Fool Proof Pie Crust Tips for the Pastry Impaired

Fool Proof Pie Crust Tips for the Pastry Impaired

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Whoz Deez Guys?This photo comes from my breakfast table.  When my granddaughter was about 3 or so, she was sitting there, munching away and quietly contemplating this weirdly dressed couple.  After a few minutes, she turned to us and said, “Whoz deez guys?”  It cracks us up, every time I drag them out of the Thanksgiving bins.

The blog group I “belong to” tells me I need to be building my number of followers.  Who am I, Jesus?

If you are new to pastry, just starting out or just intimidated by the entire thing, I’m going to give you some really easy, simple steps.  Then, you can nail it, too.

My inspiration has come from the result of watching all 4 seasons of “The Great British Baking Show” 3 times (to date, that is.  There very well may be more re-runs in my future.)

One thing I’ve taken away from that show is: If you really want to work with pastry, you’ve got to spend half of your time running back and forth to the fridge or freezer.  There’s a reason for this!

I can’t even believe how many times in my life I have totally blown pie crust.

When I was young and just starting to learn to cook, I took one look at a pie crust recipe and decided I had to change it up, a bit.  (Not much has changed in the past 40 years).  Surely, the crust would stick to the pan, right?

So, I buttered the pie plate before putting in my crust.  I can’t remember what kind of mess I ended up with, but I do remember it wasn’t pretty.

My daughter-in-law is quite a baker, who used to run her own café.  I asked her for a recipe for pie crusts.

At the end of it, she had written, “5 for thin, 4 for regular.”  I didn’t know what the heck THAT was supposed to mean, so, typically, I just ignored it and plowed on.  No, it didn’t occur to me to ask her.

When it came time to eat that pie, the crust was so thick, we could barely swallow.  So, so awful.  She asked me how many pie crusts I got out of the recipe.  Flash!  Suddenly, I got what she’d meant by “5 for thin….”  Yeah.  Instead of making the dough into 4 or 5 crusts, I’d made it into …. Two.  Sigh.

But not this year!  I am a virtual graduate of “The Great British Baking Show.”  I’ve got this down!

Here’s my newest pie crust recipe and, as long as you follow it exactly, I believe it’s fool-proof.  And coming from me, that’s something!  It makes 2 single crust pies or one, with a second disk to roll out and use for cut-outs, to decorate with.  Or it would make one double crust pie.  None of this cryptic “5 for thin” stuff goin’ on here.

Test Kitchen Piecrust

This makes enough dough for 1 double-crusted or 2 single-crusted 9 to 10 inch pies.

2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces, divided

2 ½ c. all purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. sugar (omit if this is for quiche)

½ c. ice water

Lay out three-quarters of the butter pieces on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze until hard, at least 30 minutes.  Refrigerate the remaining butter.

Combine flour, salt and sugar in a food processor.  Add refrigerated butter and pulse to combine, about 10 times.

Add frozen butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with some blueberry size clumps.

Add ice water and immediately pulse until water is JUST incorporated, about 10 times.  Squeeze a small amount of dough to make sure it holds together.  Pulse a few more times, if needed.

Lay out two pieces of plastic wrap.  Empty half of dough onto each piece.  Bring edges of wrap together to gather dough.  Press into round disks.

Roll out disks, still wrapped in plastic, to ½ inch-thick rounds (8 inches in diameter).

Wrap again well with plastic wrap, and put in your freezer bags to keep, until you’re ready to make your crusts, up to one month.  Or store in the fridge, if you’ll be rolling these out within a week.

Thanksgiving Pie Crust with Oak leavesIf you don’t have a food processor, here is a link to a Cuisinart on Amazon.  I have had only two in 33 years.  The first was just too small, once all the kids started arriving (in our lives, that is; not at the house!).  Mine is the 14 cup Cuisinart and I love it  Here’s the Amazon link.

Here is a photo of my pie crusts from last year.  Looks to me like I should’ve pulsed a few more times – those butter chunks are too big!  (yet another thing not to do, learned from me!)  I ordered these cute little leaf cookie cutters on Amazon and I think they’re adorable.  Here’s the Amazon link, if you’re so inclined.

My cutting board is right next to the stovetop.  My oven is warm, and I automatically just put my baking sheet (destined for my cute little cut-outs) right on top of the warm oven.  NO, NO, NO!!!!  Heat RUINS PASTRY.  Remember, you’re going to be sprinting back and forth between your counter and fridge, especially if you’re doing a little bit of extra decorating on your cut-outs.  Any time you’re working with dough, unless you’re EXTREMELY fast, you’re going to want to pause and put the cookie sheet (or pie plate) back in the fridge to cool, from time to time.  In this house, this is not really a problem for me, unless I have the oven on.  My back wing right this very minute is 56°.  No, I’m not kidding.

Ok, here we go.

Take your pie dough disc out of the fridge for about 20 minutes.  Now, flour your work surface really well.  Unwrap your disk and sprinkle the top with flour.  It doesn’t take much on top, but a little bit will prevent the plastic wrap from clinging to it, after you’re done rolling.  Now, on top of the disc, place TWO long pieces of plastic wrap.  Lie one vertically, and then put the second one, horizontally.  If you want, you can continue to put two more pieces in an “X” shape, too.  That will help when you get a circle, rather than a square.

Ok, roll out.  You can just roll away from yourself and back again, and then turn the dough.  Every time you turn the dough (with the plastic wrap on it), take a peek underneath and see if your cutting board needs more flour.  If so, give a little sprinkle.  If your sprinkling isn’t completely even, just use your hand to smooth the flour out.  Keep rolling and turning, until your crust is nice and thin.  Don’t worry about it being a perfect circle, at this point.

Pick up the plastic wrap, with the dough attached, and carefully lift the entire thing and lay it in your pie plate.  Now, with the plastic wrap still on there, use your fingers to fit the crust into the pie plate, so that it fills the bottom and sides of your pie plate nicely.  You’re not decorating, yet!!  At this point, the pastry will be hanging over the sides of your pie plate.

Once you like how the pastry is sitting in the pie plate, you can try to remove the plastic.  If it’s sticking to the pastry, don’t freak out.  Just put the entire thing, plastic wrap included, in the fridge for 10 or 15 minutes.

Now, remove the pie plate from your fridge and place back on your work space.  Try and carefully peel off all of the plastic wrap.

If you’re going to crimp the crust, take your scissors and trim the overhanging pastry, about an inch or so.  Or you can take a small knife and CAREFULLY start going around the edge of the pie plate, trimming with downward strokes, a little at a time.  This is what you’ll want to do, if you’re going to make cookie cutter cut-outs for decorating with.  The easiest of all options is to just trim and then use a fork to make hash marks all around the edge.

If, at any time, your pastry is getting warm, just stick it back in the fridge for 10 minutes.  Don’t throw away your leftover dough!  One advantage of using plastic wrap, rather than flour, is that the pastry will not be all floury.  Therefore, it will re-form into a nice little disc.  Put this in plastic wrap and stick in the fridge.

The same tricks apply, if you want to use your second disc for cut-out decorations.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment and, after you’ve rolled out the dough, move the dough (with the plastic wrap) onto the lined cookie sheet.  Return to fridge for 10 minutes.  Or longer, if you’ve got to get the kids from the bus stop.  As long as it’s cold, pastry is actually pretty forgiving.  You can wait until they’re all in bed tonight, if you have enough energy left by then to feel creative.  You don’t want to try and cut out pastry that is frozen – it’s too hard to cut through.  The fridge is fine.

Take the pastry out of the fridge, and transfer it to a lightly floured work surface.  Use your little cookie cutters to cut out shapes, and move them, one by one, back onto the cold parchment paper.  When you’re done, stick the cookie sheet back into the fridge.  Once again, save all the pastry dough trimmings.  Gather them up in some plastic wrap, and press to form a disc.  Add this to the disc that’s already in the fridge for later use.  Wrap the disc in plastic wrap, label a freezer bag, and pop it into the freezer for later use.  Or you can store it in the fridge for about a week, if you think you’ll be using it that soon.

After 10 or so minutes, you can haul those babies out of the fridge and use your tiny paring knife to make some scoring marks, if you like (for veins on the leaves, for example).  Back into the fridge.

After a few minutes, bring out the pastry that has been trimmed, as well as the little decorations.  None of this should be frozen solid, just refrigerated.

Get a tiny amount of water and a pastry brush.  Put a very minor dab of water on the edge of the crust and grab your cut-out, pressing the bottom of it down into the edge of the pie crust.  Dab the “bottom” of your cut-out with a TINY amount of water, press your second cut-out, which will cover up the bottom of the first cut-out.  Continue all the way around your crust.  If the pastry starts getting too soft and hard to work with – you’ve got it – both the pie crust and the cut-outs go back into the fridge.  When you’ve finally gotten all the way around and your pie is gorgeous, now stick it in the freezer, uncovered.  Let your decorated pie crust freeze overnight or until rock solid.  Then take it out and loosely wrap in several layers of plastic wrap.  If you have a big enough freezer bag, you can then carefully place your frozen pie crust into that, to boot.

When it comes time to fill your crust with pumpkin pie mix or quiche, leave it in the freezer until the very last minute.

You don’t want your pie crust melting all over the oven floor (like mine did, one year).  And put your pie crust on a cookie sheet to bake, just as insurance.

You shouldn’t have any problem with melting pie crust decorations if you follow my advice.

If your decorations are getting browner than you like, when you’re baking your pie or quiche, you can always use either aluminum or silicone edge protectors.  Here’s a link to mine on Amazon: . They are adjustable, so make sure you loosely fit them to your particular pie crust pan BEFORE it comes time to put your protectors on.  That will usually be 10 minutes or so before your pie is done, and you don’t want to have to be messing around with adjusting them, at that point.

I’ve just now been at my cutting board, happily using my cute little cookie cutters for my quiche for the day after Thanksgiving.  Suddenly, I looked down and, rather than having cut out some mini pumpkins, I had actually been cutting out apples!  This would be fine, if I were serving apple pie.  I’m not.

Ha ha.  I just went into the bathroom to go pee.  There’s Leo (the cat, duh) drinking out of the toilet.  Well, he was accommodating enough to jump down and let me to my own devices.  I flushed and washed up.  Then I peeked back in, to see what he’d do next.  First, he stared at the toilet until the noise had died down.  Then he turned his head a couple of times, to see if I was coming back in.  Satisfied that I was gone, up he jumped.

When all of us kids had grown up and moved out, my mother was a widow, living alone with her cat.  One night she got up to go to the bathroom and there, sitting on her open toilet seat, was the cat.  Going pee.  So, she just stood there and waited it out, until she got her turn. Cats are weird, but when you think about it, people are even weirder.

Tip du Jour: Thought I’d pass on a word to the wise.  I have this marble rolling pin that I scored from Goodwill back in the day.  It weighs about 10 pounds, I swear.  And I do love it.  The other day I had it out, to use on my uber-thin Grilled Pizzas.  Well, I sort of forgot that every countertop in this entire house is as crooked as a dog’s hind leg.  So, while I was bustling around the kitchen, preparing my toppings, I neglected to notice that the rolling pin was slowly but surely making its way toward the edge of the counter.  One moment, I’m standing near the counter, minding my own business, and the next minute I’ve got a 10 pound rolling pin landing smack dab on my very delicate foot bones.  OUCH!!!!  Something to keep in mind, whether you have a rickety old house or not.

I hope I’ve helped a few of those other pastry-challenged people out there.

Cheers!  Vicky


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