Problems With Pie Crusts
This is a pie crust recipe for people who are afraid to make pie crusts. I resisted making pies until I found this recipe, because my crust were always a disaster.
- the crust was too sticky and I couldn’t get it off the rolling mat into the pie pan without ripping;
- the crust texture was too heavy and not flaky; or
- the crust shrank when it baked. (The picture looked so good! That recipe required an unusual rectangular tart pan that I went out and bought. The crust slid down the sides of the pan and shrank. Total disaster.)
I even bought Rose Levy Beranbaum’s “The Pie and Pastry Bible”, an exhaustive tome that was supposed to be foolproof. Well, it wasn’t safe from this fool. Her pie fillings were great but my crusts still sucked. Beranbaum’s method requires pre-freezing all the ingredients, even the flour. Then you add the ingredients to a plastic ziploc bag and sort of knead them together through the bag.
“Isn’t the heat from my hands going to undo all the benefit of the freezing?” I wondered as I massaged away at the bag. The butter stayed in visibly unincorporated blobs and the pie was another in a long lien of disasters. My pie efforts ended there for quite some time after that one.
Reliable Pie Crust Recipe
Fast forward – I found Wanda’s Pie in the Sky by Toronto’s own Wanda Beaver. She has a pie shop of the same name which is currently located in Kensington Market. Check it out at http://wandaspieinthesky.com/
This is the first time I used a food processor method which I had always resisted as not quite, you know, real. But the food processor method proves to be far easier and more reliable than cutting the butter in by hand with a pastry blender. I’ve used this recipe ever since the book was published. Wonderful pies have been rolling out of my oven with nary a crust failure. I am only going to include the food processor method in this recipe, since that’s the only one I use. If you prefer using a pastry cutter, check out the book for more instructions.
The Goal: Flavour and Flakiness
Please resist the temptation to use only butter. You need the combination of butter for flavour and shortening (or margarine) for flakiness. I used to buy shortening which just sat there in the cupboard until I made another pie. Then one of the bakers at the Big Carrot bakery counter told me that they used margarine in place of shortening, and I have done that ever since.
You will find it easier to get the pie crust into the pan without ripping if you use a silicone rolling mat. Put the lump of dough to be rolled onto a silicone mat and then put another mat on top. Roll the crust sandwiched between the two mat. Then peel the top mat off, flip the crust over the pie pan still attached to the second mat and peel that mat off. Fit the crust into the pan as you peel.
This is the recipe for a double crust. A double crust pie has both a top and bottom crust.
Double Crust Pastry
This is a basic foundation recipe for a multi-purpose pie crust.
- 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter (cold (frozen for 15 minutes is even better), cut into 1/2" cubes)
- 1/2 cup shortening or margarine (cold (or pre-frozen for 15 minutes), cut into 1/2" cubes)
- 1/3 cup ice water
- Make sure all the ingredients are as cold as possible. Cut and pre-freeze the butter and shortening (or margarine) for 15 minutes if you have the time.
- Using a food processor, combing the flour, salt, butter and shortening. Process until the mixture resembles coarse meal and begins to clump together. Cook’s Illustrated advises using 10 or 12 one second bursts on the food processor pulse button, and I’ve found that rule works for me.
- Sprinkle the water in. Let rest for 30 seconds and then process very briefly just until dough begins to stick together and come away from side of the bowl. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface or a silicone mat and press together to form a ball or cylinder. Divide the dough lump into 2/3 and 1/3 (you need less for the top crust) and press into disks. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 20 minutes.
- Let the dough warm slightly at room temperature if it is too hard to roll. Place the larger piece of dough for the bottom crust on a lightly floured board or silicone rolling mat. I prefer to use a silicone mat and then put another mat on top to reduce the dough sticking and make it easier to get into the pan. Roll the dough until it is about 1/8″ thick and about 1 1/2 inches in diameter larger than the pie pan you are using. Transfer the pastry to the pie pan. I use the method described above, where I peel the top mat, flip the dough onto the pan and peel the other mat off.
- Roll the top crust as directed by your recipe.
If you don’t have a silicone baking mat, this it the type that I use: http://www.kitchenstuffplus.com/ksp-flux-silicone-baking-sheet-blue It only costs $8 and has many uses besides pie crusts. They are heat resistant up to 450 degrees, so I use them to line baking pans instead of greasing.
Rolling Pin Rings: http://www.bedbathandbeyond.ca/store/product/rolling-pin-rings/1013166889 You can achieve more consistent thickness of your dough by using rolling pin rings. The rings come in different sizes. Slip the appropriate size over the ends of your rolling pin. Your rolling pin needs to be longer than the size of the pan you are using. If your rolling pin is smaller, then the band starts to run across the dough surface.
Note: I have no relationship to any products or retailers mentioned in this post. These are purely independent referrals to gadgets I find useful.