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Food Prep 101: Going lightly is key to flaky crust
March 27, 2013 - Anita Hanaburgh
Because this is a basic course, we will look at making not puff pastry, sweet tarts or choux paste, just plain ol’ pie crust. What is the difference between pie and pastry? Well, pastry is a category; pie is one of the items in the category.
Making a flaky crust is actually a scientific concern. The flake is made as the crust hardens (or cooks) around the melting fat and leaves a “hole”?in the dough. So we want to keep the shortening as cold and firm as possible for as long as we can. There you have it — you understand the basic principal of pie dough.
I am including a basic pie crust recipe. It can be made into two bottom crusts or a top and bottom. Let’s look at my thoughts for the basic steps:?
1. Mix the salt and flour together first. Wheat flour is our base. Salt is for flavor accent.You don’t know it’s there, but you know if it’s not.
2. Add the fat. The fat should be very cold. We do not want it to melt or soften. Lard and shortening create a flaky crust. Butter tastes great but melts easily, so is not a great choice for beginners.
3. Mix the fat with a pastry blender or two knives or just a fork. Break the fat into small pieces. Be patient — these little pieces are your flakes. Do not use your hands until you have to, as they are warm and will soften the fat. Your hands are strong and will overwork the crust. Mix or manipulate the dough as little as possible because, remember, gluten gets strong and tough the more it is worked. We don’t want tough pie crust.
4. Use a fork to add the water a little at a time, until the crust cleans the sides of the bowl.
5. Now use your hands to gather the dough lightly — I said lightly — into a ball. You may have to lightly use the warmth of your hands to gather. Divide into two balls. Flatten the balls into the shape of a disk.
6. Rest the pie dough. As in making bread, the gluten needs to rest. Cover it tightly and put it in the fridge to also cool the dough.
7. Lightly, and I mean lightly, flour your rolling pin and your counter or pastry board. Extra flour will create a tough crust. I love my cold granite counter for rolling. Pastry cloths are good, as they absorb the extra flour, but I don’t bother with them.
8. Place the dough on the counter. You may have to bring it to room temperature by flattening with your hand. The bigger the disk, the easier to roll out. Sprinkle the disk lightly with flour and flip it over. Let the rolling pin do the work, a bit of pressure. The trick is to turn the dough often. Roll, roll, roll, then flip. This way, the dough will never stick. Continue rolling it in to a circle slightly larger than the pie pan.
9. Gently pick the dough up using the rolling pin, then place it gently over the pie or tart pan. FYI, marble rolling pins are nice as the dough doesn’t stick, and their natural weight helps the dough roll evenly. But I use a silicone pin and love it.
10. Place the dough onto the pan by lifting and gently pushing the corners to fit. Pie dough will shrink, but if you stretch, it will shrink even more.
11. For single-crust pie dough, fold the edge and flute the edges. I don’t fork the edges, as they will burn faster. I do fork the base generously, maybe 30 plus times, so the crust doesn’t’ bubble or shrink. Also, pie weights placed into foil keep the crust from shrinking.
12. Preheat the oven. For a single crust, place the pie in the center of the oven and bake at 400 F for 10 to 15 minutes. For a double, place the pie toward the bottom of the oven then bake at 400F for 10 to 15 minutes, then reduct to the temperature called for in the recipe.
Heat is very important. If a crust is soggy, it is probably not cooked enough. I use a crust guard, only $8 at Willliam Sonoma.com, so that I can bake the pie until the crust is no longer soggy. If you use a glass pan, you can actually look to see if the crust is baked.
Task to Try: Plain Ol’ Pie Crust
2 cups sifted four
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cups shortening
1/3 cup cold water
Measure and stir the four and salt together.
Add the shortening all at once and cut into pieces the size of split peas.
Add water slowly, using a fork.
Mix the dough together with the fork, then use your hands to form a ball. Divide the dough into two parts. Form into two flat disks. Refrigerate and rest. Gently roll out the dough. Turn the dough over frequently. Work on maintaining a circle. Roll the dough to 1 inch larger than the size of the pie pan. Roll onto rolling pin and gently fit into pan. Flute and fork if a single crust pie.
Repeat. If it is a top crust, fold in half and cut air vents. Fill lower crust right before covering.
Trim the crust. Flute as desired.
Bake single crust at 400 F for 10 to 15 minutes. Bake filled pie as recipe directs.
This week’s quiz: Water added to yeast should be: A) very cold to keep the fat from melting, B) 100 to 110 F, C) boiled to remove impurities, D) added at the same time as the salt.
Answer to last week’s quiz: An example of a quick bread is D) muffins.
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