Category Archives: Pie Crust & Pastry

My Signature Crust

I know that I’ve written about the importance of pie pastry before, but I have found a new signature crust and it is buttery, flaky, a little salty, and a fantastic foil to the sweet pie filling (of course, it is perfect for quiches and pot pies, too). If you haven’t found yours, I recommend Martha Stewart’s Pate Brisee. She uses a food processor, but I use my awesome KitchenAid stand mixer because I have an awesome KitchenAid stand mixer and it works just fine.  I have adapted her recipe to suit me.

Petunia’s Perfect Pie Pastry

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
¼ cup ice water

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter bit by bit and mix at the slowest speed until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, 1-2 minutes.

Continue mixing, and slowly add ice water, about 1 tablespoon at a time until dough forms larger clumps and holds together without being wet or sticky.

Divide dough into two balls. Flatten each ball into a disc and wrap in waxed paper. Chill in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Roll out dough between two sheets of waxed paper. You want a 12-inch circle, about the width of the waxed paper. Return to refrigerator or freezer for a few minutes to let the dough rest and chill. You will want the dough cold and stiff if you are going to do lattice work or cut-outs. Peel off one side of the waxed paper and center into the pie plate. Remove waxed paper and gently press dough into pan. Trim any excess dough and crimp edges as desired. Place back into freezer for a few minutes. Cold dough is key to flaky pastry.

Now, the rest of the pastry story will differ for each pie, single- or double-crust, so carefully read the recipe for details.

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You Can Have Cookies for Crust

The topic of pies came up the other night while sharing beers with friends. (I know, right? How random. Pie.) And someone mentioned they don’t like pastry pie crust, but they do like cookie crusts. I started thinking about all of the cookies I could use for crusts. Mmm…. Cookies.

I made an Oreo crust for the Grasshopper Pie. And a— wait a minute. Oh my! Look at all of these OREO pie recipes!! I’m so easily distracted by pie and recipes….

I’ll have to check that out later because I want to talk about how easy cookie crusts really are. Plus they are delicious. Graham crackers are the classic. I think my sister uses some kind of almond cookie for her awesome cheesecake, and that would make a delicious pie crust, too. I used a package of Pepperidge Farms shortbread cookies for a Mandarin Orange Cheesecake Pie (recipe TK!) a few weeks ago, and that was darn tasty.

I noticed that a lot of the older cookbooks recommend Zweibacks as a cookie to crumble for a crust. Man, I loved those teething biscuits. Seriously. Crunchy goodness. Sounds kind of odd for a crumb crust, though. Maybe it’s just me.

A few cookies I recommend are Anna’s Thins (any flavor, but ginger rocks), LU’s le Petit Beurres, and, most importantly, Jules Destrooper‘s Almond Thins or Butter Crumbles. Yumness right there.

The basic recipe is about 2 cups of cookie crumbs and 2-4 tbs butter, melted. You may need more butter if the crumbs feel too dry. Depending on the size of the cookie an your pie plate, you may use 12-24 cookies. You can either use a food processor, or put the cookies in a Ziploc bag and smack the heck out of them with a rolling pin. That’s how I like to do it. With a rolling pin. Trust me.

Mix the crumbs and melted butter together and press into a pie plate.  You can cover with plastic wrap and press a smaller pie plate into the crust to get it even. Or you can use the bottom of a glass to do the same thing. Just make sure that you press the crumbs evenly on the bottom and up the sides. Bake for 8 minutes in a preheated 350° oven and let cool on a wire rack before filling. There’s your crust.

I have seen recipes, like this one for Nabisco’s FAMOUS® Chocolate Wafer crust, that add sugar to the crumbs and butter. More sugar? I don’t think it’s necessary.  (So I have to point this out, but does Nabisco own the rights to shouting “FAMOUS!!” or just the word FAMOUS in all caps? Weird. Oh, shit! I probably owe them money now.)

That’s pretty much it. Go ahead and have yo’ cookie crust!

Any questions?

Easy as Pie Pastry for the Pie-tard

After playing with many different recipes for pie pastry, I have finally figured out one that is absolutely fool-proof. Meaning even a klutz like me can cut out pretty shapes, make an awesome fluted edge, and even achieve the dreaded lattice top.

I realized that the key is adding a whole egg to the dough. That will hold it together.  All of my preview pie pastry tips apply. Cold, ice cold, baby. Keep the dough cold, let it rest, do not add too much water or overwork the dough.

Now, you can either go with Crisco or butter, but you know that I am going to tell you BUTTAH is best. The flavor is outstanding. And I don’t do butter-flavored Crisco, but have at it if you like it.

This one is for you, LivingLearninEating. Good luck!

Easy as Pie Pastry

2¾ cups all-purpose flour

2 sticks cold butter (real, unsalted), cut into small bits

1 whole egg, slightly beaten

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

1 tbs lemon juice

3-5 tbs ice water

Measure flour, salt, and sugar in a large mixing bowl. You can mix by hand, using a pastry cutter, or a stand mixer. Your choice. Mix the dry ingredients together then toss in the cut up butter. Coat butter with flour before mixing. Mix until it resembles coarse crumbs. Beat an egg with a fork and add to dough. Add lemon juice and mix to incorporate.  Add ice water 1 tbs at a time until dough begins sticking together. Form two balls of dough and flatten slightly into a disc between waxed paper or plastic wrap. Let chill in refrigerator for at least an hour.

Please refer to my original pie pastry post for more details on rolling, rolling, rolling.

Let's do this!

More Pie Pastry

Dear Piary,

I am sorry for leaving you for so long. You see, I’ve been writing, you know, by hand, in an actual journal. I think it’s pretty cool to have real pen-to-paper documentation of my pies, my baking trials and tribulations. Handwritten recipes. How novel, right? (Now, go take a look at my friend Anna’s new blog about a recipe box that magically appeared in her life.) Writing recipes by hand. Call me old fashioned but I kind of like the art of the handwritten recipe. And pen pals and postcards and books without an E. But I digress.

This is about pie and my recipes (also available handwritten, some on cute cards, which reminds me that I need to find more recipe cards and cute aprons and cool pie plates, *le sigh*) and my photos of said pies.

While I haven’t been blogging about my pies, I have been baking and documenting my pies, so I have backlog of pie to tell you about. Some happy, some sad, most of them very delicious. (I have issues with my pies looking pretty, which I will get into later because pie really should not make you cry.)

Since my original post about pastry I have tried an all butter (yes! more buttah!) crust that has a fancy name, pate brisee. It is exceptional. Please, by all means, experiment with different crusts. It’s all about experimentation to find the right pastry for the right pie, really. I’ve been having both grand and frustrating times with my pies. Horrible. I haven’t waned to talk about it. But now I’m in the right place to share them with you. *deep breath*

After the success of my first amazing pastry, I had the most frustrating pie pastry problem. My first pie dough was made by hand and the second one I made was my first attempt with my new KitchenAid Artisan stand mixer. One of the best gifts ever.

Yes, I'm pimping my bunny with my new mixer. Boo ya!

Behold the power of the mixer! The thing is a beast and it mixes the dough very quickly. I think I may have worked it too long and/or added too much water because it was very moist and crumbly. Living in such humid climes isn’t helpful, either. It was really hard to handle and this was the time I decided I would attempt my first lattice top. All together now: FAIL!

It was too soft. It was sticky. It was an all-around unpleasant experience but I wouldn’t quit. Yes, that’s what I said.

I somehow got it into the pan and in the oven. It baked up more like a crumble than a pie. The slices just fell apart. I tried not to cry. It tasted delicious, though. Very tasty pastry, indeed, but it did not make for a pretty, picture-perfect pie. This is where I shouldn’t sweat the small stuff, right? But I want my pie to be PRETTY!

Like this one. xo

Made with fresh local, organic peaches and a whole lotta buttah!

Look at this delicious peach pie with a sort-of lattice top! Fresh out of the oven and still bubbling. I hope this pie slices nicely, unlike the two failed pies I mentioned above. OK, I’m exaggerating. They were not complete fails since they were absolutely delicious. Blackberry and Blueberry-Nectarine, since I know you are dying to know. I think taste counts for a lot more than looks, right?

EDIT: Here is a slice of my most perfect peach pie. Off the charts delicious.

Peach Pie a la mode

My most perfect pie slice yet. Pretty and delicious!

Well, let’s carry on and talk about pies.

Flaky Like Me

Pie pastry needs butter for flavor and shortening for flakiness. Pastry dough needs to chill and relax, so yes, I’m going to say it: Your pastry must chillax. Be gentle with your dough. Pie pastry is tricky. It needs to be kept at the perfect temperature and handled with care. The dough cannot be too wet or too dry. Conditions must be perfect for dough to give you what you want: a delicious, buttery, flaky, golden crust.

I promised that I would tell you all about my pie disasters, and I will, but I want to start with a success. Pie perfection. I’m talking tiara, sash, and pageant tears perfection. Right off the blocks. (I’m a swimmer, I say “off the blocks” rather than “out of the blocks,” so, whatever.) The pie I needed to be perfect baked up perfectly. But before I can even tell you about the perfect pie, I need to start with the perfect crust.

I did a lot of research to find the perfect pie pastry. Duh, I’m a librarian! I am keeping a bibliography of resources I like (lists! I love lists!) and will create a tab just for that. If you can only check out three books today, these are the ones you should get. Now, I am telling you to go to your public library to check out the books. Do not buy them. Once you check out several pie cookbooks and find the one that you like, then you can ride your bike to your local independent bookseller to buy it. Peace, love, and pies, man. Peace, love, and pies.

  1. Baking with Julia is a fantastic reference for the beginning baker. Not really pie-heavy, but an excellent primer for pastry and full of drool-worthy recipes and delicious photographs. (You can find Julia’s pie pastry tips on the PBS website. And if you like public television, make a donation while you’re there.)
  2. Ken Haedrich’s book Pie: 300 tried-and-true recipes for delicious homemade pie is a big book. That’s a lot of pie. I like Ken and I like his style. (Shhhhh! Don’t tell, but you can find the perfect pastry tips and more on Google books.)
  3. Mrs. Rowe’s Little Book of Southern Pies is pretty cute and a nice reference for a “Southern” girl like me. Yes, it’s a joke. I was born in South Florida, but now live in North Florida, which is the “Southern” part of the state. It’s South Georgia, really. I love grits and bake pies. That’s Southern enough.  (Take a peek at her basic tips on Amazon.)

From my extensive research and limited experience, I can honestly tell you that this is the easiest and tastiest pie crust you can have in your recipe box. I agree with Julia Child that “heaven forbid” you should have just one pie pastry recipe, this would be it. This is my variation of Julia’s Flaky Pie Dough from Baking with Julia.

This recipe will make four 9-inch shells or two double-crusts. I halved it the first time just to make sure I liked it. It is perfect, so now I make the big batch and freeze the two or three balls I don’t use. Tee hee! It is so much work to get all of the ingredients out and measure and then put everything away, that it saves time to mix up a bigger batch of dough. So there you go.

Did you read Julia’s tips? I’m serious, now. Make sure the water is ice cold. Put the shortening in the freezer and the butter in the fridge. Keep the dough cold. Let it rest. It takes patience for perfection. I promised my Canadian photographer friend that I would give her my perfect pie crust recipe and this is it.

2 ½ cups pastry flour (unbleached, organic, or what you prefer)

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour (unbleached, organic, or what you prefer)

1 tbs kosher salt

1 ½ sticks cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes and kept cold (REAL BUTTAH!)

1 ¾ cups solid vegetable shortening, cut into cubes and kept cold (Crisco sticks, or whatever you like)

1 cup ice water

Now it is up to you to decide if you are going to do it by hand or with a mixer. I did it by hand until my pie taster gave me a beautiful KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer. {cue Heavenly Angels singing} The mixer works really quickly. Doing it by hand gives your arms a good workout. (Yes, that is what I said.) You can use a pastry blender or two knives, or you can just use your fingertips. Whatever you choose, do not overwork your dough. Keep it cool and let it rest.

Are you measuring properly? Do not scoop the flour, spoon the flour.

Spooning the flour into your cups gives you perfect measurements

Once you measure and mix your flour and salt, toss the butter cubes in and cover them in flour before you begin to cut them into the flour.

Toss your butter cubes in the flour to coat before mixing

You want to achieve coarse crumbs. Do not let the butter get warm.

Coarse crumbs achieved by magic fingers

Cut in the shortening next, the same as you did the butter, working to achieve small clumps.

Ooooh! Coarser crumbs achieved with a little forking

Add the ice water 1 tbs at a time, mixing just to incorporate. You want the dough moist, not wet.

How cold is my water? ICE COLD!

You may not need all the water and that is OK. Once the dough really starts clinging to itself, it is ready.

Oh, that feels nice and moist

Gently form into a ball and halve. Halve those two balls and gently pat into a small round and wrap in plastic wrap.

Wrapped and ready to chill

Refrigerate the dough you are using and freeze the rest. Refrigerated dough should be used within a week; the frozen dough will keep 6 months if wrapped properly. Let the dough chill for at least an hour before rolling.

I like to roll the dough out between two sheets of lightly floured waxed paper.

Ready to rock and roll

Roll out the dough to the width of the paper for a 12-inch circle. Be gentle. Keep the dough cold. I keep returning the dough to the freezer to let it rest. While the dough rests, I clean up the kitchen and have a beer. Beer, rolling, freezing, cleaning. You get it. I like a clean kitchen and a cold beer.

I’ve tried all methods but I prefer to roll the dough around my rolling pin and place it into the pie plate.

Let's do this!

Easy as pie. Gently press the dough into the pie plate and trim around the edges leaving enough overlap to crimp into a pretty crust. Keep the scraps to decorate a double-crust. (This is where I got busy with my crust and forgot to take photos. Photos to come with next pie, I promise.) Now it’s time to put that baby in the freezer to rest for about 10-15 minutes.

And this is the time when I leave you. Wha-hat?!?! Why would I abandon you now? Because you need to figure out what kind of pie you are going to bake. Some pies require blind-baking and pie weights, others need an egg wash, plus there are variations of crimping to discuss. It gets complicated and this post is already way too long. Besides, you need to study the materials I gave you before you attempt that crust. A pie pastry fail is totally discouraging. We want pie perfection.

~Peace, love, and pies