A flawlessly prepared pie dough is a thing of beauty. Pie crust should hold together enough to contain the filling, yet be flaky and crumbly to the bite.
Used for both sweet and savory preparations, once you’ve mastered the techniques for creating good crusts and delicious fillings, you can get as creative as you like – your only limit is your imagination!
Understanding the basics of Baking & Pastry and the differences between pie dough and filling preparations will ensure that you get the perfect pie each time. Here are a few points to note:
- Pastry flour is the best choice of flour for pie dough because of its medium gluten content
- Shortening is the most popular fat used due to high melting point, cost and flaky result. However, as butter tastes better, many recipes combine fats.
- Water is added for gluten development. Too much though, it becomes tough. Too little, crust falls apart.
- Salt’s contribution is flavor
- THE MOST IMPORTANT NOTE: dough and ingredients need to be kept COLD – gluten develops more slowly in cold
VARIATIONS OF PIE DOUGH:
- FLAKY – fat is incorporated into flour by cutting it in until it is the size of peas
- MEALY – fat is blended into flour more thoroughly until it looks like coarse cornmeal – crust is short and tender because less gluten develops (as less water is used, this dough is best used for the bottom of a pie because it can absorb more moisture)
- CRUMB CRUSTS – only used for unbaked pies i.e. graham cracker crust; pre-bake the crust prior to adding the filling
Thickeners such as cornstarch, gelatin and waxy maize (for freezing) are combined with other ingredients to create the texture needed for pie fillings.
Fruit fillings can be prepared three ways:
- Cooked Fruit Method – the actual fruit is cooked in a pot and then placed in the crust (best for hard fruit)
- Cooked Juice Method – the fruit is strained and its juice is cooked and thickened before adding the fruit to the crust (best for frozen or canned fruit)
- Old-Fashioned Method – the fruit is peeled and cooked in the pie
Custard or Soft Fillings rely on the coagulation of eggs
Chiffon Fillings are made by adding gelatin to a cream filling or fruit filling and folding in egg whites and/or whipped cream
For one of my favorite basic pie crusts, check out Martha Stewart’s recipe.
And definitely try my recipe for this savory pie - Tarte a L’Oignon.