Friday, November 25, 2011

Pie Dough

I usually just buy premade pie crusts in the tin at the grocery store. It's easy, fast, and I don't really think about the crust when I'm making a quiche or pie. Even so, I used to feel fairly weird about buying premade crusts. I just have this odd aversion to trying my hand at baked goods--I have it in my head that they're delicate flowers with bazookas and will kill me if I mess them up just a tiny bit.

So working for Whisked! during the past few months has encouraged me to go that extra step when making pie. And the dough turns out so much better than the store-bought kind!



Ingredients
  • 2.5 cup flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, cubed, chilled
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • ice water

Combining ingredients is easier to do in a large food processor, if you have one. Especially if you're making only a single batch of this recipe, which makes enough dough for a single double-crust pie (like traditional apple and such).

I, however, have only a tiny food processor and made a double batch, so I made it in a large mixing bowl using my hands. It's important to keep everything as cold as possible--first, I pull butter straight out of the fridge and cube it (about 1/4-inch cubes), then put that in the freezer. Then I put 1/2 cup of water in the freezer, too. Next, I mix the dry ingredients (salt, flour, sugar) in a large bowl and start folding in the cold butter with my hands until I get a nice mealy texture with some larger chunks of butter ("pea-sized" is the usual lingo). Then I fold in the shortening.

Many similar recipes at this point say to add cold water 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together, and they usually say to have 6 to 8 tablespoons available. I never seem to end up using that much--for my double batch, I used 4 or 5 tablespoons of water. That could be because I use my hands when mixing, and more butter and shortening interacted with the flour than is really desired. I could spend a bit of extra time and stick my dough in the fridge to cool down between steps, but I don't.

So go ahead and add ice-cold water to your dough until it comes together. Then portion it out evenly into 2 balls (for a single batch--double the number of balls for each multiplier of the batch). Wrap the balls in plastic wrap and kind of tap down into discs. Stick them in the fridge until you're ready to use them!

When I am ready to roll out my dough, I think it's a good idea to let your dough sit out at room temperature for a few minutes (about 5 or 10). Roll it to about 1/8-inch thickness, slide your pie dish underneath, and trim and/or decoratively arrange the edges. You can bake it right away--but I have heard you get better results freezing the dough before baking. Depending on the pie, you may want to make air-vent holes in the bottom of the crust with a fork and prebake it (for savoury tarts like caramelized onion/apple/gorgonzola that just need to warm up rather than cook completely through).

This pie crust recipe is the first one I've actually followed and written down. A couple of things I will modify next time include chilling the dough between wet-ingredient-addition steps, because I think I melted too much butter with my fingers while mixing the dough, so when I prebaked the crust, it kind of melted a tiny bit. Chilling the dough between addition steps will also probably allow more water to be incorporated into the dough at the end, which may help it roll out better without cracking so much.

We'll see how it goes next time I make dough!

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