Pie-thagorean Theorems

July 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

I do actually have a couple of recipes to post for Tasty Tuesdays, but there have been some photography issues (namely, that I keep neglecting to take the photographs). So I thought today we could talk about pie crust. Because I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I loves me some pie (and also other things made with pie crust). There are all different sorts of crusts, from cookie crumb crusts to pate brisee, but the basic crust I nearly always use is a simple all-butter crust (“all-butter” refers to the type of fat — there’s still flour and liquid involved). I nearly always use it because it’s easy, I almost always have the ingredients on hand, and it’s super easy to customize. For instance, when I make pecan pie, I put a little cinnamon and nutmeg into the crust. When I make savory pies, I often put a little garlic powder in. When I made the peach galette, I put a little brown sugar in the crust. But the basic crust is this (it’s basically the same as the one for the galette, only without the sugar and doubled, because you can always freeze the extra crust if you only need a single):



  • 1 c. butter, cold and cubed
  • 3 c. flour
  • 7-8 tablespoons ice water or chilled liquor


In a food processor, pulse together the flour and butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add in sugar and pulse once more. Begin adding water/liquor 1 Tbsp at a time until 5 Tbsp have been added, pulsing as you go. Now add the water/liquor about 1 tsp at a time, stopping when the mixture just comes together. Turn out onto plastic wrap and form into a disc. Chill to firm, about 15 minutes.

There are two super important things here:

  •  Don’t overprocess.
  •  The butter and the liquid need to be COLD.

The second thing is easy…just pop everything in the freezer. How long you need to leave it in there depends on the day and what you’re starting with. You don’t want things actually frozen, but you want them as close as possible. Not overprocessing, though, is an art. You do need to get everything combined, but you need to stop immediately after. And often — especially before you start adding the liquid — it’s hard to tell if you’ve done that. Once you start adding the liquid, what you’re looking for is this:

This is even maybe a wee bit overprocessed.

You want it to just barely be holding together. When you dump it and form it into a disc, you’re going to smush it together a little but again, remember that you want to work it as little as possible so be gentle. Toss it in the fridge for about 30 minutes. If you need to leave it in longer, that’s fine, but you may need to let it warm up just a bit in order to be able to work it in that case.

My very favorite new tip is one I shared with you on the galette post: parchment paper!

Put the disc between two sheets of lightly floured parchment paper and roll to your heart’s content.

No muss, no fuss!

Once you’ve got it rolled out, peel off the top layer of parchment paper and fold the crust (just the crust, not the remaining paper) into quarters. Plop it into your pie plate, unfold, and trim. Note that if you are doing a double crust, you’re better off waiting to trim until you’ve got the second crust on (and in that case, I like to just fold it up like a galette around the edges, because pie crust = NOM).

A word on using liquor instead of water in your crust. I have seen this tip all over the place and frankly, I’m not really fan. I do like to use dark rum in crust for a pecan pie because it gives it a nice flavor, but I find that my crusts made with vodka aren’t as tender as those made with plain water and also, they taste a little off. Not bad, just not quite as delicious. So I generally stick with water.

Another thing I see quite a lot of is a recommendation to make a foil shield so your crust doesn’t over brown. I’ve never had an issue with this, but then again I don’t do a lot of parbaking my crusts — I usually just pop the fillings into the raw crust and go.


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