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Topic: A Truly Flaky Pie Crust

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Subject: A Truly Flaky Pie Crust
Date Posted: 11/1/2012 10:45 AM ET
Member Since: 1/12/2012
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How many times has someone told you they make a Flaky Pie Crust and it is crumbly instead of flaky?

It seems like either I get a puff pastry crust or something that resembles a biscuit. 

I would really like to get a recipe for a pie crust that is the denseness of a biscuit crust but made of layers and layers of flakes.  Am I asking for the impossible?

Date Posted: 11/1/2012 12:56 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
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Tammy:  Are you making the crust with lard and salt and hard wheat flour?   And COLD water?  Ansd as little water as possible?  Are you handling the dough too much?

A lot depends on the details . . . .



Last Edited on: 11/1/12 12:56 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 11/1/2012 4:20 PM ET
Member Since: 1/12/2012
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That's so true.  I've tried a great many recipes.  The salt seems to make the crusts very savory and I'm looking for a sweet one.  And I try not to handle the dough one second longer than needed to blend the ingredients.  And yes the amount of water is very minimal.  I think maybe I need a hands on lesson.  Are yours really just flaky rather than crumbly?

Maybe I just need more practice.

Date Posted: 11/8/2012 6:33 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
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I learned to make pie crust at a weekend cooking school back in the mid-Fifties, and, because it was taught by a woman representing the American Meat Institute, of course the recipe called for lard.  The things she cautioned us about were (1) whether we were using soft or hard wheat flour; (2) that the amount of cold water to use would vary a bit according to the humidity, but that one should use no more than necessary.

The recipe she gave us will yield 8 single pie crusts and the mixture will keep at least a month in the refrigerator.

The ingredients are 7 (seven) cups sifted enriched flour; 4 teaspoons salt; and 1 and 3/4 cups lard for soft wheat flour or 2 cups for hard wheat flour.  (You find soft wheat flour in the southern U.S., and hard wheat flour in the northern U.S.)

The method: Combine flour and salt.  Cut lard into flour mixture with a fork or pastry blender until crumbs are about the size of small peas.  Store Home-made Pastry Mix in covered container in refrigerator until ready to use.

To make a single 9-inch  pie crust, use 1 and 1/4 to 1 and 1/2 cups mix, and 2 to 4 tablespoons of cold water; for a double crust pie, use 2 and 1/4 to 2 and 1/2 cups mix and 4 to 6 tablespoons of cold water..

Add water to mix, a small amount at a time, mixing quickly and evenly until dough just holds in a ball.  (Divide ball into two parts if making a double crust.) Roll to about 1/8 inch thickness and line pie pan, allowing 1/2 inch crust to extend over the edge,  (Handle as little as possible.)

For a double-crust pie, roll other half of pastry, making several gashes to allow for escape of steam.  Place over filling and cut 1/2 inch smaller than the lower crust.  Fold lower crust over top crust.  Crimp edges.  Bake according to pie recipe.

Tammy, I like to moisten the top crust with milk and sprinkle it with "pearl sugar".    About fruit fillings . . . you will find various things used to thicken the filling, such as corn starch, tapioca (NOT the little round hard balls, though), and arrowroot.  Some people say that arrowroot is 'more digestible'.  ( I don't know about that, but I do remember giving my babies those little arrowroot cookies when they were teething.)

The more pies you make the better you get at it, but the 'real deal' about home-made pie is seeing the delight of the people who get to eat them, and thank you for the treat.

 

 

Date Posted: 11/9/2012 7:59 AM ET
Member Since: 1/12/2012
Posts: 266
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Thank you for the recipe and your hints and tips.  I copied the whole thing to my computer for further study.  I made a big oops yesterday.  I thought to sweeten the pie crust I would add sugar to it.  Of course it carmalized and burnt.  And it still wasn't flaky.  The missionaries were over for dinner and one of them is a baker.  He said a crust is either tender or it is flaky but never both.  In that case I would definitely take tender.

Date Posted: 11/11/2012 7:10 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
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Oh, and Tammy, if you really do want flaky crust sometimes, for some certain pastries, just go buy a package of frozen filo dough.   Filo is the kind of crust used in making those Greek pastries called baklava,  You know those little diamond-shaped cakes with all those oh-so-thin layers of crust filled with that honey and chopped nuts filling . . . . .  .

That pearl sugar I told you about, to sprinkle on the top crust of a double-crust fruit-filled pie, may be called "pärl socker".   That' simply Swedish for "pearl sugar".

Date Posted: 11/12/2012 7:41 AM ET
Member Since: 1/12/2012
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i've been thinking about the filo.  I suppose I'm just being stubborn.  I love baklava.  I tried a sugar sprinkled top on one of the pies.  Bit it didn't work out for me.  A friend suggested that I add alittle acid, lemon or orange.  What do you think of that idea?

Date Posted: 11/12/2012 12:05 PM ET
Member Since: 2/25/2007
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EVerything I read about pie crust talks about lard being essential for a flaky crust----and true, real lard can be hard to find these days.

That said, all the things I read (food is my fave topic, I take every mag and have tons of cookbooks) there ius soooo much talk and how-to about a flaky pie crust. Apparently it's a tricky thing for many people. I myself use frozen. I love to cook, but even I have my limits!

Yes, frozen phyllo (or filo) dough is a wonder. But that also requires careful handling.....at least in my experience. Still easier than scratch. But trickier than regular frozen crust..

 



Last Edited on: 11/12/12 12:07 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Barb S. (okbye) - ,
Date Posted: 11/12/2012 12:17 PM ET
Member Since: 3/14/2011
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I'm not a pie baker, I'm a cake person, but I love to watch America's Test Kitchen on PBS. They always have the best ideas. On a pie crust show they were saying to get a good finished product you need to use as little water as you can but that makes it hard to work with, so their recipe uses vodka along with the usual amount of water. It makes the dough wetter and easier to handle but all the vodka moisture bakes out. Apparently the toughness comes from over-handling the crust and with a wetter dough you can get it where you need it with less handling. On my rare forays into pie I bought crusts but if I were to make it I would try this one first.

Vodka pie crust recipe

Date Posted: 11/12/2012 2:02 PM ET
Member Since: 1/12/2012
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Alcohol is out of the question but it is an intriguing idea.  The frozen ones come out hard as a rock for me and are not what I want.  I was watching AB today and he made something called a Scotch dough, something like a home made philo.  It looked interesting.  Of course he was doing savory meat pies. 

Date Posted: 11/12/2012 3:35 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
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OK, ladies . . . . . lard-flour-salt pie crust is NOT that difficult to make!   When I first started to make it, in 1956, I made some of the "almost universal" mistakes that the cooking school guru-gal said most neophytes make.  Mine were(1) using a little bit more water than "only what is necessary", and I fixed that mistake by using only what would cling to a wet finger or two to the mixture when it was almost aready to "clump" into a ball, and (2) handling the dough too much, and I fixed that mistake by getting more deft and efficient at rolling the crusts and fitting them into the pie pan.  (Also, when you flour your bread board or pastry cloth to roll out the crust, don't use a lot of flour to keep the dough from sticking, because that is what makes the pie crust dough tough.)

Tammy, if the sugar (top) crust didn't work out for you, I would suspect you doused the top crust with too much milk, and/or dumped too generous an amount of pearl sugar on it.  Could either of those minor errors be what happened?

I suppose pie-making is kind of like the answer to the question, "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?", and the old musician's reply is "Practice, practice, practice ..."  

About vodka in pie crust..........are the people who suggest that absolutely NUTS?   When I read that, I exclaimed aloud  "Bleaugh!!!!"   But then I remembered there is at least one pie that features booze------rum raisin.   Oh, wait-----there's also mincemeat, with brandy....... But I still think one should "state the theme  (as in a piece of music) before getting into "variations on a theme." 

Finally, Tammy, when you have learned to produce wonderful home-made pies, try to keep this talent a deep, dark secret.    If you are "discovered", you may wind up being implored to make them far more than you ever cared to do!



Last Edited on: 11/12/12 3:42 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 11/14/2012 6:38 AM ET
Member Since: 1/12/2012
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Well it's hard for me to know what I'm doing wrong.  Is lard the same as shortening?  I added the water I teaspoon at a time and it wasn't close to clumping until it clumped.  Maybe that's my lack of experience showing.  I don't know what almost looks like.  I will say that the crust never really held together all that well.  Flipping it into the pan was a nightmare.  I was patching everywhere.  And I used the waxed paper to flip it.  I didn't put any milk on the top crust.  What i did and this was a big boo boo was add the sugar to the dry mixture so that it was in all of the dough.  But the edge of the crust like noones business.  The crust was tender it just wasn't flaky. 

So, if I ever figure this out I shouldn't tell the ladies at the library.  We've been discussing it. 

Date Posted: 11/14/2012 7:59 PM ET
Member Since: 7/10/2011
Posts: 2,353
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Tammy, you may be turning out shortbread instead of pie crust.  Have you tried using butter?  It stays cold and doesn't melt into the flour.  I also use a marble roller that I chill in the frig, handle it as little as possible and let the dough chill in the frig before you roll it out.  You want to prevent the flour from forming gluten bonds, so cold inhibits that.  Resting the dough also allows the gluten that has formed to relax.   Handling the dough forms gluten, which is why you knead bread because you want gluten bonds in bread.  Here's another recipe to try -

Butter Flaky Pie Crust

As far as the vodka recipe, the alcohol will burn off in cooking so it isn't like you will taste it.  The idea behind flaky crust is to prevent gluten formation.  Alcohol doesn't form gluten with flour like water does, so you can add enought liquid for the dough to hold together while the crust stays flaky. 

Date Posted: 11/14/2012 10:15 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
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Tammy: Lard is one kind of 'shortening'---it's an animal product.  Crisco is another kind of ;shortening'---it's a vegetable kind.   Some groceries will place the bricks, or tubs, of lard in the meat department. At the Kroger here, lard is found in one of the shelf aisles, near the Crisco.   Unlike butter, lard does not have to be kept chilled, it can sit on a shelf at room temperature.  But if you are using a shortening such as Crisco, you should get some good instructions on its use in making pie crust from someone who does it that way, if there are no such instructions on the package.

Carole's suggestions about chilling the rolling pin, and letting the pie dough chill in the refrigerator before rolling it out are good ones.

Carole: Now that you explained it a bit further, I see the rationale for using vodka in making the pie crust.  Also it was interesting  to learn about  gluten formation, even if I have never had to take that into consideration in baking for my family.

Date Posted: 11/16/2012 8:01 AM ET
Member Since: 1/12/2012
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I did Alton Brown's Chicken Pot Pie with puff pastry recipe.  There is the crust I've been looking for.  Who would have thought.  Of course the problem is that with all that butter I can't store the pies in the refrigerator or the crust goes hard.  But for the crust I want I'm willing to get one of those cute little pie covers.  I knew I should have picked one up when I was at yodar's the other day.  Well I'll put it on the list for the next spice run. 

Thank you so much for all your help.  This has been a fantastic learning experience. 

Date Posted: 11/16/2012 8:52 AM ET
Member Since: 7/10/2011
Posts: 2,353
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Just be careful with the amount of time you leave out a puff pastry crust, or a butter crust at room temperature.  Puff pastry is best made fresh and eaten right away.  If you make the pie the day before, the puff pastry crust will go soggy by the next day, and you still have to refrigerate it or the butter can go bad.  With a butter crust, you also have to refrigerate it if it is going to sit overnight, but leaving it out on the counter for an hour or so will soften it up again while still keeping the flakiness.

Of course, you can also use the frozen puff pastry sheets to decrease your workload.  And I like the Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust too.  Sometimes it is worth it to do it from scratch, and sometimes it is OK to take a shortcut with all the other work for Thanksgiving.

Bonnie, gluten is important for baking anything.  A baker needs to know when you want it and when you don't.  Breads need it for structure and rising, but you want to make it as little as possible for tender items like pie crust and cakes.  Gluten forms by working the dough (like kneading or rolling), with combining water and flour, and with warmth.  It is the reason wheat breads need a little white flour, and bread flour contains more gluten protein, while cake flour is lower.   Higher gluten formation is wanted for french breads with crunchy crusts.  It is why some recipes like scones say to just mix gently until the ingredients are combined, so gluten is not formed.   Cold decreases gluten formation, along with resting.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!!



Last Edited on: 11/16/12 8:59 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 11/17/2012 7:54 AM ET
Member Since: 1/12/2012
Posts: 266
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I've tried the premade pie crusts they are hard as a rock when I used them which was a number of years ago.  They could have improved by now.  But I have a bottom crust recipe that is fine for single crust pies.  It calls for vinegar and egg in the mixture. 

Now I just need to increase my upper body strength to beat that home-made puff pastry down to the 1/8 inch thickness that is needed.  Do you have any hints or tips for that one?

Date Posted: 11/17/2012 9:06 AM ET
Member Since: 7/10/2011
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LOL, can't help you with that one!! 

One thing, the premade pie crusts that are store brand or other brands are not that good.  It has to be Pillsbury, not frozen, in the refrigerated section near the biscuits.  But again, don't work it over after you unroll it or unfold it, just lay it in the dish and bake.  I will sometimes give it a couple of rolls with the rolling pin to make it a little thinner, but that's all.

Haven't heard of a pie crust with an egg in the mixture, share that recipe?

Date Posted: 11/17/2012 11:13 AM ET
Member Since: 1/12/2012
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Pie Crust

2 1/2 c Flour

1 tsp Salt (I use less because I don't like salt)

1 c Shortening

1/4 cup cold water

1 Tbs White Vinegar

1 Egg Beaten

1.  Combine the flour and salt

2.  Cut into flour with a pastry cutter until it looks like cornmeal.

3.  Combine the cold water, vinegar, and egg.

4.  Add liquids to dry ingredients with a fork until dough sticks together

5.  Divide into two balls.  Place ball between two pieces of waxed paper and roll out.  Remove top piece of waxed paper.  Place upside down pie pan on top of rolled out dough and flip over.  Remove last piece of waxed paper.  Fit loosely into pan and trim edge 1/2 to 1 inch beyond edge.  Crimp edges with fingers.  Fill and bake according to recipe.  If baked pie shell is needeed, prick bottom and sides well with a fork and bake at 375 F for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.  Yields: 2 9 inch pie crusts.

Date Posted: 11/17/2012 6:55 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
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To prevent fruit juices from leaking through a bottom pie crust, brush the bottom crust with the white of an egg before filling.

Here's a odd little tidbit of info, on how the expression "Upper Crust" came into the language----Thrifty housewives used the cheapest flour for the bottom crust of pies and the more expensive kind on the top where it showed.

If you ever hear some old-timer speak of "Jeff Davis Pie", don't think it's a brand name or a baked goods creation by someone named Jeff Davis.  It's a sugar cream pie named for the President of the Confederacy, Mr. Jefferson Davis.  The main ingredients are (four) eggs, light cream, brown sugar, and butter, and it is topped off with meringue made by gradually beating 1/3 cup of sugar into the four stiffly beaten egg whites.   Goes good with a cup of coffee and chicory!

Missouri was a "split" state back in Civil War days, as to North or South loyalties.  And there is a kind of "dividing line" in this country, still, as to whether the word "dessert" implies "cake" or is immediately thought to mean "pie".  Where is the line?  I dunno . . . . . . but in my family, cake was reserved for birthdays and weddings, and ice cream socials in the summer.  If someone got a terrible craving for cake, we'd figure out a birthday of some kind and bake a cake for the one with the "hankering".  Once, I made a birthday cake for the father (back in Finland) of our exchange student  'daughter'. . . she was so curious to see how birthdays were celebrated in American families. 



Last Edited on: 11/17/12 7:06 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 11/18/2012 8:36 AM ET
Member Since: 7/10/2011
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Tammy, salt is essential in the right amounts for baking.  This might be why your crust didn't come out the way you wanted it to.  Baking is a precise science, using carefully measured amounts for the right proportions, with critical chemical reactions making things work.  Salt is essential to breads to strengthen gluten bonds, and control yeast growth so the bread will rise evenly without huge holes.  In pastry, it assists in browning, cuts the greasiness of the fat used, and brings out the sweetness.   You can bake with less salt, but the recipes do require some adjustment of other ingredients to allow for less salt.

I'll give your pie crust recipe a try.  Thanks for sharing it!

Date Posted: 11/18/2012 2:10 PM ET
Member Since: 1/12/2012
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I followed the recipe the first time and it was too salty.  Which is why I decreased the amount.  It could be that I use table salt and the writer of the recipe used some other kind.  It's hard to know.  It was good of you to note that baking does require precise measurements.