Overworking pie crust
Posted: 16 December 2008 11:12 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Hello everyone,

i recently brought in a pie to a small coffee shop and they liked it enough to express interest in buying some pies from me on a weekly basis. i gave a sample pie away to a fellow baker and he provided some feedback. he said the pie was good, but it wasn’t as flakey the 2n and 3rd day as the first. he thought i must have overworked the pie dough. given that i’m relatively new to pie dough making, its hard to know when i’ve overworked the dough. can anyone help?

also, the pie is a berry pie (strawberries, raspberries and blueberries). the baker also suggested that i add some acid to the pie to provide another layer of flavor. can anyone suggest anything that has worked for them?

thanks!
steve

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Posted: 16 December 2008 01:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Hi Steve,

Congratulations on the fact that you have potential customers to buy your pies. That is exciting!

I always make pie dough in the food processor, and I wear latex gloves when handling the dough so that the heat of my hands doesn’t cause the butter to melt into the flour. I don’t know whether a food processor can be used on a commercial scale—maybe some of the commercial bakers on this board can chime in here and talk about larger-scale production of pie crust. Also, I often bake pies directly from the freezer so that there is no issue with second or third-day aging of already-baked pie.

I agree that acid in fruit filling is a good idea. The standard acid I use is lemon juice, especially in combination with raspberries. I have also recently started to incorporate a tablespoon or two of concentrated pomegranate juice into cherry pies. (It is sometimes called “pomegranate syrup” and you can find it in health food stores or middle-eastern grocery stores.) I find that pomegranate adds a nice tartness that goes very well with other fruit, and I suspect it would work well with any red berry.

I encourage you to get a copy of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s “Pie and Pastry Bible.” She gives several recipes for pie crusts. My favorite is the one that contains sour cream. She has detailed instructions on how to handle the dough so it stays relaxed and doesn’t get overworked. She also has excellent pointers in the chapter on fruit pies, such as how to avoid the bitterness that blueberries can sometimes exude when they are cooked. There is a recipe for a strawberry rhubarb pie in which the rhubarb filling is cooked, but the strawberries are not. It is truly one of the best fruit pies I’ve ever made. I think you will find a lot of valuable information in that book that will help to propel your pies into the realm of the extraordinary.

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Posted: 16 December 2008 01:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I agree…the pie and pastry bible is a must.  I actually don’t use the food processor for pie crust..I find it comes out flakier if done by hand…although it is much more time consuming.  Rose has a system for mixing the dough in a plastic freezer bag…I find it works very well and makes a beautiful flaky and tender crust…although it is a bit labor intensive…and if you are planning on baking in large quantity, the food processor may be a better option for you. (I use the crust recipe with heavy cream as my “go-to” recipe…but they are all wonderful.

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Posted: 16 December 2008 02:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Steve, congratulations on turning out some lovely pies!  I agree with everyone else, the Pie and Pasty Bible is wonderful.

A few comments on crusts:
There are several factors that influence flakiness.  Overworking could reduce the size of the butter pieces and/or warm the butter so that it melts into the flour, thereby reducing flakiness.

Overworking a crust could also make it tough, developing too much gluten.

Rolling out the butter cubes into flakes by hand produces the flakiest crust, but as Bill points out, it is time-consuming and probably not suited to larger-scale baking. 

If the perceived flakiness is subsiding in a baked pie after the first day, I think this is due more to moisture seeping into a crust from contact with the filling, and can be minimized with an egg white or chocolate glaze between the crust and filling.  If you are making fruit pies ahead, then baking, it is best to freeze them as soon as they are made and bake directly from frozen.

Good Luck!

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Posted: 16 December 2008 10:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I always make my crusts by hand, so I thought I would add that it is not anymore time consuming if you make Rose’s cream cheese crust.  In fact, I find it faster to make by hand than in the processor.

By the way, Rose updated the instructions for making crust—she no longer uses the plastic bag, but latex gloves—and this is even faster.  Search the blog for details.

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Posted: 17 December 2008 03:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I was going to say exactly as julie that “loss of flakiness” after the second da is due to lak of moisture proofing rather than overworking the dough.

overworking pie dough causes shrinkage during baking, too

I find the food processor the best method, only if only if you have a large capacity one.  a 10 plus cup is good, a 14 cup ideal, and a 20 cup heavenly!

I sense Rose relies on machinery to protect her precious wrists from repetitive injury.

btw, one thing I observed and approve, is that commercialy sold sheets of pie crust, made by machine, are of excellent quality and flakines.  No, I am still in favor of home made, but really… flaky crust was originally designed to be made by a machine =)

Rose accomplished to make cakes with perfect tenderness as it would be commercial cake mix with emulsifiers but with home made taste.  She has done the same with pie crust on her pie book!

have you tried making flaky pie crust with 100 percent wondra flour?

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Posted: 17 December 2008 08:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Matthew, thanks so much for the alert to Rose’s latex glove modification- somehow, I hadn’t yet seen it!

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Posted: 17 December 2008 11:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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You’re welcome Julie!

Hector is right about the wondra flour—that is what I use too.  And, also right about the food processor I suspect.  Mine is smaller capacity, so maybe that is why I hate using it for pie crust.

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Posted: 17 December 2008 03:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I actually prefer the plastic bag to the gloves…but I am just someone who hates change…I guess…LOL

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Posted: 20 December 2008 04:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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For making crust, I’m a food processor fan… so quick and relatively mess free if your processor is at least a 10 cup size.  For a quick comment about the crust’s longevity.  I think you will never be able to keep that fresh baked texture past the first day, so don’t kill yourself trying.

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