Easy as pie: Crust has finally met its match

Lincoln Cafe’s pastry chef teaches some tricks of the trade

Published: December 12 2013 | 7:00 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 12:45 am in

The elusive pie crust.

It’s particularly perplexing during the holiday season, when many attempt their first homemade pie.

Such a venture seems like a good idea until the dough refuses to roll out properly or falls apart in the process of transferring it to the pie plate.

As a result, it looks more like a patchwork quilt than the beautiful, flaky dough.

Be honest. We have all been there.

If you haven’t, well, we kind of hate you.

To hone our pie crust making skills, we turned to Lincoln Cafe’s pastry chef, Cara Ullrich of Marion. She offered several tips and tricks for conquering the crust.

She also had this insight into why pie crust is so often a foil to the home chef:

“Anything that requires measuring and physically interacting with what you are measuring, it requires both sides of your brain to communicate. It can be really difficult where the crust is at and when you have worked it too far and what the moisture content is,” she says.

“It is very tactile. Gluten (the protein in wheat) is a beautiful thing when you are baking bread but it can be your biggest enemy in pie crust because once you have overworked the crust and have gotten the gluten working that is when it becomes tough.”

Ullrich has a trick to save an overworked pie dough, too.

Form overworked dough into a disc, wrap it up and refrigerate for a couple of hours. Grate dough with a stand grater. Drop grated dough into pie pan and press it in until the pieces come together.

“It won’t be the prettiest looking dough but it will get you a flaky crust,” Ullrich says. “If you don’t have time to make a new crust, this is a really great way to rescue you what you’ve got.”

PIE CRUST

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, cold and cubed into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup water

You’ll need these tools:

  • 9-inch pie pan
  • Silpat Non-Stick Baking Mat (In a pinch, you can use a child’s plastic place mat.)
  • Tapered rolling pin or a regular rolling pin with the handles taken off (Ullrich says the handles on the pin make it harder to feel where the dough is at and if you are rolling evenly.)
  • Plastic wrap

1. Using a food processor, pastry cutter or your fingers, work flour, sugar, salt and butter together until it is grainy and even throughout. Add egg yolks one at a time. Slowly add water until the dough holds together but is still pliable and not sticky (should feel slightly moister than play dough) (see picture BELOW). Add water until just before you think your dough is ready. If you add water until you think your dough is moist enough, you have gone too far.

2. Work with dough in its crumbly state that has not been packed into a circle and refrigerated. “Cold dough often works against you, almost guaranteeing you will overwork it,” Ullrich says. Place dough in a circle, about the size of the pie plate, on floured non-stick baking mat.

3. Place a large sheet of plastic wrap over the dough, one that is several inches larger than the dough. According to Ullrich the plastic wrap holds everything together and keeps you from having to flour your pin. Stand squarely in front of the dough, which will better ensure an evenly rolled out dough. Apply even pressure with both hands and begin rolling forward, backward and diagonally until you have rolled the dough out to an 1/8 of an inch (the height of two quarters) and it is around 10 to 11 inches around.

4. Remove plastic wrap and put rolling pin in middle of the rolled out crust. Carefully lift up the end of your non-stick mat closest to you and fold it in half over the pin. Peel off the mat, leaving the crust resting on top of the pin. Slowly lift the pie dough over the plate while holding onto the ends of the rolling pin. Starting from the part of the plate farthest away from you, gently unroll the crust onto the pie plate.

5. Hold the edges of the crust with your left hand while you use your right hand to press dough into pan.

6. Roll pin at an angle alongside the edge of the pan to score the crust and gently pull of the remaining hanging dough.

7. Crimp the crust by pinching the inside edge with the thumb and forefinger of your right hand. While doing this, push into the crust from the outside edge with a finger on your left hand. Continue around the pie.

8. Blind bake the pie by putting a piece of parchment paper over the crust, so that the paper is well over the crust. Fill completely with dried beans or rice. Bake at 400 for 15 minutes. Remove the parchment and dried rice and bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until the crust is golden. Pour in pie filling of choice.

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