I am going to share with you some practical basic tips to help give you the skills to make pie or tart dough that is always flaky, delicious and never tough. Pies that could win a county fair blue ribbon and best of all, your friends and family gratitude.
One of the great things about summer is the abundance and variety ripe fruits. There’s an almost endless variety of wonderful pies and tarts, including those filled with fruit, custard, or nuts, meats. You can easily prepare the pies or tarts to either enjoy now or freeze them and enjoy all year long.
Both pies, tarts consist of a rich favorable filling and a flaky tender pastry shell. Some are filled then baked, while others are baked empty, then filled. Some have a bottom crust, a double crust, a lattice top, a strudel top, or a meringue topping. Tarts are always open-faced and can be baked in different sized and shaped pans, including mini-tartlet pans. Pies are baked in a round, shallow, slope-sided pan, or a deep-dish pan or casserole dish.
The Best Pie and Tart Crust Tips
The Crust:The goal of the perfect pie crust is a tender flaky golden crust with a dry bottom. The first step is to begin with all ingredients and equipment cold, this simple tip will increase the tenderness of the crust.
- Flour: For a tender crust, choose a low protein wheat flour such as cake flour, pastry flour or unbleached flour. Sift together the flour and dry ingredients. It is best to have the flour in the refrigerator or freezer for at least an hour or more before mixing all the ingredients.
- Fats: Don’t blend fat into flour to thoroughly; leave some pea-sized pieces. Chunks of fat create space between the layers of pastry producing a flaky baked crust.
- Liquids: Always use ice water with apple cider vinegar or lemon juice in your pie dough.This is one more step to help make the crust most tender. Always use the least amount of liquid possible, just enough to make the pie crust hold together.
- Egg yolk– When a recipe calls for an egg yolk (almost all tart recipes use yolks), it adds more fat, as well as natural lecithin, making the dough pliable and easier to handle. Count the yolk moisture as part of the liquid for the dough. You will see flakes of yellow from the butter and egg yolk.
- When working the pie dough with your hands, use your fingertips instead of the warmer palms of the hand, to pinch the dough to mix it.You can also use two knives or a pastry cutter to cut the flour and butter together, add the liquids slowly and use only what is necessary to hold the dough together.
- When using a food processor refrigerate the bowl and blade about 30 minutes and cut the butter into 1/2 inch squares and freeze. Process the dough no more than 20 or 30 seconds so the butter is not to fine. Add liquid and plus again for 5 or 6 times only. Pour out on the board or parchment paper and proceed.
- Leave pea size chunks pf butter. Fold the dough over on itself three or four times to bring it together. This will help create layers, which translate into flakiness. When the dough starts to come together, transfer it to a piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap. Squeeze it into a ball. If the dough seems dry and chunks break off, spritz with a little ice water. The dough is ready when it just sticks together with small dry cracks, your dough is perfect. Refrigerate it again for 30 minutes.
- If you’re making a double-crust recipe, divide dough in half, then roll gently into a 4 to 5 inch circle disk, then refrigerate again to get dough cold again, keep wrapped in the parchment or plastic wrap. To avoid ragged dough edges, flatten each piece into a rough disk, then roll like a wheel across a floured work surface, to smooth the edges.
- *This is the time to freeze your extra dough you plan to use in the future. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in a zip lock bag. Slightly thaw out just to the point you can easily roll out.
Rolling the Dough Out:
- If the pie crust is soft, chill about 30 minutes more. Soft dough is sticky and you will need to use more flour than when it is colder. If the dough is chilled hard, allow dough sit at room temperature to soften slightly, it should be cold and firm, but not rock hard, this could take 5 to 20 minutes.
- When ready to roll out the dough, lightly flour the countertop or parchment or other floured surface. If you have a double crust, refrigerate the top while preparing the top. Add more flour as needed.
- *When you roll out the dough on parchment paper, you will use less flour it is easier to turn, easier transfer to the pie plate, it helps keep the dough cooler, plus it makes cleanup easier. To keep paper from slipping, sprinkle a few drops of water on the countertop before arranging the paper.
- *A great tip is to draw the circle size you will need for the finished dough on the parchment paper, to be able to easily get an ]perfct finished dough.
- Roll out the pie dough roll from the center to the edge, rotate the dough a quarter turn after each movement to form an even round crust easing the pressure as you near the edge to keep it from becoming too thin. Continue this process until the dough reaches the diameter needed for your pie pan, about 13 to 14 inches in diameter and about 1/8 inch thick. After every few passes, check that the dough isn’t sticking, both top and bottom. Add flour as needed, excess flour makes a drier, tough crust. Gently lift the paper off once your dough is rolled to the appropriate size, then take a pastry brush and remove any excess flour on both sides. Lift dough and transfer the dough into the pie pan.
- Patching the pie crust– when you have a hole or tear in the crust just dab a little water over the problem area and cover with a scrap of the dough, problem fixed.
- Transferring the dough– You can move the dough with the parchment paper and slide the dough into the pie pan, you can fold the dough into quarters and easily lift the dough and place it in the pan or you can gently roll the dough onto your rolling-pin and unroll on top of the pan. The first time may be difficult, after that it is fast and easy.
- Brush a little water around the edge of the bottom crust before placing the top crust. This helps create a good seal once the two are crimped together.
- Pyrex glass pie plates are a great choice for baking your pies, conducts heat evenly. When using a glass pie plate, reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees. If you have frozen pie in the Pyrex allow the glass to warm up slightly so it will not break in the oven heat.
- Dull metal pie plates are better than shiny metal pans for making pies. The shiny metal pans keep the crust from browning properly.
- Tart pans often times have removable bottoms. They always have straight sides and a stronger crust so that they can stand up alone without a dish for support. Very often they are small individual servings size.
- Once again chill dough for about 30 minutes because pie crusts that are baked right after shaping, are warm enough for the butter to melt to quickly in the oven, causing the edge to sink or even slump over the edge of the pie pan.
- Bake the pie in the lower third of the oven. Generally, bake the pie at 425° for 15 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 350° and bake until the filling is cooked through, about 30 to 35 minutes more. Insert a knife tip to test if the pie is done.
- To prevent dark browning of the edges during baking, cover the pie edge with a 2 to 3-inch wide strip of aluminum foil, and mold lightly around the edge of the pie. Bake as directed, removing the aluminum foil 15 minutes before the end of the baking time.
- Milk or Cream – An even reddish-brown color with a fairly matte finish.
- Whole Egg, Beaten – plus add a teaspoon of water for intense yellow-golden color with a shiny finish.
- Egg Yolk, Beaten – plus add a teaspoon of water for deep golden brown color with a highly glossy finish.
- Egg White – plus add a teaspoon of water for no color, but a very shiny finish. We use egg whites when we’re planning on sprinkling the crust with sugar. It helps the sugar stick and makes the pie look sparkly.
Tips for a Remarkable Finish:
- Attractive Lattice Top- To make a lattice, roll out dough into a 12-inch square; using a fluted pastry wheel, cut the square into 1/2 to 3/4-inch-wide strips. Lay strips, spaced 1 inch apart, across the filling. Fold back every other strip almost to the edge; then, at the folds, place a new strip perpendicular to the first ones. Return the folded strips so they overlap the new strip. Fold back the other set of strips, stopping about 1 inch away from the first perpendicular strip; arrange another perpendicular strip at the folds. Continue until the lattice has been formed. Trim the overhanging strips so they are flush with the pie plate’s edge. Using a fork, seal the strips to the edge.
- Honeycomb Pattern- For a honeycomb pattern, cut out circles in the top crust with a small round cutter. Fold the bottom crust over the top, and seal.
- Braided Edge Make a braided edge by cutting 3 12-inch-long, 1/4-inch-thick strips of dough and braiding them together. Brush the edge of the crust or the bottom of the braids with water; secure. Trim braids equal to the circumference. Glaze for a beautiful finish.
- Fluted edge– Place the dough in pie plate. Trim the overhang to about 1 inch. Flute the crust by pressing a finger into the rim of the crust against two fingers on the other side of the crust to make an even impression. Repeat every ½ inch about the pie to create a ruffled edge.
- Cut-Out Shapes– Use cookie cutters or cut with your knife to make designs out of spare dough; then attach them with water. When you make the top crust with large decorative cut outs you should freeze, for only a few minutes, the top so that you can more easily move it without it becoming distorted or broken when moving.
- Always make deep slits in the top crust of fruit pie to allow the steam to escape and prevent the mix from bubbling over. You can make the cuts in a decorative design. These slits can be simple slashes or made with a cookie cutter design heart, flower, leaf and the cut outs can be used as a decoration. For more juicy pies always use the lattice style top or have large openings.
- Two crust pie– Fold the edges of your dough under.After fitting the dough into the plate, cut off the excess, leaving an overhang of about ¾ to 1 inch (2 cm). Fold this under, using the scraps to patch any thin areas, and crimp. This has the added benefit of making the edges of the pie look very smooth and neat.
- Scraps– Save the scraps to make tiny jam pies, turnovers, cinnamon cookies or save in the freezer for the next pie, there is no wasted dough.
- Brush the unbaked bottom crust of a pie with a well-beaten egg white before filling with berries and other juicy fruits from making the pie bottoms mushy.
- To prevent the bottom crust from getting soggy refrigerate the dough (in the pie plate) for 15 minutes before adding the filling. Also, sprinkle bottom crust with a mixture (about 1 tablespoon altogether) of equal parts sugar and flour before adding filling.
8. Blind-Baking Basics
- Blind baking means pre-baking an empty pie crust before adding a filling. This is something you do if the filling itself isn’t going to be cooked, like a fruit tart or chocolate pie or if the filling will cook faster than the crust like with a Quiche. You can also either fully bake the crust or partially bake it so that it has a head start when the full pie goes in the oven.
- Place the crust in the pie pan then prick the crust bottom with a fork to allow steam to escape evenly while cooking. Then chill the dough.
- Line the unbaked crust with parchment paper add dried beans or pie weights to help keep its shape, push the weights all the way to the pie edges to help keep the sides from collapsing during baking. You may use foil but some times it sticks, parchment paper never sticks. *These beans will no longer be of much use for making beans because they become so dry. Save them to use for many years in your pies. Without them, the crust will rise and puff on the bottom or slide down the sides under the weight of the crimped edge.
- Moisture-proof the crust by brushing it with a bit of egg white two or three minutes after it comes out of the oven.
- Bake the pie crust in a 425° oven until the edges are brown and golden. Allow 30-40 minutes for full baking or 25-35 minutes for partial baking or until the edge just begins to color. Remove pie weights halfway through cooking so the steam can escape and the bottom can fully cook.
9. Baked Pies
- Cool baked pies on a wire rack set on the counter. The rack allows air to circulate under the pie, preventing it from becoming soggy from the steam remaining it in.
- Finished Pie: Pie dough may be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Frozen, up to 3 months.
- Be sure to refrigerate finished pies containing eggs (pumpkin, custard and cream pies). Fruit pies store them loosely covered, in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. For Meringues cover with a large bowl high enough not to touch the pie. You cannot wrap them because they will stick to the wrapper and will weep or they become soggy.
- Discs of dough can be wrapped in plastic wrap and then in a ziplock bag can be stored in the freezer for months, and defrosted in the refrigerator overnight before they are rolled out. Rolled out crusts can be put into pie pans, frozen, and baked straight from the freezer when they are needed. They can also be rolled out and gently folded into quarters, frozen and used as desired. An unbaked crust will keep for 2 months in the freezer; a baked crust will keep for 4 months.
- A frozen crust shrinks less than a freshly rolled crust when blind baked.
- To thaw a baked pie crust, unwrap and let stand at room temperature, or heat in the oven at 350°F for about 6 minutes.
- Don’t thaw unbaked crusts; bake them right out of the freezer.
- Frozen Fruit pies and Tarts freeze well. Prepare the fruit pies according to your recipe, freeze immediately. Do not forget to label the frozen filings with the what it is and the date so that later you know which to use first.
- To freeze an unbaked pie, wrap pie tightly or place in a plastic freezer bag (as you would a baked pie). Don’t cut slits in the top crust. Unbaked fruit pies will keep in the freezer up to 3 months. When you’re ready to bake, unwrap and carefully cut slits in the still-frozen top crust. Do not thaw first.
- I like to place the finished filling (not in a crust) in a zip lock bag then place in a pie dish and freeze. Once frozen you take the frozen mixture out of the pan and easily stack many frozen filling.
- When you remove the pan place the frozen fruit in a second bag to prevent freezer burn. Just place the frozen fruit in your fresh pie crust and continue as before.
- When you want to bake your complete frozen pie, place in a pie crust then transfer it straight from the freezer to a hot oven. By not defrosting them first, you are protecting them against sogginess because the crust starts to bake and firm up before the fruit begins to give off juices.
- When you use frozen fruit with a fresh dough bake or with the entire pie is frozen bake at 425°F for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375°F and bake 30 to 45 minutes longer or until crust is golden brown and juice begins to bubble through the slit.
- Protect the crust with foil or pie guard because the frozen pie will be baking a little longer and the edges will get over dark.
- **Do not forget that a frozen Pyrex may crack when it hits the high heat so allow it to thaw slightly before baking.
- Freeze your pie uncovered for several hours, then placing them in the freezer bags.
- If you want to freeze a baked pie, wrap it in a double layer of foil before placing it in the freezer. When you want to serve the pie, unwrap and thaw it at room temperature for about 3 hours. Then bake the pie at 425 degrees F for about 15 minutes to give it a fresh, crisp flavor.
- How to freeze custard pies filling and the pie shell. The best way to freeze custard style pies, for example, pumpkin, or chocolate, and other custard style pies, prepare the mixture as normal, then place custard mixture in a clean, airtight container and put it in the coldest part of your freezer. If allowed to sit even overnight in the refrigerator, the pumpkin can start to ferment, thickening the custard and eventually giving it a sour flavor.
- Put the custard and crust together at the last moment. The day before you are planning to bake the pie, pull it from the freezer; allow to thaw in the refrigerator, not at room temperature. The next day, blind bake the pie shell and then add the filling and finish baking.
Pie Crust Recipe – How to Make Flaky Butter Pie Crust Presented by Allrecipes
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