June 1, 2012

Flavia's Fundamentals: Pie Crust


 

I always feel compelled to apologize profusely whenever I'm away from this space for too long {which is often, I know}. I know it looks like I've been back on vacation given the fact that it's been *gulp* three weeks since I last posted. But I've been busy behind the scenes, poring over all of my Italian cookbooks and making a {very} long list of recipes I want to share with you now that my blog is headed in a new direction. I'm also working on a couple of fun guest posts that you'll be seeing very soon this Summer. I must also admit that I have not been the best at managing my time, so I'm also working on nailing down a blogging schedule so that I spend more time in this space regularly instead of haphazardly. Nevertheless, I'm sorry for falling off the blogging map {again}. 

Would a slice of homemade apple pie make up for my blogging delinquency?

Doesn't it look delicious? Guess what? You can make a pie like this too!

As promised, I've brought back Flavia's Fundamentals and I'm very excited about it. In honor of the start of Summer, I decided that I would show you how to make pie crust. It's not Italian, I know, but I'm still going to bring you some of my favorite American recipes amidst the Italian ones, and pie crust is right at the top of my Favorite Things to Make.

No, I haven't lost it.

I know that the mere thought of making pie crust strikes fear in the hearts of many a home cook {and maybe makes them break out in hives too}. I used to be one of those people until three years ago when I decided that I was going to teach myself how to make pie crust once. and. for. all. Homemade pie crust was my nemesis for a very long time, but I like pie way too much to live the rest of my life not knowing how to make pie crust from scratch. After watching my mother-in-law make Martha Stewart's pie crust {the only recipe she uses}, I went and bought this book so I could have the recipe and instructions. Not too long ago, I added this book to my collection since it's all about pies and tarts: my favorite type of dessert. Now, I want to show and encourage you to give pie crust a try. I promise it's not that scary! Like most things in life, learning how to make good pie crust takes time, effort and patience. And the payoff is delicious. 

Let's begin!

Pie crust is also known as pâte brisée, which means "broken pastry" in French and refers to the fact that the butter is cut into the flour to create its signature flaky texture. Some pie crust recipes incorporate both butter and shortening, but I prefer an all-butter pie crust because I think it has better flavor {and shortening kinda freaks me out}. Pie crust can be made either by hand or with the food processor. I have yet to attempt making it by hand, so I will be showing you the food processor method.


Ingredients

I forgot to take a picture of all the ingredients except for the butter, so here is a list {the full recipe with quantities will be listed at the end of this post}:

  • All-purpose flour 
  • Salt
  • Granulated sugar
  • Unsalted butter {cut into small cubes and kept cold until ready to use}
  • Ice water


The Method

Begin by placing the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse a few times to combine the ingredients.
 

Next, add the cold butter pieces into the flour mixture.
 

Pulse the butter and flour until the butter is the size of peas and the mixture is coarse in texture. It's OK if some pieces of butter are a bit larger.
 

With the machine running, slowly add in the cold water through the feed tube until the dough just begins to come together. Some of the mixture will still look crumbly, but the majority of it will look like it's beginning to hold together. You may have to add a bit more water, but be sure to add it in very small amounts. Remember: you can add, but you can't take away.
 

You will know the dough is at the right consistency when you take some between your fingers and it holds together like this.
 

Transfer the dough onto a work surface {forgot the photo again}. It will be a bit crumbly, but it should feel moist enough so that as you gather all the dough and press it together, it will begin to form a cohesive ball. Work as quickly as you can to make sure you do not get the dough too warm.
 

Once you have formed the ball of dough, use a sharp knife or a bench scraper to cut the dough in half as evenly as possible.
 

Working quickly again, form each cut piece of dough into rounds and flatten into thick disks. Wrap each dough disk in plastic wrap and place them in the refrigerator to chill for 1 hour or up to 1 day. This step is very important because it allows the dough to relax and will make rolling it out easier.

 

When you are ready to roll out the dough, remove it from the refrigerator and let it stand at room temperature for 15-20 minutes, or until it feels pliable enough to roll. The dough should still feel cool to the touch.

Flour the board, the rolling pin and the top of the dough. If you are making a double-crust pie, keep the other dough disk in the refrigerator until it's time to roll it out.

 

Starting in the center of the dough disk, roll outwards to the edge and then turn the dough 1/8 of a turn and roll again. Continue in this manner {flouring the dough, board and rolling pin as necessary} until you have rolled out the dough to the dimension required for your recipe {usually a larger diameter than the pie plate you are using}. Use a pastry brush to remove any excess flour off of the dough. It doesn't have to look perfect and it's OK if the edges are a little uneven. Just make sure you roll out the dough as round as possible.

 

To fit the dough into the pie plate, roll it loosely onto the rolling pin and then roll it off the rolling pin onto the pie plate. Gently lift the edges of the dough to allow the dough to fall into the middle of the pie plate. You do not want to press or push the dough into the pie plate.
 

This is what the dough will look like once you have fitted it into the pie plate. Use kitchen scissors to trim the excess dough from the edges, leaving 1- 1 1/2 inches of dough overhang. Depending on the recipe you are making, you may need to chill or blind bake the bottom crust before adding your filling.
 

I made an apple pie over the Memorial Day weekend, and this is what it looked like before I placed the top crust on the pie. The recipe I used required the bottom crust to chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before adding the filling.
 

For the top crust, roll out the second disk of dough the same way as you did for the bottom crust. Brush the edge of the bottom crust lightly with some egg wash {an egg mixed with water or half & half}. Transfer the top crust over the filling using the rolling pin method and trim any excess dough from the edge, leaving 1 to 1 1/2 inches overhang.

To seal the edges and crimp the dough:  Fold the edge of the top crust under the edge of the bottom crust and press lightly to seal it. Use your favorite crimping method to make a decorative edge to your pie crust. This YouTube video is an excellent tutorial on several different crimping methods.

And there you have it! My favorite recipe for all-butter pie crust made with the food processor. I hope you'll give it a try and if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me or leave a comment.

Happy baking and pie making!
 

Martha Stewart's All-Butter Pie Crust {Pâte Brisée}
Adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook {pg. 224}
and Martha Stewart's New Pies & Tarts {pg. 322}

Note: The pie crust recipe in Martha Stewart's New Pies & Tarts includes sugar as an ingredient, where the same recipe in Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook does not. I have made both recipes and did not notice a difference in taste. I have listed the sugar as optional as the pie crust is delicious with or without the sugar.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. granulated sugar {optional}
1 cup {2 sticks} unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and kept cold until ready to use
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine the flour, salt, and sugar {if using}. Pulse a few times to combine the ingredients. Add in the cubed butter and pulse a few times until the butter is the size of peas and the mixture is coarse in texture and there are some larger pieces of butter throughout the mixture.

With the food processor running, begin drizzling in 1/4 cup of the cold water through the feed tube until the mixture begins to hold together. If the dough still looks too dry, add more cold water in very small amounts until the mixture starts to hold together. Test the mixture by taking a bit and pressing it between your fingers. If it holds together, there is enough moisture.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and working quickly, form the dough into a ball. Use a sharp knife or a bench scraper to divide the dough ball in half. Form each half into a ball and press into a thick disk shape. Wrap each dough disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 1 day. 

When you are ready to roll out the dough, remove it from the refrigerator and let it stand at room temperature for 15-20 minutes or until it becomes pliable enough to roll. The dough should still be cool to the touch--do not let it get to room temperature.

Flour the work surface, the rolling pin and the top of the dough disk. Roll from the center of the dough disk outwards to the edge. Turn the dough 1/8 of a turn after each roll until you have rolled it out to the diameter required for the recipe you are using {usually a little larger than the diameter of the pie plate you are using}.

To transfer the dough to the pie plate, carefully roll the dough onto the rolling pin halfway, center it over the pie plate and unroll. Gently gather the edges of the dough and let the center of the dough fall into the middle of the pie plate. Do not press or push the dough into the pie plate. Using kitchen scissors, trim the excess dough from the edge, leaving 1 to 1 1/2 inches overhang. 

Follow the instructions for the recipe you are using to assemble the pie filling, including any chilling time, docking and/or blind baking required for the bottom crust. 

If you are making a double-crust recipe, roll out the second dough disk in the same manner as you did for the bottom crust. Before placing the top crust over the filling, be sure to brush some egg wash on the edge of the bottom crust to ensure that the top crust seals well when you go to crimp it. Transfer the top crust over the filling using the rolling pin method and crimp. Be sure to cut small slits in the top crust to allow steam to escape during baking. Follow the recipe's instructions for finishing your top crust with egg wash and/or sprinkling it with sugar.

Comments (10)

What a beautiful pie. Looks like an easy way to make the crust.

Posted by Barbara Bakes
06/19/12

Your pie crust is so beautiful, Flavia. Thank you for this post - pie crust is the one thing that truly intimidates me but now I feel inspired to try again thanks to your tips!

06/15/12

What a stunning pie, Flavia! I am one of those who is fearful of pie crusts, but I am determined to get over that this summer. Thanks for the great tutorial!

Posted by Cookin' Canuck
06/10/12

Yum! Now I'm suddenly craving pie (mainly so I can eat lots of crust).

06/03/12

This crust is absolute perfection! I'm not afraid to make a crust from scratch, and I do regularly, but mine never look as beautiful as yours does. Nice work!

06/01/12

You make it seem so easy! Beautiful crimping job!

Posted by Stephanie
06/01/12

Your pie looks so perfect! And you make it look and sound so easy. PS. Shortening kind of freaks me out too! I'm all about butter :)

Posted by Theresa
06/01/12

Thanks SO much for this post. Pie crust actually scares me. Yours looks perfect!

Posted by Maria
06/01/12

Great post, Flavia. Pie crust is super intimidating.

Posted by Rachel Cooks
06/01/12

Beautiful pie crust Flavia! I have done a few recipes very similar to this one but they still don't turn out perfectly. I think I might be overworking the dough. Will keep trying! ;)

05/31/12
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