Category Archives: Pie Crust

Making a Crumb Crust

For those who fear a traditional short-crust pie crust — or who just plain ‘ol love cookies — a crumb crust is a very easy, low-stress way to go. All you need are some crumbs, a little butter and a pinch of salt and you’re on your way. Here I’m doing a graham cracker crust. I put my crackers, the sugar and cinnamon in the bowl of a food processor…

…and run it for about 15 seconds until I have, well…crumbs. I don’t want to take this down to a powder, mind you. A few larger bits are OK.

Next I transfer the crumbs to a mixing bowl add my butter.

Give it a stir…

…then get in there with my hands and start rubbing.

You want the mixture to form a “log” easily when you squeeze it, one that should hold its shape for five seconds or so when you open your hand. If you don’t have that sort of cohesion, add another tablespoon of butter.

What? Do you know how much butter is in a standard pie crust? A lot. Anyway this step is critical to achieving a crust that will actually stand up on a plate.

Pour the mixture into a pie plate.

Apply a little plastic and start pressing — in the middle at first then outward toward the edges.

The up the sides. Gently press together any obvious cracks.

And there you go. Ready for baking. You can keep this for up to several days lightly covered with plastic wrap in the fridge.

Filed under:  Crumb Crust, Pastry | 4 Comments

Crumb Pie Crust Recipe(s)

Crumb crusts are great for citrus curd pies: key lime, lemon meringue, orange cream, that sort of thing. Graham cracker crusts are probably the most popular crumb crust, but you can also make terrific pie crusts out of vanilla wafers, gingersnaps and other kinds of simple cookies.

For a Graham Cracker Crust

5 ounces (1 1/4 cups) graham cracker crumbs
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) sugar
pinch cinnamon
2.5 ounces (5 tablespoons) butter, melted

For a Gingersnap of Vanilla Wafer Crust

6 ounces (1 1/2 cups) cookie crumbs
pinch salt
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) butter, melted

Procedure

Combine the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Pour in the melted butter and rub it into the mixture. The crust mixture should hold together when you squeeze it in your hand. If not, add a little more melted butter.

Press the mixture into a 9″ pie pan. It helps to place a piece of plastic wrap over the mixture to keep it from sticking to your fingers. If you have a tin pie plate in addition to a regular pan, that’s useful for pressing the crust. Place it on top of the plastic wrap-topped mixture and press it down starting the center then outward toward the edges. Gently remove the tin and the plastic wrap.

Filed under:  Crumb Crust, Pastry | 11 Comments

Hot Water Pie Dough

The Brits make several kinds of pie crusts, all of them wetter than American-style pie crusts (though they sometimes make those too). This one is sometimes called a “hot water” crust — though “hot fat” is more accurate — and is specifically for meat pies. It contains:

7 ounces leaf lard, rendered
2 ounces water
2 ounces milk
17 ounces all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoons salt

Start by combining the lard, water and milk in a small saucepan and set it over a low flame until the fat melts and starts to simmer.

Meanwhile put the flour in a large bowl or the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle (I know, but I like machines). Whisk in the salt.

With the machine running on low, add the hot liquid lard mixture. What’s so important about a hot mixture here? On the one hand the liquid blends easily into the flour this way, so you get a very even mixture, and that’s good for strength. The water and heat also causes the flour to gelate a little, and that’s good for elasticity and crack-prevention. Just the characteristics you want for something like a free-standing pork pie.

Stir until the mixture looks like this:

Then turn it out onto a board and knead it a little into a ball. You’ll notice it’s rather lumpy and greasy, but don’t worry about it. Wrap the ball in plastic and refrigerate it for several hours or overnight. Let it come completely to room temperature before you start to work with it (1-2 hours).

Now, I know there are a lot of people who like to use a dough like this when it’s just made and warm. I won’t try to step on any traditions here. What I will say is that after a good long rest in the fridge the dough will be much smoother, less greasy and easier to roll. At least for a Yank like me who’s used to working chilled doughs!

Filed under:  Hot Water Pie Crust, Pastry | 2 Comments

Making Standard Pie Crust

This pie crust isn’t as perfect as oh, say, the Perfect Pie Crust on the site, but then sometimes being perfect takes a little too much time and energy. This recipe is time-tested, and when done well rivals even a “perfect” crust for that elusive combination of tenderness and flakiness that pie lovers live for.

Start by spooning your shortening (or lard) onto a plate. Refrigerate it for a good half an hour or freeze it 10-15 minutes to firm it some.

Cut it into pieces that are reasonable small…no need to go too nuts, then put them back in the fridge while you prepare the rest of your ingredients.

Cut the butter into small cubes and return them to the fridge or freezer.

Combine your salt and flour.

Whisk it together.

Now add the butter pieces.

Quickly rub it in with your fingers or cut it in with a pastry blender. Then add the shortening/lard.

Work that in until the mixture look about like this.

It’ll be fairly moist already. It won’t take much water to bring it together.

Add a few tablespoons and bring the dough together a bit with a spatula.

Then dive in with your hands and work it gently until you have something like this:

Divide the dough into two equal portions, pat them into disks and refrigerate them until you’re ready to use them.

This crust freezes perfectly for up to about two months, so if you’re make an open-topped pie, just save the other for another purpose. Multiply this recipe two or three times for a large batch that will see you through weeks of pie making!

Filed under:  Pastry, Standard Pie Crust | 15 Comments

Standard Pie Crust Recipe

I’ve received lots and lots and lots of requests for a pie crust that’s simpler than the one that’s currently on the site. This is an excellent standard pie crust that comes together quickly. Of course it still needs lots of resting, both after it’s made and whenever it’s shaped, to ensure it doesn’t shrink up during baking. This recipe makes enough for a double crust pie. If you’re making an open-topped pie, that’s fine. Just freeze the remainder for next time! Talk about pie the easy way.

13 ounces (2 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) cold butter
5.5 ounces (11 tablespoons) cold vegetable shortening or lard
4-5 tablespoons ice water

Cut the butter into small pieces and refrigerate them for at least half an hour, or freeze for 10-15 minutes. Spoon the shortening or lard onto a plate, freeze it 10 minutes, then cut it up and keep it refrigerated or frozen until you’re ready to use it. Whisk together the flour and salt. Add the butter pieces and cut them in with a pastry blender or with your fingers until the pieces are tiny. Do the same with the shortening/lard until the mixture looks like coarse meal.

Add the water and with a spoon or spatula work it in. If a dough doesn’t come together add another teaspoon or two until you can easily gather it all into a ball. Knead it lightly…i.e. fold it over two or three times, tops. Then divide the dough into two pieces, flatten them into disks and wrap them in plastic. Store the disks in the refrigerator for an absolute minimum of an hour. Two or three is better.

The dough will keep in the fridge for up to five days, up to a month, well wrapped, in the freezer. If you make a fair number of pies, double or even triple this dough, portion it, wrap it and freeze it. Thaw it overnight before using.

Filed under:  Pastry, Standard Pie Crust | 17 Comments

Perfect Pie Dough

I can already see the list of emails in my in box complaining about the complexity of this technique. Pie dough, at least for most people, should be a simple operation. All I can say is, first, that it’s really not all that complicated, and second, that this is the method that gives me the best results. It’s Rose Levy Berenbaum’s pie crust technique, and to my way of thinking, it is the best method yet devised for producing a crust that blends both flakiness and tenderness in a single buttery melody. Why would I not want to share the best with you, my beloved readership?

Happily, I’m not giving anything away by posting the recipe. RLB has it up on her own website, albeit the truncated food processor method, which I’ll discuss at the very end of this post. For now here are the proportions for a double (top and bottom)-crust fruit pie:

6 ounces (12 tablespoons) frozen unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (for best results, use a 50-50 blend of six tablespoons [3 ounces] butter and six tablespoons [3 ounces] rendered leaf lard)
10 ounces (2 cups + 3 tablespoons) bleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
4.5 ounces cream cheese
2 tablespoons ice water
1 tablespoon cider vinegar

For a single-crust 9-inch pie, the proportions are:

3 ounces (6 tablespoons) frozen unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (for best results, use a 50-50 blend of 3 tablespoons [1 1/2 ounces] butter and 3 tablespoons [1 1/2 ounces] rendered leaf lard)
5 ounces (1 cup + 1 tablespoon) bleached all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
2.25 ounces cream cheese
1 tablespoon ice water
1 1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar

Start by cutting up your butter and putting it in the freezer on a plate.

It need not be 100% frozen, but very, very firm. Next, combine your flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl and whisk to combine them:

Add in the cream cheese…

…and incorporate with your fingers until you get that “course meal” consistency everybody always talks about.

Like so:

If you’re still waiting on your butter at this point, you can toss the bowl with the flour mixture into the freezer if you feel like it, since cold is much desired in this process. Once the butter is frozen, pour the dry ingredients into your plastic bag…

…followed by the butter.

Squeeze any air out like so:

Give it a shake:

And apply the pin, rolling the mixture as flat as you can. What you’re after here are thin, thin flakes of butter that will eventually incorporate into your dough as super-thin layers or veins. This will create an effect not unlike a laminated dough, imparting flakiness to your finished crust.

When you’re done your bag should look something like this:

And its contents something like this:

Now then, pour the mixture out into a bowl (chilled would be very nice, since you don’t want to lose those nice flakes of butter). Then sprinkle your water and vinegar over it thusly:

Give the whole mess a stir…

…and pour it back in the bag for kneading. Why back in the bag? Because you want to keep all those dough pieces contained, and also expose them to as little heat as you can.

Knead by pressing your fists into the bag until the dough comes together and is even a little elastic.

Shape the dough into a ball, pat it into a disk, and put it in the fridge for a minimum of an hour, overnight preferably.

I know, I know, it ain’t grandma’s crust-making technique, but I’ll tell you, this is the best way I know to create both tenderness and flakiness in a crust without resorting to shortening, which I hate to do…not because I’m afraid of trans fats or anything so ludicrous, but because I simply don’t like the greasy mouthfeel of shortening. This way you get the flakiness of shortening with the mouthfeel and flavor of an all-butter crust. And what’s not to love about that? To me it’s worth the effort.

For a more expedient method, prepare the dough in a food processor, pulsing the motor to incorporate the cream cheese and the butter, then knead it in the plastic bag as directed. The crust won’t be as flaky, but it will still be very good.

Filed under:  Pastry Components, Perfect Pie Crust | 22 Comments