Kitchen Basics: Perfect Pie Crust Part 2 -- Rock and Rolling

Friday, November 5, 2010

So now you've got your chilled dough. It's been 30 minutes or overnight and now you're ready to bake.

Probably a very close second to Reason #1 Why I Don't Make Pies From Scratch is Reason #2: rolling out the dough. I'm not going to lie to you; it is not in fact easy. No matter how many times I watch Ina Garten roll out a perfectly circular piece of dough, mine always come out rectangular. And for a while I'd really beat myself up over it, but then I realized that it doesn't matter what size the stupid dough is -- it's going to get round when it's formed in the pan anyway. So whatever.

This posting is going to show you how to roll out your dough, fix problems along the way (even I'm not perfect), and then the importance of blind-baking. Just follow the steps and look at the pictures, and I'll guide you home.

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. First thing is to take the dough out of the fridge. If you did it write, after chilling it you'll really be able to see those pieces of butter in there that I talked about. Check it out: 

Those pale dots are small pieces of butter (or lard if you're using that but we'll talk about that later), that have gotten nice and cold and ready to melt in the oven to create flaky goodness.

If you're working straight from making the dough and it's now 30 minutes later, then you can proceed straight away to the rolling. If your dough chilled for an hour or more, you're going to have to keep it out on the counter about 5-10 minutes so the chill can come off a little bit. Just try rolling it straight from the fridge from an overnight chill -- it's impossible. Bring it out of the fridge, set it on the counter, pour yourself a cup of coffee or glass of wine, then get back to it.

3. Now it's time to roll the dough. I am but one man, so I couldn't take pictures of this while actually doing it (sorry), so you'll have to settle for word explanation. Out of the fridge, your dough is a disk. This is going to help you keep a relatively oval type sort of shape kind of reminiscent of a circle not really. Take your rolling pin and working from the center of the disk, pull the dough outward towards you. Turn the dough a little to the left, and repeat pulling from the center and back down towards you. Turn a little and repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat this until you're sick of repeating it. As you go, smooth out the sides so they stay together, keeping pulling from the middle and outwards to the edges. This will ensure you get an even thickness which is the most important thing.

Some people are obsessed (ahem Martha) with keeping a perfect circle shape. I don't give a shit -- all the edges are getting cut off anyway so who cares. The most important thing is to make sure the entire dough gets rolled out into one even 1/4 inch-thick piece. Most people make their mistakes (like me at first) with getting the edges perfect and then the middle is considerably thicker. If you keep working from the center to out, then you'll get it all even. And this is the great thing about dough -- it's really forgiving and you can keep working until you get it right.

But sometimes shit happens.

Like what if the dough cracks weird and then is uneven? This will most likely happen to you, especially if you're newer to the rolling stuff. Like this:

 Here's how you fix it to "glue" it back together...

 First, sprinkle a small amount of flour on the area:

Then using your fingertips, gently bring the pieces together to plug up the hole:

Now gently roll the area so the dough sticks to itself.

Remember, don't sweat the edges of the dough too much because they're going to get cut off anyway. You want to really focus on that main center body of the dough because that's what's going in the pie dish!

Your final product should look something like this:

Ok, so now you've got the dough rolled out. How the hell are you supposed to fit it in your pie pan?!!!!

If you think picking it up and transferring it is going to work, it's not. You'll end up breaking and tearing it. But I have good news, my friends...something so easy, so ingenious, only the French could have though of it.

 Rub some flour on your rolling pin, then place it on the farthest left side of the dough.
 Then gently take the edges of the dough and place it on the rolling pin itself, like this, so the pin sort of "grips" the dough.
 Now loosely roll the pin the length of the whole dough until you catch the entire thing and can lift it all up by holding the rolling pin.

Final step is transferring it to the pie pan, then gently unrolling the dough right on top of the pie pan.

4. Now center the dough in the middle of your pie pan, leaving the edges to drape over the sides. It should look something like this: 

 5.  Using your fingers, gently press the dough into the pie pan, pressing into the sides and around the bottom to create an even shape.

6.  Trim off the excess dough off the sides of the pan that are draping over and set aside. If you're planning to do some cutouts to decorate the top, you'll be using these scraps. Also keep the dough in case you need to "touch up" the edges in the next 10 minutes.

 At this point, purely in terms of aesthetics, how you trim is going to affect the end result. Meaning: the pie dough when it's cooking is going to shrink up a little -- about 1/4-1/2 inch to be exact. So, if you have a fluted decorative pie pan like this one by Emil Henry from Williams-Sonoma -- then you need to cut the dough right at the edges of the pan. If you're using a traditional glass pan, or want more crust to come up and over, then keep the dough 1/4-1/2 inch longer when you trim so it's hanging over the sides.

I've seen recipes that say to put the crust fitted in the pie pan in the fridge for 30 minutes before baking it so the cold can help the pie shell keep its form. It helps...but doesn't prevent the shrinkage in my experience. If the edge of the pie is something that's going to keep you up at night, then leave yourself that extra 1/4-1/2 inch just in case.

If you're using a traditional glass pan and want to make the crimp, then give yourself an extra 1/2 inch of dough so you can flip it back over and do the crimp.

If you're just over it (like I usually am), then trim it off at the sides and call it a day. Unlike Martha, I will not judge you.

Now we must prepare the pie shell (it's called a "shell" at this point if you want to get all technical about it) for blind baking. This means we're going to cover the entire pie dough with aluminum foil and bake it so we don't see it (hence the name "blind") and hope to God it doesn't bubble and rise on us. Then we remove the "blind" and bake it off.

7. So first, we must score the pie shell with a fork to prevent air bubbles and ensure even cooking.

Now I want you to go to town on this part. I want a minimum of 20 fork marks. I want to see them all over. Because you'll be shocked how the pie crust will puff right up when introduced to heat. By poking teeny holes all over the place, you're allowing the steam to escape, leaving the pastry dough one even shape. If we don't do this or only score it even 10 times, then the steam will collect in the form of bubbles and then throw off the even shape, which in turn will tear in the filling process and create holes which is very no bueno OR mostly likely, create an uneven pie when the filling is introduced and you don't want some one bitching at Thanksgiving for why he has a "skinny piece of pumpkin pie."

Yes, this has happened to me also.

8.  Now cover the entire pie shell with aluminum foil, including over the sides.

 9.  Fill the shell with pie weights, raw rice, or dry beans.

I know this sounds really, really odd. The reason why is these things will all weigh the dough down so it won't rise too much.

10.  Bake in oven for 10 minutes.

11.  Remove from oven (but keep the oven temperature at 350 and close the oven door!), set on counter, then carefully remove the aluminum foil and weights. It should look like this:

Notice how much the edges retreated! This is why if you want to have more crust on the sides, you gotta give yourself more at the beginning when you form the pan.

12.  Return to oven and cook another 10  minutes. Now your pie shell is par-baked, ready to be filled, and finished off for baking. And it should look something like this:

You'll notice the dough is still pretty raw. And don't fret about the hole marks -- they will be covered up by the filling.

Add your desired filling and continue cooking the pie according to recipe directions. Then serve and relish in the fact you made this motherfucker completely from scratch!

1 comment:

Lisa Ruminski said...

Can you tell me where to get your pie dish?