by Buck Reed
Perfect Pie Crust
If the kitchen were a concert hall, then cooking and baking would be very different music. Cooking would be Rock and Roll, in that it is based on musical talent that has no real or consistent structure. There are rules but not really written in stone. But if we look at baking, we would compare it to opera. Opera is pure structure with standardized music and very structured voices for the various parts. Where you can get away with cheating a technique or substituting out an ingredient or two in cooking, you really cannot do the same with baking. Baking calls for specific ingredients that are measured out and combined in a very specific way. We call this technique, and this is the mantra of baking!
When making pie dough, we are looking at Pate Brise and Sucre, as well as 1-2-3 dough. As far as technique, they are exactly the same. All you are doing is combining your fat with the dry ingredients by cutting them together so that the fat looks like little pea shapes surrounded by dry ingredients. Then, you gently mix in the wet ingredients to make a dough with the dry ingredients that has streaks of fat in it. Do not overmix the dough. Form it into a ball, wrap it up, and let it stay in the refrigerator for about an hour.
When you roll it out, the dough will form layers of dough separated by fat. As it bakes, structure will form with the dough, but as the fat melts, it will become flakey in texture.
Ingredients are also an important factor in making pie dough:
Dry – All Purpose Flour is all I have ever used to make pie dough, and I have always had good results. Some recipes will call for sugar to be added.
Fat – Shortening or butter are usually called for, but lard is said to be the best choice.
Wet – Water would be the main ingredient, but some recipes might call for milk and some might call for eggs. Also, a half a splash of vinegar can be added to your liquid as it will help stop the formation of gluten, which will make your crust tough. Also, that’s probably how your grandma did it and you don’t want to argue with grandma! Another rule is to make sure your wet ingredients are as cold as possible when you mix them with the dry/fat ingredients.
If you follow these easy steps and use the proper ingredients, you will find success in your baked products. And once you master this technique, you can make not only any pie dough, but biscuits and cobblers as well.