Pie Crust Tips
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Let's face it -- the piecrust is the foundation of an excellent pie. Following are some tips to help you get the best piecrust results possible.
A standard piecrust consists of four necessary ingredients:
Flour. Flour forms the structure and bulk of your piecrust.
Fat. Fat adds moisture and keeps the crust flaky.
Liquid. Liquid will keep the dough pliable.
Salt. Salt enhances flavor and aids in browning your crust.
Check all your ingredients and make sure all of them are really fresh. Fruit pies are best when the fruit of choice is in season.
Making Your Crust
Read your recipe over carefully before beginning. Make sure you have all of the necessary ingredients and utensils. Many mistakes have been made skipping steps.
Chill your fat and liquids prior to putting your piecrust ingredients together. This will prevent the fat from dissolving into the flour. It even helps to have cold bowls and utensils. Also be sure to chill the pie dough for at least an hour before rolling it out. Keeping the shortening cold ensures a nice flaky crust.
In a large mixing bowl, stir your flour, salt and sugar. Take out the chilled butter and cut it into the dry mixture with a pastry cutter. Be careful not to over-handle your pie dough. Your shortening or butter should be coated with flour mixture, not blended with it. Over-processing causes gluten to form, a substance that toughens the dough.
If you do not have a pastry cutter, pinch the fat into the flour mixture with your hands. Do this until the fat lumps are about the size of peas. Next, slowly add the chilled water into your dry mixture. Mix the dough gently with a fork just until the dough is wet enough that it forms into a ball. Handle the dough as little as possible as you do not want to blend in all the fat lumps. Those "lumps" are crucial to a flaky, tender crust.
For a one-crust pie, a Silicone Pie Crust Shield works great to protect the edges of your crust from burning during baking.
If you are making a two-crust pie, split your dough into two equal-size amounts. Flatten slightly into rounds and wrap in plastic, then place them in the refrigerator to chill for about an hour. The chilling process prevents the fat from absorbing into the flour. Your crust, as a result, will have a lighter texture when it is baked.
Dust your working surface with flour and remove one of your wrapped doughs from the refrigerator. Flatten the dough slightly then dust the top of the dough before rolling it with your rolling pin. Roll from the center of the dough, outward. Some cooks place the dough between two sheets of waxed paper to aid the rolling process as well as make the clean-up much easier. Roll as quickly, but gently, as you can until the dough is the shape of a circle, about 1/4 to 1/8-inch thick. The finished size of the circle should be about four inches wider in diameter than your pie pan.
Press your crust firmly into your pie pan, then trim off excess dough from the edge. Leave a 1/2 to 1-inch overhang of dough around the edge to flute, or to use for sealing the top crust, if making a two-crust pie. For a one-crust pie, tuck the over-hanging dough under itself to create a thick rim. With the index finger on one hand, press the dough against the thumb and forefinger of the opposite hand; continue around the perimeter of the crust and dish.
When you have your filling in your crust, take out the second package of dough. You can make many variations of design with your top crust, but for now we'll go with a standard topping. Roll the dough as you did the bottom crust. Carefully lay the crust over the pie. Seal the edges using a small amount of water as an adhesive. Pinch the edges together with your fingers.
Using a Food Processor
When making pie or tart dough in a food processor, blend in the liquid until it is just barely incorporated, then pour the dough into a clean resealable plastic bag. Finish kneading the dough by squeezing the bag. Not only does this avoid the possibility of overprocessing the dough, it keeps your hands clean.