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Basic Flaky Pie Crust

 

This pie crust is light, flaky, tender, and very crisp. It has a glorious butter flavor and is an ideal container for any pie or tart recipe. I strongly recommend commercial or homemade pastry flour, as it will result in a more tender crust than one made with all-purpose flour.

 
Pastry for a 9-inch pie shell,
a 9-1/2 to 10 by 1-inch tart shell,
or about 3 dozen 1 inch tartlets
Makes: 12 ounces/340 grams
Ingredients Measure Weight
  Volume Ounces Grams
unsalted butter, cold 8 tablespoons 4 ounces 113 grams
pastry flour or
bleached all-purpose flour
1-1/3 cups plus 4 teaspoons
1-1/3 dip and sweep method
6.5 ounces 184 grams
salt* 1/4 teaspoon . .
optional: baking powder (if not using, double the salt) 1/8 teaspoon . .
ice water 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 tablespoons 1.3 to 1.7 ounces 37 to 52 grams
cider vinegar 1-1/2 teaspoons 0.25 ounce 7 grams
 

Divide the butter into two parts, about two thirds to one third:
For this recipe: 2.5 ounces and 1.5 ounces (5 tablespoons and 3 tablespoons)

Cut the butter into 3/4 inch cubes. Wrap each portion of butter with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the larger amount and freeze the smaller for at least 30 minutes. Place the flour, salt, and optional baking powder in a reclosable gallon-size freezer bag and freeze for at least 30 minutes.

 

Food Processor Method

Place the flour mixture in a food processor with the metal blade and process for a few seconds to combine. Set the bag aside.

Add the larger amount of butter cubes to the flour and process for about 20 seconds or until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the remaining frozen butter cubes and pulse until all of the frozen butter is the size of peas. (Toss with a fork to see it better.)

Add the lowest amount of the ice water and the vinegar and pulse 6 times. Pinch a small amount of the mixture together between your fingers. If it does not hold together, add half the remaining water and pulse 3 times. Try pinching the mixture again. If necessary, add the remaining water, pulsing 3 times to incorporate it. The mixture will be in particles and will not hold together without being pinched.

For tiny 1 inch tartlets, omit the baking powder and allow the processing to continue just until a ball forms. The additional mixing produces a dough that is slightly less flaky but ensures that it will not puff out of shape in the tiny molds.

Spoon the mixture into the plastic bag. (For a double-crust pie, it is easiest to divide the mixture in half at this point.)

Holding both ends of the bag opening with your fingers, knead the mixture by alternately pressing it, from the outside of the bag, with the knuckles and heels of your hands until the mixture holds together in one piece and feels slightly stretchy when pulled.

Wrap the dough with plastic wrap, flatten it into a disc (or discs) and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes, preferably overnight. (For a pie shell and lattice, divide it in a ratio of two thirds: one third-use about 9.5 ounces for the shell and the rest for the lattice, flattening the smaller part into a rectangle.)

 

Hand Method

Place a medium mixing bowl in the freezer to chill.

Place the flour, salt, and optional baking powder in another medium bowl and whisk to combine them. Use a pastry cutter or rub the mixture between your fingers to blend the larger portion of the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse meal.

Spoon the mixture, together with the cold butter, into a reclosable gallon-size freezer bag. Expel any air from the bag and close it. Use a rolling pin to flatten the butter into flakes. Place the bag in the freezer for at least 10 minutes or until the butter is very firm.

Transfer the mixture to the chilled bowl, scraping the sides of the bag. Set the bag aside. Sprinkle the ice water and vinegar onto the mixture, tossing it lightly with a rubber spatula. Spoon the loose mixture back into the plastic bag. (For a double-crust pie, it is easiest to divide the mixture in half at this point.)

Holding both ends of the bag opening with your fingers, knead the mixture by alternately pressing it, from the outside of the bag, with the knuckles and heels of your hands until the mixture holds together in one piece and feels slightly stretchy when pulled.

Wrap the dough with plastic wrap, flatten it into a disc and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes, preferably overnight.

 

Variations

Whole Wheat Flaky Pie Crust
Use two thirds all-purpose flour and one third whole wheat pastry flour or whole wheat flour.

Sour Cream Flaky Pie Crust
This crust produces a lighter texture and a more buttery flavor than the basic flaky pie crust. You are never in doubt as to how much water to add, because the sour cream provides just the right amount of liquid. Simply replace the water/vinegar (use the full amount of water, not the smaller amount) with an equal measure of sour cream. Replacing the liquid with sour cream is what gives this crust exceptional lightness and tenderness because the sour cream contains milk solids, butterfat, and acidity. The milk solids help to blend the ingredients more smoothly; the extra butter contributes more tenderness; and the acidity relaxes the gluten, making the dough less elastic, easier to roll, and less prone to shrinking during baking.

Sweet Cream Flaky Pie Crust
This has the purest, most buttery flavor of any crust and the most tenderness, because of all liquid dairy products, cream contains the least water and the most fats, giving it a total fat content (depending on the percentage of butterfat in the cream, which varies by brand) close to the cream cheese crust. It holds together well for rolling despite its tenderness. Use all-purpose bleached flour, not pastry flour, which would not be strong enough. For this recipe: Replace the water and vinegar with 5 tablespoons/2.5 ounces/72 grams of heavy cream with 5 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons/approximately 2.75 ounces/82 grams of heavy cream.

Buttermilk Flaky Pie Crust
This is a light, flaky, and tender crust. There is no distinctive taste from the buttermilk; its value is as a tenderizer. Replace the water and vinegar with an equal amount of buttermilk.

Yogurt Flaky Pie Crust
This is an exceptionally tender and very flaky crust, with a slight tang but a less buttery taste. Replace the water and vinegar with an equal amount of yogurt.

Herb Flaky Pie Crust
Use 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme, finely chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried, for a 1-1/3 cups flour formula.

Store:
Refrigerated, up to 2 days; frozen, up to 3 months.

 

The Pie and Pastry Bible
By Rose Levy Beranbaum
Scribner/Simon & Schuster
Hardback,315 recipes, $ 35.00
ISBN: 0-684-81348-3
Recipe Reprinted by permission.

 

The Pie and Pastry Bible

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This page created March 1999


 

 
 

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