Pie Making Tips

Sunday, November 20, 2011

After all that talk about suggesting you make something besides pumpkin and pecan pie on Thanksgiving, what do I plan to make this coming Thursday? Well, pumpkin and pecan pies, of course.

With that being said, I thought it would be helpful to share a few tips for successful pie making. No matter which recipe of dough you make these tips will come in handy. However, if you are looking for a good pie dough to use I am also including the recipe and instructions for the pie dough that I very often use to make pies and will be using this year as well. Sometimes I use pie doughs that call for an egg or egg yolk, or even some sugar. This, however, is your basic Pate Brisee (Pie Dough) and when made properly, yields a very flaky crust.

If you are planning on making pies this holiday, I wish you the best of luck.


Pie Making Tips

Tip #1 – Cold, Cold, Cold!
Always use cold ingredients, work in a cold kitchen and roll out on a cold countertop. In pastry school we would refrigerate all of our Pate Brisee (Pie Dough) ingredients in the fridge overnight – that is: flour, salt, butter and water.

Tip #2 – Don’t Over Mix
When making pie dough, either by hand or in the food processor, make sure not to over mix your dough. Pulse or mix until crumbly; then wrap up and refrigerate. If you over mix your dough you will develop the glutens, which will make the dough elastic rather than flaky and tender, and will make the dough warm and melt the butter, which will also prevent a flaky dough. Pie dough must rest before rolling out.

Tip #3 – Be Prepared
Have a large (or as large as possible) work-station set up before getting started. You will need: a cold countertop, a large rolling pin (I like French rolling pins), a medium size bowl filled with flour, and the pie pan near-by.

Tip #4 – Work Efficiently
Try to work quickly, but don’t feel panicked when rolling out the dough. Flour your board and rolling pin lightly and continue to flour as needed. Begin rolling from the center of the dough and keep the dough moving at all times, so that it doesn’t stick to the counter. Rotate the dough as you roll to allow for an even thickness and round shaped dough. The dough should be rolled about 1/4 inch thick.

Tip #5 – Foncer Quickly
Foncer is the technical term for lining up a tart. The best way to line up a tart (or pie) is to lightly flour your rolling pin and loosely wrap the pie dough around the pin. Gently unroll the dough over the tart or pie pan and quickly press the dough into the pan.

Tip #6 – Chill at Any Point
If your dough gets too soft and warm to work with or you, yourself, become too warm or overwhelmed, put the dough at whatever point you are at back in the fridge and let chill; whether that be you or the dough.

Tip #7 – Blind Bake
Blind Bake (the technical term for pre-baking) your pie shell before adding your filling. This will help insure a crisp piecrust rather than a soggy one. After rolling out your pie dough, refrigerate until completely chilled (this will help prevent the dough from shrinking in the oven), prick the dough with a fork; then line the shell with a generous amount of parchment and fill with pie weights or beans. Pull the sides of the parchment together to create a pouch that can easily be removed half way thorough baking the pie. Chill the shell again and follow the directions for pre-baking pies. (I plan to blind bake the pumpkin shell for a total of 30-35 minutes and plan to blind bake my pecan pie for about 25.)

Tip #8 – Use a Pie Pan Cover
Use a pie pan cover or create one with foil to cover the sides (crusts) of the pie shell. This will prevent the crust from burning before the pie is finished baking.


Pate Brisee

Makes 1 double crusted pie or 2 single crusted pies

This pie dough recipe comes from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook. I have included how to roll out and fully prebake this recipe for both a piecrust and tart crust. Depending on what you are making you may not want to fully bake the shell and should adjust the cooking time accordingly.


2 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/4 cup ice water, plus more if needed


To make the pate brisee, combine the flour and salt in a food processor. Add the cold butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbles, about 10 seconds of pulsing. Add the water and pulse until combined. The dough should not be wet and sticky, nor dry and crumbly. If the dough seems dry add a teaspoon more of cold water. The dough should not be pulsed for more than 30 seconds total. Scrape the dough out of the processor onto a clean work surface. Form into a round disk, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

To bake a pie shell, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

To roll out the dough for a pie, lightly flour a cold work surface. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out about 1/4 inch thick. Start rolling from the center working your way outward, constantly moving the dough around the work surface, making sure that it doesn’t stick, using more flour as needed. To transfer the dough to a pie pan, lightly roll the dough around the rolling pin; then unroll the dough out, over the pan. Working quickly, press the dough evenly into the pie pan. Cut the excess dough off the sides of the pan, leaving an extra 1/2 inch of dough. Use two fingers to crimp the extra dough and make a border. Prick the dough with a fork and refrigerate until the dough is chilled and firm, about 30 minutes. Brush the edges of the pie with milk or egg. Place a sheet of parchment paper on the bottom of the pie shell and fill with pie weights or beans and bunch the excess sides of the parchment over the beans/weights to create a pouch that can easily be removed half way through baking. Bake the pie for 20 minutes; then remove the packet of pie weights and bake another 15-20 minutes or until light golden brown. Allow the pie shell to cool completely on wire rack.

To bake a tart, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-inch tart pan with butter or use an ungreased nonstick tart pan (preferably one with a removable bottom).

On a lightly floured cold work surface use a rolling pin to roll the dough out about 1/4 inch thick. Start rolling from the center working your way outward, constantly moving the dough around the work surface, making sure that it doesn’t stick. Use more flour as needed, but try to use the flour sparingly. To transfer the dough to the tart pan, lightly roll the dough around the rolling pin; then unroll the dough out, over the pan. Working quickly, press the dough evenly into the tart shell. Chill the tart shell until the dough is firm, about 1 hour. Place a sheet of parchment paper on the bottom of the pie shell and fill with pie weights or beans and bunch the excess sides of the parchment over the beans/weights to create a pouch that can easily be removed half way through baking. Bake the tart for 10 minutes; then remove the packet of pie weights and bake another 15-20 minutes or until light golden brown. Let the tart shell cool in its pan for 2 minutes; then carefully, using hot pad holders, place your hand on the bottom of the tart to release the sides of the tart pan; then use a spatula to transfer the tart off of the bottom of the pan and onto a wire rack to cool completely.

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