Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Pie Crust Wars - Steve's Technique - Flakiest Crust Ever!

First let me say that everyone in the Foodie Family has their own technique, and everyone, especially Cindy, makes an outstanding, flaky Pie Crust. In my humble opinion, however, my crust is by far the best. The reason, as you will see below, is that by using large, hazelnut size cubes of very cold butter, and adding an activator of vinegar (acid is what is critical and you won't taste it) and baking powder the crust pops and flakes while baking much more than mushy old Crisco which some misguided folks insist upon. The following technique comes from the November issue of Saveur magazine - an excellent cooking magazine - because it is a good description and saves me a bunch of typing. If you go to the article, however, you will notice I have made several CRITICAL adjustments to the recipe:

Ingredients for Steve's Flaky Pie Crust

13 oz. of all purpose white, unbleached flour (ALWAYS WEIGH FLOUR) this is about 2 1/2 cups but may be more or less depending on how packed your flour is, etc - measuring flour by volume can result in errors of up to 40% in a recipe!

2 1/2 sticks of unsalted organic butter Cold and cut into 1/4 inch cubes - the little cold cubes should be about the size of a hazelnut (forget about that pea size stuff you have heard)

scant 1/2 cup ice cold water: should be a full 1/2 cup after the following ingredients added to it:

1/2 egg - whisk a whole egg and discard half

1/2 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice

1 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons fine Kosher salt

Saveur Technique descriptions with Steve's modifications:
For many People, a light, flaky pie crust can seem like an elusive grail, but following a few simple principles can make that goal a whole lot easier to achieve. Foremost among those is keeping the ingredients cold. Doing so not only makes the dough easier to handle; it helps ensure a toothsome crust. Of prime importance is the use of cold, hardened butter because it disperses into the flour more evenly, promoting the creation of tiny pockets of steam during baking, which, in turn, create layers in the crust. It's not enough to start with chilled butter, though; you have to keep it cold as you work the dough. Using ice-cold water and working quickly on a cool marble work surface help accomplish this; so does chilling the dough once it's made (this also has the advantage of relaxing the gluten that makes a dough tough). Below are our instructions for a flaky pie crust.

1. Mix flour and fine salt into a mound on a marble surface; toss all the cubes of chilled butter.

2. Rub and pinch butter into flour with fingers to coat butter pieces evenly, forming small, flat smears of hazelnut sized four coated butter.

3. Create a well in the center of the butter–flour mixture; add 1 cup ice water; mix together with hands.
4. Knead a few times till dough forms a smooth mass - it is possible you may have to add a little extra cold water if it doesn't come together. DON"T OVERKNEAD.

5. Pull away walnut-size pieces of dough and smear them with the heel of your hand (this technique, called fraisage, helps produce flaky layers).

6. Form flattened pieces into a ball. Halve dough ball, form into 2 disks, and wrap separately in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 2 hours.

7. Roll a floured rolling pin from the center of one of the dough pieces to the edge, rotating the dough, little by little, until circle is 1⁄8" thick. Should be 3 inch's bigger than your pie pan. Do this on a floured surface and don't roll over the edges. Leave a bump in the middle till you are near done to allow enough dough to roll out in whatever direction you need to make a round crust. A well enough floured surface and constant small rotations of the crust will make it easy to get a round crust.

8. Carefully wrap dough around the rolling pin and lift pin over the edge of the pie pan. Gently unroll dough over the pan.

9 Add filling of choice; roll out second dough piece. Brush pie rim with water; unroll second dough sheet over pie as shown in step 8.

10. Press down on rim lightly to adhere top crust to bottom one; trim off excess dough with a paring knife. Fold edges under to form a thick edge.

11. Crimp edge of crust by placing two fingers on the crust's outside rim while placing one finger on the inside and pressing outward to form a V - see picture above
Note: NO KITCHENAIDES/MIXERS, USE YOUR CLEAN HANDS AND WORK QUICKLY TO JUST MIX AS INDICATED. Tough dough frequently comes from over mixing - also from not enough fat so follow my proportions.

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