Perfect Pie Crust

Making the perfect pie crust used to be intimidating. Please note, used to be. I grew up watching Food Network and was so intimated by the way the chefs would speak of the pie dough and all the ways it could go wrong. It’s too tough, it’s under baked, its over worked, it could go on and on. There were competition shows with all these grandmothers with their unique recipes and techniques on how to make their version of perfect pie crust. If you go online and search “pie crust” or “pie dough,” you get a myriad of websites that share with you their secrets. Maybe that’s how you landed on this post and I suppose this post will just be another one among thousands out there.

Yet as intimidating as it seemed, I decided to finally give it a try. Since then, pie crust has been one of those recipes I can throw together without much thought. I use it for my Earl Grey Pie, my Apple Pie, and everything in between. And every time, it comes out beautiful and perfect. I can put together a pie crust in less than 5 minutes; it takes me longer to was the dishes after than it does to make the actual dough! The reason for that is you want to handle the dough as little as possible. Work fast, and keep it cold. That is the trick to the best dough.

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To start out, measure out the water and salt in a pyrex cup. Put it in the refrigerator to lower its temperature. On a cutting board, cube the butter into small pieces. I am making four pie crusts so the quantities you see in the photos are multiplied of what you would actually use. Remember, work fast to keep the butter cold. After cubing, I often move the butter into a bowl and back into the refrigerator to get the temperature down again. While it’s in the fridge, you can measure out the flour.

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Once the temperature of butter has been lowered, use a pastry cutter to cut in the butter to the flour. I use a pastry cutter as opposed to a food processor because you have more control over the dough when you are using a pastry cutter. A food processor can easily overwork the dough.

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Here, I am about halfway into the cutting in process. The butter should become smaller pebble sized as it is being worked into the flour. Remember, work fast, and keep it cold. You don’t want to use your hands as your body temperature will melt the butter.

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Once the butter resembles small pebbles, it is time to add in the water and salt. Pour it over the flour mixture and use the pastry cutter to mix the two to form a dough.

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This is what it looks like after. As I quadrupled the recipe, I have four pie doughs (one dough ball makes two pie crusts). You can still see chunks of butter within the dough. Those chunks are what will give the crust its flakiness.

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Wrap tightly in saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours before using.

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When the dough is set, unwrap and place on a floured surface. I am using this dough for tarts.

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Roll the dough out to about 1/8 inch thick. You can slightly see the marbled pattern that the chunks of butter creates throughout the dough. Beautiful. 

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Press the dough into the molds and cut off any excess. If the dough is still cold, you can always re-roll the excess into a dough ball, refrigerate it to firm up, and roll it back out. If the dough has already reached room temperature, it will not work as well.

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Once it is in the molds or pie tin, place it back in the refrigerator to firm up again. The pie dough needs to be really cold before baking.

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Right before you put the crust into the oven, prick the bottom with a fork. This will allow for even baking and for steam to be able to escape. If you are going to fill the pie for baking, you would do so now. However, with this one, I am blind baking it.

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To blind bake the pie, cut parchment paper squares to line the inside of the pie. I find it easiest when the parchment is first crumpled into a ball, then unrolled. This will give the paper more flexibility to fit into the crust. Fill the crusts with baking beans or rice, then bake.

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When the edges are golden brown, remove the baking weights and parchment paper. Put it back into the oven for an additional 5 minutes, until the inside of the pie is also golden brown.

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Now that is how a perfect pie crust should be.

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Look at all those layers the butter has created!

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And it’s golden brown all around, even on the bottom of the tart. Once it has slightly cooled, you can remove it from the molds and used however you would like!

Perfect Pie Crust

recipe from Tartine Bakery

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 c very cold water (I placed in freezer for 5-10 min)

1 1/2 c + 1 Tbsp flour

1/2 c + 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, cubed and chilled

Dissolve salt in water and keep refrigerated until needed. With a pastry blender, cut in the butter and flour until the butter is the size of small pebbles. Work as fast as possible. Add in the water and continue to cut it into the dough until it loosely holds together. Roll it together so that it holds, wrap in saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or overnight.

When ready to use, roll the dough out onto a floured surface. Press it into the pie crust or molds, then trim off any excess. Return to the refrigerator to firm up for 5-10 minutes. Then, prick the bottom of the pie with a fork to form small holes. Line the pie crust with parchment paper and fill with pie weights. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. Remove the pie weights and parchment paper and place back into the oven for 5-10 minutes, until the inside crust is browned and dry. Use as desired.

Flaky Pie Crust

It has certainly been a hectic few weeks! I’ve been trying to finish the semester on a strong note then moved back to the Bay Area for the summer time. Between then and now, there have been so many hello’s and good-bye’s, celebrations and times of extreme frustration (and procrastination). I am glad to have finished the chapter that is junior year and begin a new one for summer. Tonight I’ll be heading to the homeland Taiwan for the next two weeks. Besides the temperature, humidity, and mosquitoes, I absolutely love and am so proud to be part of the small island.

Before I fly off, I’ve finally been able to take picture tutorials of how to make the pie crust and wanted to post the step by step pics! So many people are intimidated or don’t know where to start when it comes to making a good pie crust. The trick is to keep everything cold and to work fast. I’ve used this recipe well over 100 times and have been able to get it done in less than 10 minutes. Perhaps it is for this reason why I’ve never stopped to take the time to take photos, but that’s simply just how easy this recipe is.

To begin, cube the butter into pieces and place it into the fridge. Try not to touch it too much as the heat from your hands will begin to soften the butter. It does not have to be perfectly square cubes. I don’t know how some people get it so perfectly squared, it doesn’t matter. The goal here is smaller chunks, handled as little as possible, and to place it back into the fridge to get cold again.

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Then comes the water. I just fill a pyrex measuring cup with water, add in the salt, stir, then add in ice cubes to get it extra cold. Place in the fridge.

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Measure out the flour into a sifter and place it into the freezer, then wait a few minutes. In the meantime, grab your bowl and pastry cutter.

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After a few minutes, take everything out. Sift the flour into a large bowl and dump the butter in.

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With a  pastry cutter and a downward almost squishing motion, cut the butter into the flour so the butter cubes break up into smaller pieces. Stop when the butter cubes are pea sized and be careful not to over do this. Larger chunks of butter will create a flakier crust.

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It should now look like this.

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Next, scoop out the ice, measure out and pour the water in.

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Continue to use the pastry cutter to cut into the dough until it begins to clump together. Do not over do it.

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When it looks like it is coming together, turn the dough out onto a clean surface and shape it into a disk. Wrap tightly in saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight.

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This dough can be used for pie crust, tarts, sweet or savory, it is phenomenal. Hope this makes it easier and less intimidating!

Flaky Pie Crust

recipe from Tartine Bakery

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 c very cold water (I placed in freezer for 5-10 min)

1 1/2 c + 1 Tbsp flour

1/2 c + 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, cubed and chilled

Dissolve salt in water and keep refrigerated until needed. With a pastry blender, cut in the butter and flour until it forms large crumbs. Add in the water and continue to cut it into the dough until it loosely holds together. Roll it together so that it holds, wrap in sarane wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Berry Fruit Tart

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I love a good match made in heaven, especially when it uses two already beautiful components to create something even better. And I am talking about food here, and more specifically, pastry cream and a good flaky pie crust to create a fruit tart. Traditionally, most fruit tarts are made with a sweet shortbread crust but I decided to use my go to pie crust recipe that I previously used to make blueberry tartlets. This recipe creates the most delicate pie crust layers. Just look at all the layers!!

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But aside from the perfect matrimony of the two and the beautiful layers in between, I wanted to make something for a friend who I have been blessed to come to know. She is a pastor at another church, but despite the different denominations, the different cultures and maybe even some different view points within our faith, I love that we love the same God and can still come together to share with each other. I have been already so blessed by her, her amazing ministry, and her friendship even though I don’t go to her church! So excited to see God’s Kingdom advance through her ministry and am blessed by her friendship.

Photo Jan 02, 9 37 59 PM

Flaky Pie Crust

recipe from Tartine Bakery

1 tsp salt

2/3 c very cold water (I placed in freezer for 5-10 min)

3 c + 2 Tbsp flour

1 c + 5 Tbsp unsalted butter, cubed and chilled

Dissolve salt in water and keep refrigerated until needed. In a food processor, pulse the butter and flour until it forms large crumbs. Slowly add in water while pulsing, until it loosely holds together. Roll it together so that it holds, wrap in sarane wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. When completely chilled, roll out to be 1/8 in thick and cover the pie tins. Use the back of a knife to cut off any excess dough. Use a knife to prick the bottom of the crust. Line the tops with parchment paper and weigh it down with baking weights (beans, rice, etc). Bake for 20-25 min, until golden brown around the sides. Remove the parchment paper and bake for 5 more min, until all moisture has evaporated from the crust. Slide out of the tins and cool completely on a wire rack.

Pastry Cream

adapted from Tartine Bakery

2 cups milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 salt

5 Tbsp cornstarch

1/2 c sugar

2 eggs

4 Tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 c heavy whipping cream

2 Tbsp sugar

Heat the milk and salt in a sauce pan until it boils. Meanwhile, whisk the sugar, cornstarch, sugar, and eggs until thick and smooth. Add half of the boiling milk into the mixture to temper the eggs, then return the mixture into the saucepan with the rest of the milk. Whisk continuously on medium high heat until the cornstarch cooks and the mixture is thickened. Remove from heat and pour into a heatproof bowl. After 10 minutes, whisk in the butter 1 Tbsp at a time. Place plastic wrap on the surface of the cream to cool to avoid the creation of a “skin” layer.

Once ready to use, whip up the whipping cream with remaining sugar until thick. Scoop out the pastry cream and whisk in the whipping cream until completely smooth, light and fluffy. Transfer to a piping bag to be ready to use!