water, and NOT resorting to a mixer? If this is not the cause of my problems, then what is? What could I be doing wrong?!

jasonr is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-12-2004, 02:54 AM   #2
Head Chef
 
kyles's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: UK
Posts: 1,181
Send a message via MSN to kyles
I mix my pastry dough with a knife, rather than my hands. In my opinion the extra water sounds like the culprit. I use a knife like a spoon, but use a cutting and folding action. I would cetainly avoid using my hands until the last minute. You will find using the knife, the dough just gets to the point where it sticks together. Do you add the water gradually or all in one go? I add it virtually drop by drop.
kyles is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-12-2004, 09:16 AM   #3
Senior Cook
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 375
I add it as gradually as I can. A knife, ehh? You know, I guess that's worth a try.
jasonr is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-12-2004, 01:11 PM   #4
Head Chef
 
kyles's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: UK
Posts: 1,181
Send a message via MSN to kyles
That's what my grandmother used. Your heat from your hands kills the structure of the gluten, I think your gloves are a cute idea, but I don't think they solve the problem. I was taught that you handle the pastry an absolute minimum, and be very careful not to over work it.

I made some lard pastry today, hate to think about the fat and cholesterol content, but it looks fantastic, not eaten it yet.
kyles is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-12-2004, 09:31 PM   #5
Sous Chef
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 843
This is what I do.

I use weight measures. More accurate than using volume measures. Faster too.

I keep the fat in the refrigerator and the flour in the freezer.

I use a pastry knife to cut the fat into the flour. Fat should be pea sized when you stop cutting. If you cut the fat too much, you won't have a flakey crust. You are not making biscuts. You are not making cookies. Pie crusts requires a totally different way of thinking.

I use a fork to lightly mix the iced water into the dry ingredients. My two crust recipe uses around 6 table spoons of water. The last two or three table spoons are added very slowly and carefully. The amount required depends on the condition of the flour.

I only add enough water to JUST hold the dough together when I squeeze the dough in my hands. The dough will appear to be too dry to novice bakers. Again, I cannot stress this point. The amount of water you use depends on the flour. Some days and some batches of flour will require more water. Other days, less water. The addition of water has to be according to feel of the dough, not according to the recipe. As I said... Pie crusts requrie a different way of thinking.

I then place the dough on a board and using the palm of my hand, I smear the seemingly too dry dough. The smearing action of my palm does two things. It brings the dough together without kneading it and it flattens the fat into thin layers which aids in producing a flakey crust.

Bring the dough into a ball of the size you need for one crust. Flatten the ball into a disc about an inch thick. Wrap this disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. 24 hours is better.

Remove the disc of dough from the fridge and roll out to proper thickness. I roll to 1/8 inch.

Place into pie pan without stretching the dough. i.e., don't force the dough into the sides of the pan which causes the bottom to stretch. Lift the edge of the dough and place it into the edge of the pan so the bottom doesn't stretch. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Bake or fill and bake. Be sure to dock (pierce the dough with a fork or docking tool) if you're prebaking the crust. The docking allows trapped air between the crust and pan to escape. If you dock it properly, the crust will not bubble up from the effects of trapped hot air. If it does, just pop the bubble with a fork while it's baking. The bubble will deflate.

The time spent in the refrigerator allows the gluten to relax. This gives you a tender crust.

Using cold ingredients does two things. First it helps minimize the formation of gluten. Second, it keeps the fat from melting into the flour. Remember, it takes the layers of fat between the layers for flour to give you a flakey crust.

Minimizing the stretching of the pie dough when placing into the pan helps reduce or eliminate the effects of the dough shrinking while being baked. My dough is now so relaxed that I haven't used pie weights to prebake pie shells in years.

Rules to remember:

Tender crusts means you didn't develop gluten. How do you NOT develop gluten? You treat the dough with care. You don't work it any more than the minimum to get to where you need to be. You let the dough rest for at least an hour in the refrigerator between procedures.

Use a bare minimum of water. Too much water means more development of gluten.

Keep everything cold. Cold minimizes development of gluten. Cold keeps the fat from mixing too much with the flour. Fat that's not blended into the flour gives you the flakey texture.
Psiguyy is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-13-2004, 12:14 AM   #6
Senior Cook
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: USA,NewJersey
Posts: 403
If you want to make the best pie crust you'll ever make, use a food processor. It cuts the fat into the flour flawlessly and then it cuts the ice water into that. Zero gluten formation. If I could think of one perfect tool for one kitchen task, it would be food processors for crusts.
scott123 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-13-2004, 07:04 AM   #7
Senior Cook
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 375
Thank you for the detailed advice psyguyy. I am going to print out your paragraph and take all of your suggestions next time I make a crust. In fact, this has been bothering me so much, that I'm going to try it tonight, even if I have to waste some ingredients on an empty crust.

Oh, one final question though. My book explains that there should be a minimum of flour used in the rolling process. I have a canvass sheet that I use which is especially made for rolling pie crusts, so I am ok taking it off the work surface, but I have a great deal of trouble keeping the crust from sticking to my rolling pin. Whenever I roll, the pin collects scraps of dough, and tends to tear the top layer of the dough! Of course, I can prevent this by dusting the pin with some flour, but I am of course worried that I might be adding too much flour. How do I prevent my rolling pin from shredding the pie dough without adding tons of flour? By the way, I am using a heavy metal rolling pin.

Oh, second question. My book says to place the lard and butter in the flour mixture, and then to pinch the fat into hazelnut size pieces with my fingers. However, it just seems to make more sense to cut the fat into pieces BEFORE mixing into the flour (and then leaving the pieces in the refrigerator to firm up). Am I right in doing this? Is there some reason to be doing it the way the book suggests?

Also, on the flour point, I have a question. My book asks for "bread flour" for the pie crust recipe, which it defines as being 10-12% gluten. (a very low estimate, it seems) I am using a 11.7% flour. Would it be beneficial to switch to something with less gluten? Would I be better off discarding my fancy organic unbleached flour for some everyday low protein AP flour I get from the grocery store? Out of curiosity, if gluten formation is what pie crusts must avoid at all cost, why do people not use pastry, or even cake flour?
jasonr is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-13-2004, 02:40 PM   #8
Senior Cook
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 375
AARGH! I just tried again, and I had to use almost 60 ML to get the dough to stick together even slightly. This is just impossible. No matter how hard I try to drizzle the water slowly, it just won't work...
jasonr is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-13-2004, 03:15 PM   #9
Sous Chef
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 843
The dough should be more like damp sand that when pressed together in your hand will hold its shape, yet will easily crumble. You then smear the dough with the palm of your hand. You take a small handfull of the dough and smear it against the board with the palm of your hand. I guarantee you that it will form into a dough that you will recognize. I pile all the dough in one spot on the board and smear bits of it into another pile.

I don't use bread flour. Sometimes, if I want a particularly tender crust, I'll use pastry flour or mix All Purpose with cake flour. 1:1.

My hands are too warm to cut the fat into the flour with my fingers, so I use a pastry cutter. Works for me. Cutting the fat into small cubes makes the process go that much faster. You still need to get the fat into flat layers between the dough, so you still need to smear it on the board.

Keep trying. Keep in mind what you're trying to do while you're making the dough. Remember what it takes to get a flakey dough and what it takes to get a tender dough.

OK. My final suggestion. Make an all lard dough using the Armour recipe. It uses their lard product and goes against all that is taught to french pastry chefs, yet you will always send up with a tender crust. So tender that the crust will crumble. Real old fashioned pie crust that the old farmer ladies made.

If you want to try a lard crust, let me know and I'll post the recipe. Most people I know don't want anything to do with lard, so I hesitate to suggest it.
Psiguyy is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-13-2004, 03:20 PM   #10
Senior Cook
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 375
Ok... Now this is making some sense. I have a fresh batch of ingredientsl in the fridge and freezer, so I'm gonna try again in a couple hours. When I do, I will take your advice and force the dough together, even if it seems crumbly. NO extra water! But just help me out. How exactly do you "smear"? Does this means simply pressing the dough together with the weight of your body, using your palm? What do you mean by making layers? I mix the lard and butter in evenly with a fork (cut into pea-sized cubes), and then press it together using baking paper. Is this ok?
jasonr is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-13-2004, 03:22 PM   #11
Senior Cook
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 375
Oh yeah, and I do want that all-lard recipe. Thanks!
jasonr is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-13-2004, 04:33 PM   #12
Senior Cook
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 375
Well, I threw out another crust. I used about 45 ML of water, did my best to drizzle it as slowly as possible, and mix it as thoroughly as possible with the fork. I tried to smear it together as you suggested, but it just isn't coherent enough. It comes together into a single disc and looks fine, until you move it, and then it crumbles to pieces. No way in hell you could ever roll that. It would just break apart. I am almost ready to give up. This is just impossible. I have no idea how this is ever supposed to work :( Does anyone have any ideas? I am gonna put some more ingredients away and try again.
jasonr is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-13-2004, 04:41 PM   #13
Executive Chef
 
marmalady's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: USA,SouthCarolina
Posts: 2,642
Jason - what kind of flour are you using? How old is it? (Don't be offended - serious question, I promise) Do you live in a dry climate?
marmalady is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-13-2004, 04:49 PM   #14
Senior Cook
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 375
It is Bob's Red Mill organic unbleached flour. (approx 11.7% gluten) purchased no more than two or three months ago. As for the climate, I am in Toronto, in a relatively warm, (and I suspect) humid apartment.
jasonr is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-13-2004, 05:49 PM   #15
Executive Chef
 
marmalady's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: USA,SouthCarolina
Posts: 2,642
Just for S&G's, why don't you try with another brand of flour? And could you post your exact recipe?
marmalady is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-13-2004, 05:54 PM   #16
Assistant Cook
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 23
First of all you must never use a mixer when making pie crust. Second, the weather plays a big part just as in candy. The water-and it must be ice-cold-is not an exact measurement, as flour tends to "grab" more water on a dry day as opposed to a humid day. It is a tricky proposition that's only made perfect by practice. When I first started my attempts with pastry I used what is called the hot water method. It was fool-proof and the results were wonderful. As I became more emboldened I attempted a regular pie crust recipe, and I found that I could do a good job. It has to "feel" right. and again that comes with practice. Just remember that you only need enough water to get the dough to form a ball-not too dry and not too moist.
astro is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-13-2004, 06:08 PM   #17
Senior Cook
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 375
I made a new crust about half an hour ago. I am more optimistic about the results this time. I changed two things this time. Firstly, I used a pastry blender to mix in the fats, instead of cutting them in advance. Second, and most importantly, I poured my ice water in relatively quickly, one tablespoon at a time, rather than drizzling it slowly. This, for some reason, made the dough stick together with less water. I used only about 50 ML, which was only 10 ML more than the recipe called for. I was very careful; the dough is about as dry as it can be, while still being coherent. I will let you know how the crust turns out.

By the way, here is the recipe, taken from Bo Friberg's "The Professional Pastry Chef". I have, of course, cut the recipe to 1/4. Also, I have incorporated the suggestions from this thread. I keep my flour mixture in the freezer, I use my pastry blender instead of my hands, and I flatten the dough into a disc using two pieces of baking paper, rather than my hands. Anyway, I'm crossing my fingers; this is the third attempt today :(

1 Pound 9 Ounces (710g) bread flour
2 teaspoons (10g) salt
1 pound (455g) cold unsalted butter
5 ounces (140g) lard
2/3 cup (160ml) ice water

1. Combine the flour and salt in a bowl. Add the firm butter and lard to the flour and pinch the fat to the size of hazelnuts with your fingertips.
2. Add the ice water and mix with your hands just until the dough comes together; the butter should still be lumpy. Gather the dough into a ball. Flatten the disc to help it it chill faster.
3. Cover the pie dough and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 to 2 hours before using.
jasonr is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-13-2004, 06:26 PM   #18
Everymom
 
Alix's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2002
Location: Edmonton, Alberta
Posts: 23,230
Jason, my pie crust recipe is virtually foolproof and as easy as...well, pie. I do agree though that the food processor is invaluable, and does a far superior job at working the lard and flour together. Having said that, I use my pastry blender at least as often and still acheive spectacular results. My lard is, I believe, a Canadian product and not available in the US, but I include the brand name just in case you want it.

For one double pie crust:

2/3 cup Tenderflake lard (or 1/3 pkg)
2 cups flour
4 or 5 tbsps cold water

Hope this works for you. Oh, and one more thing, I dust the crap out of my marble rolling pin and it is just fine. Let me know if you try it and like it.
__________________
You're only given a little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it. Robin Williams
Alix
Alix is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-13-2004, 06:40 PM   #19
Senior Cook
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 375
Yeah, we have tenderflake. Currently, I am using a home-made lard I got from a deli. It's pretty strong stuff, much moreso than the commercial brands that I get in the supermarket.
jasonr is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-13-2004, 07:05 PM   #20
Senior Cook
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 375
Bloody hell. Rolling out the pie dough was impossible. It got ripped to shreds by the rolling pin, and I had to put together with my hands. The heat from my hands probably melted the fat. AAARGH! Pie dough is IMPOSSIBLE! How does anyone make decent pie crust?! I think unless I take a class or something, it will always remain beyond my ability. Obviously there is something very crucial that I am missing, that isn't mentioned in any cookbook. I appreciate all your advice, but nothing seems to help.
jasonr is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Tags
None

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Recipe: Macadamia-Shortbread Cheesecake Crust Erik Cakes & Cupcakes 0 02-10-2005 01:25 PM
Pie Crust The Z General Cooking 8 02-07-2005 06:48 PM
Pumpkin Cheesecake in a Gingersnap Crust Raine Cakes & Cupcakes 3 11-11-2004 08:31 AM
Apple Pie Crust - Advice mstefanis Pies & Pastries 10 10-06-2004 04:42 AM
Pumpkin Pie help glitterixx Pies & Pastries 3 11-25-2003 10:27 PM



All times are GMT -5. The time now is 04:31 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 4
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.