Courage, Intrepid Bakers, You Can Master Pie Crust

I went out into the Twitter corner of the Hinternet yesterday seeking inspiration for today’s post.  I asked this question unto my followers:  “Oh, followers, in the pastry kitchen, what is it that strikes fear into your heart?”  And the followers tweeted back with one voice:  Pie Crust.  Damn you, pie crust!  What is it about you that makes grown folks quake in their boots? The Daring Bakers might take a deep breath and leap into a frozen-creme-brulee-and-nougatine-center-Buche-de-Noel, but some will hide in a closet whenever anyone wants them to make a pie.

I wrote about this very topic some time ago, and at great length.  It was a question from reader Will from Recipe Play that prompted me to write.  Re-reading it, I think it’s a pretty exhaustive primer.  Go and read it, now.  As a matter of fact, print it out.  Not for the glorious prose, but for the advice.  To summarize, if you make a crust with oil, it will be so tender that you might not be able to roll it out, but it won’t shrink.  If it won’t roll, all you have to do is press the dough evenly in the pan.   If you want to make a pie crust with solid shortening (butter, lard or vegetable shortening), you’ll want to work the dough as little as possible to keep gluten from forming and causing your dough to shrink.  Go on now and re-read, or discover it for the first time!

Looking over the post last evening, I thought to myself, “Wow, Jen–not bad.  I think you covered all the bases.”  So, then, I was forced to ask myself, “Why, oh why isn’t it enough?!  Why are people still afraid of four ingredients?”  And then, I remembered one of The Seminal Scenes from The Wizard of Oz.  Let’s watch together, shall we?

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ky7DMCHQJZY&hl=en&fs=1&rel=0&color1=0x5d1719&color2=0xcd311b&border=1]

I hope you get my point, folks.  It’s not that you can’t do it–it’s that you’re afraid that you can’t do it.  And guys, believe me–I understand.  I have made dough that shrank alarmingly.  More than once.  But I learned how, and you can, too.  Seriously, how ridiculous do you think I felt asking the owner of the restaurant to let me watch her make the pate brisee?  Knowing that I’ve been where you are, let me just tell you that You Can Do This.  I have found a marvelous little video on You Tube to help you.  I still recommend that you use my roll-out-then-chill method, but do watch the video.  The woman making the dough has a perfect consistency.  You’ll be able to see that her dough still looks all crumbly and dry until she squeezes it together.

Now, you are armed with a great recipe and primer, courtesy of Moi as well as a great video to help you get a feel for the consistency you’re looking for, courtesy of The Nice Expert Village Lady.  All you need now is a certificate: pie-crust-courage.  See?  If you click where it says pie-crust-courage, it takes you to another page.  Then, if you click on pie-crust-courage again, you get a Special Certificate (in MS Word)!  A little convoluted, but there you have it.

That’s it, folks.  You’re ready.  I’m not saying that you’ll get it right the first, second or even the third time.  I’m saying, “Make small batches until you get it right.”  Seriously–scale the recipe down to 4 or 6 oz. flour at a time, and practice until you get it.  If you have an issue with warm hands, work quickly, throw your bowl of ingredients back in the freezer for a few minutes, or wear a couple of pair of latex gloves for insulation.  If you are nervous, laminate your certificate and slap it up on the fridge right next to the Rules of Engagement for Pie Crust, drink some wine, and get to it.  No excuses, people.  You are smarter than flour, butter, salt and water Put Together.  And, you’re Certified, so go forth and make some pie crust.

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Comments

  1. says

    I love homemade pie crust!! My guy can’t have butter so I use coconut oil, which works beautifully with a few TB of milk, and it doesn’t burn as easily!! Great post!

  2. says

    @ChefBliss Nice! I need to start using more coconut oil, myself.

    @Jillian I love that! I think she’s too young to be scared. Maybe if we all started off young we could all make a great pie crust without trepidation :)

  3. says

    You’ve got a slightly different audience then me. What I hear is the fear of yeast. Still working on that one myself. Well, not the fear any more. Just starting to get used to using it, since I just started recently.

  4. says

    I’d rather do 5 danish braids and 4 Challah braids than one pie crust ;-)

    Getting better though since I got a nice silicon mat and a French pin. One day, I will get a pretty edge on one.

  5. says

    My mom would sometimes sit in front of the TV and roll out 10-15 pie crusts between waxed paper in no time. She’s my role model, a very tough act since she appears to be naturally gifted for all things baked. I, however, am not, and it’s taken lots of trial and error over the years. Maybe at some point people discover techniques that work for them, and with pie crust it is definitely all about the technique. E.g., I know the less I touch the dough the better it will turn out. The food processor was a godsend. I like rolling on plastic wrap better than waxed paper, parchment, silicone, canvas, or even with baking dummy zipper bags. If my hands are really warm, I put gloves on to flute the edges. Any time the dough starts wilting, back into the fridge it goes. And one of the best tips I ever found was filling a Reynolds oven bag with pennies to use as a pie weight.

  6. says

    Sweet post (no semi-pun intended) – I especially like the certificate. I would love to print it out, but sadly have no printer. And hanging that in my room would just remind me how much I miss my own oven here at school! Two things to share:
    1) My first “serious” pie crust semi-failed because I didn’t use anything to weigh down the crust during the blind bake. Still turned out delicious, just not as tastily dense at the bottom.
    2) Since I am notorious for having the COLDEST hands out of nearly everyone I know, I always figured that I would be a natural baker – no fear of butter melting with perpetually icy hands! Let’s just hope it’s not due to vegetarian diet-induced iron deficiency :)

    P.S. – 3/14 is Pi Day for all us math geeks and pie lovers, so perhaps we should have us a pie event! E-mail me with ideas. kthnxbye.

  7. Amy says

    I too fear the yeast. I can make a pretty decent pie. Has anyone tried the recipe from Cooks Illustrated? It has a bit of vodka in it.

  8. says

    Well…pie crust is one thing I truly DON’T have a problem with. Mine doesn’t shrink unless I bake it empty – which I never do. It’s always flaky and yummy.

    Mine is the standard 2 C’s flour (I always use 1/2 whole wheat), 2/3 cup shortening (I always use Crisco), 1 tsp salt (give or take – I never measure it), and “enough” ice water. I just chucked all the “rules” and manhandle the stuff and it comes out fine.

    I must be gifted. ;-)

    The only hard part for me is making it “pretty”.

  9. says

    Let me print out my certificate first. After a few days of clutching it, hoping that the courage leeches into me, I will attempt a pie crust. Maybe. Someday. When I have the nerve.

  10. Memoria says

    A few moments ago, I made my first batch of pie crusts without any problems at all. I didn’t understand why people made such a big deal about it. I still don’t get it to this day. I agree with what you say about not being afraid of doing it; just make the dough! If you approach the making of dough as a difficult task, you may fail because you are approaching the process the wrong way. Just think of it as any other recipe. Just follow the instructions, and go your merry way. I plan to make laminated dough in a few days, and I’ve never made it before. I dream about the process day and night, and I’ve read and seen many tutorials about it. I don’t see it as a daunting, “undoable” task. I see it as an exciting adventure that will (hopefully) procure a delicious danish or some other type of puff pastry. :)

  11. says

    Lions, tigers, bears and… pie crusts. We will fear no more with the UPMAT certificate of pie-crust courage. Yay for Jenni and for all the new and about-to-be-certified pie crusters!

  12. says

    I made my first pie crust at age 12, and like Jillian’s daughter, I think I was too young to know to be afraid. It came out great, and my mom was duly impressed.

    That said, I think the wine is a great idea. I have a friend whose quiche recipe starts out: “First, pour a bottle of wine into the chef…”
    :D

  13. says

    It’s interesting how some people are in the afraid-of-yeast camp while others are firmly in the afraid-of-pie-crust camp.

    @Drew Once I realized that yeast were just little guys who would burp for my amusement and to my advantage, I was fine w/it :D

    @Libby That is really saying something! Some folks wouldn’t touch a braided yeast bread w/a 10 foot pole!

    @Niko Glad you’ve found what works for you. Love the bag o’ pennies idea :)

    @Chris Cold hands are a definite plus! I will contact you about pi day–did you have something specific in mind? :D

    @Amy I have not–CI is pretty good about coming up w/a definitive recipe though (if any recipe can really be called definitive)

    @groovy I always knew you were gifted :D

    @Tangled Noodle Yes, use it as a talisman :D

    @Memoria Great attitude! I’m sure your laminated dough will turn out well–it’s not hard; just time consuming :)

    @DailySpud :D Maybe I will start a certificat program!

    @Jim Yay for bread pudding:)

    @croquecamille Wine is Never a bad idea :lol:

  14. says

    I say this with all sincerity: you really need a food show on Comedy Central. You are THAT hilarious. I actually visit your blog to laugh as much as I do to learn. Making Mushroom and Gruyere tart tomorrow and I’m so much more confident having this in my arsenal. I’ll send pictures!

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