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11.22.2004

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easy as pie how to make a better pie crust
by Yee-Fan Sun |
1 2 3 4
continued from page 1

making the dough
The first step of making pie dough involves working the butter into the flour. There are a few common methods that cookbooks will suggest:

1) Food processor method: Add the dry ingredients to the bowl of your food processor and give it a few quick pulses to combine them. Add 1" slices of cold butter and pulse about a dozen times, until the butter's properly cut in. Drizzle in a little of the water at a time and pulse, stopping in between to check on the dough. It won't come together as a smooth mass, but when it gets to the point when it sticks together when you squeeze together a bit, it's ready. Transfer the dough to a big mixing bowl, and gather and press it into a ball.

2) Pastry blender method: Add the dry ingredients to a big mixing bowl and stir to combine. Add " cubes of cold butter to the mixture. Rock and slice the pastry blender back and forth and all around in the bowl. When you've achieved the proper texture, drizzle in the ice water, pressing it into the dough until the mixture sticks together when squeezed between your fingers. Gather it into a ball.

3) Two knives method: Add the dry ingredients to a big mixing bowl and stir to combine. Add " cubes of cold butter to the mixture. Take a butter knife in each hand, and hold them in the bowl in such a way that the blades sit parallel to each other and are pointed down and in opposite directions. Cut in opposite directions, working all around the bowl. When you've achieved the proper texture, drizzle in the ice water, pressing it into the dough until the mixture sticks together when squeezed between your fingers. Gather it into a ball.

4) Manual method: Rub the butter into the flour using your fingers, picking up and dropping little bits at a time, and working as quickly as you can to avoid melting the butter into the flour from the warmth of your hands. When you've achieved the proper texture, drizzle in the ice water, pressing it into the dough until the mixture sticks together when squeezed between your fingers. Gather it into a ball.

The food processor method is by far the fastest and neatest method if you're not the sort that likes to get real hands-on with your cooking, this is probably the best way to go. But if, like me, you lack a proper food processor, I recommend going with the low-tech, no-tool, manual method. For one thing, it's kind of therapeutic. For another, you get a much better sense of and control over the dough when you work this way. You can feel how big the butter bits are, how well it's mixed in with the butter, and whether the butter's getting too warm and greasy, in a way that's near impossible when you're dealing with machines or other kitchen implements.

To see why this is important, it helps to understand a little bit about the why behind what you're doing. Combing the fat and flour ensures that the flour doesn't absorb too much water when you add that later on, which would cause the gluten in the flour to overdevelop and leave you with a chewy-pasty-tough sort of crust - in short, not good. Still, you don't want the butter and flour too finely incorporated, because the size of the floured butter bits in the dough will determine the size of the flake of your finished crust. So here's the dilemma: to get a crust with lots of flake, you'll want some largish pieces of butter. But to get a crust that's melt-in-your-mouth tender, you'll need the butter worked into finer bits. As most folks want a combination of tender and flaky in their crust, a little compromise is in order...

keep moseying

 

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