short crust pastry by hand
Posted: 22 October 2010 12:28 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Hi everyone. I’m ok at cakes, but I really struggle making short crust pastry for pies. I don’t have a food processor, nor am likely to get one, so does anyone have any tips on doing it by hand? I usually feel that I add too much water, but then last time I add EXACTLY what the recipe called for, and it was too dry to make a ball. I also have avoided doing much mixing other than mashing it together in a ball, but should I be at least kneading it gently, for amalgamation of the fat and flour? I tend to leave lumps of fat. I believe I have fear of kneading, which I have taken too far.

any tips?

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Posted: 22 October 2010 02:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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helenl, I completely feel your pain and am in practically the same position re pie crust—i.e., no food processor (except a mini) and not likely to get one.  I eagerly await the replies, too!!!

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Posted: 22 October 2010 02:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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the only times I had to do it by hand it didn’t turn out too well; the butter started to soften too much. Even though it looks easy enough then I watch Rose and others do it in the videos. And I know people with food processors who make it by hand anyway. I guess I should try it again sometime and get the “hand” technique down.

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Posted: 22 October 2010 06:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Perhaps I should did a bit more research (ie make a bunch of pies and take some notes). I make a couple this weekend, and see if I can manage it ok this time, and I’ll let people know, if there is interest.

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Posted: 23 October 2010 09:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I have to admit I have had success with the food processor, but I very much prefer making flaky pie crust by hand.

A few tips:
I highly recommend Rose’s cream cheese flaky crust recipe, the ingredients and techniques really do make a superior crust.  The recipe is over on the blog, if you haven’t tried it.

If you can set the thermostat for something like 63F, it helps give you a little extra time to make the dough as you are not racing to keep the butter cool.  I set the thermostat before bed, and mix the pie dough in the morning in the cool kitchen.  Similarly, if you have warm hands you might consider keeping them off the dough or wearing gloves.

As for the problem of too much loose flour/not enough water, that could come from using a flour with too much protein (try Wondra, pastry flour, or a blend of AP and cake flour).  It could also come from insufficient moisture-proofing of the flour with cream cheese (if you are using that recipe), and/or from insufficient rolling of the butter into large flakes (which get coated with flour, allowing less flour to float freely and soak up liquid). 

To form the butter flakes, you can roll in a bag like Rose does, or if you find it easier you can dump out the moisture-proofed flour/butter cubes mixture onto a counter and roll it to form the flakes (this is what I do, a technique I had been using before I bought the Pie/Pastry Bible).  After each pass with the rolling pin, I scrape up the flakes with a large pancake turner and layer them on top of each other, then roll again, until most (but not all) of the loose flour is stuck to large flakes of butter.  Then I sprinkle the cream/vinegar over that, layer again with the pancake turner, and roll/layer one or two more times until it just barely looks as though most of it will hold together.

If you can’t work in a cool kitchen, I find it helpful to work in the large ziploc or on plastic wrap, and then two or three times during the process, put it all in the fridge on a pre-chilled sheet pan to make absolutely sure the butter doesn’t melt.

I don’t knead at all, the rolling achieves the same thing and I generally have a little shrinkage of the sides so I try to avoid any extra working of the dough.

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Posted: 23 October 2010 10:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Wow, Julie! Thank you VERY much!  I’d heard that cream cheese does a great job replacing shortening, but I had never heard of any of these great techniques before!

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Posted: 23 October 2010 05:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I echo Julie’s recommendations. You definitely do not need a food processor to make a good pie crust. A little practice.

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Posted: 26 October 2010 11:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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The recipe is over on the blog, if you haven?t tried it.

Hi, Julie!

I was looking for this last night and couldn’t locate it.  I tried Recipes > Pies, and there was a post that looked promising, but no crust recipe.

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Posted: 26 October 2010 05:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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That’s the right place, it’s near the end of that page.  The quantity of crust on the blog is for a 9-inch lattice pie, a 9-inch deep dish, a 10-in pie shell, or a 12-14 inch free-form tart.  In the PPB, there’s a smaller amount for a single crust 9"pie, and a larger amount for a two-crust pie.

Here’s a link:  http://www.realbakingwithrose.com/2005/10/roses_favorite_flaky_tender_pi.html#comments

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Posted: 26 October 2010 06:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Thank you so much!  I didn’t think to look in the comments!

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Posted: 26 October 2010 06:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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A couple of tips to add:
- Cut the butter into bigger chunks. If a recipe calls for 4 oz of butter, I cut them into 7-8 equal size pieces. Then you can freeze them for 15-20 minutes so they don’t melt as easily when you mix them by hand later.
- When you add water to the dough, add little by little. It might be tempting to just pour and add a lot, but you have to remember that a little bit of liquid goes a long way. Add by the Tablespoon and then work the dough first before adding the next Tablespoon. Also, be sure to use ice water.

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Posted: 26 October 2010 06:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Thanks for the great tips, Jenn!!

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