Saturday, December 6, 2014

The secret to a perfect pastry crust

Want to know the secret to a delicious, buttery, flaky pie crust? Of course you do. I'll let you in on something: it's way easier than you think.

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5-6 teaspoons ice water

Combine the flour and salt in a bowl before adding the butter (this will help ensure that the salt gets evenly distributed).  A lot of recipes tell you to use a food processor, pastry cutter, or even two knives to cut the butter into the flour.  I'm here to tell you that this is all nonsense.  The hands down, absolute best (trust me, I've tried everything) way to get that perfectly flaky, buttery crust is to use a cheese grater.

pastry crust recipe tips
I stole this cheese grater from my mom -- it's about 25 years old!

Yes, it really is that simple! The wonderful thing about using a cheese grater is that you get a uniform-sized sliver of butter with minimal softening.  A great crust recipe requires cold butter, cold water, and a cold surface.  I've found that cutting the butter with a pastry cutter or two knives makes it warm up too much.  The cheese grater helps solve this.

I like to grate 1/4 of the butter, stir it into the flour, and then go back to grating.  I repeat this until the stick is gone. When you stir everything together, it should look very course and lumpy.  Lumpy is good!  This is what will create that amazing flaky consistency.

pastry crust recipe tips
Lumps are good!

After you get that great lumpy consistency, stir in the water a little at a time until you can just start to hold it together.  Be frugal with that water, but don't panic if you add too much. You can always mix in a little more flour to even things out.

pie crust recipe
A great crust doesn't have to come from a package!

Here's my next insider tip when it comes to great dough, and this is pretty well-known: use a chilled surface to roll out your dough.  In my case, I stuck a cookie sheet in the freezer for a few minutes and it worked perfectly.  Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface with the heel of your hand, but do NOT overwork it.  The moment it comes together, STOP.

pastry and pie crust recipe tips
Don't overwork the dough!

Use a floured rolling pin, or in my case, a floured glass (I should really buy a rolling pin) to roll everything out. 

pastry and pie crust recipe tips
If you don't have a rolling pin, a glass or wine bottle works just fine!

Voila!  This will be the best pie crust you've ever had and it takes all of maybe 10 minutes.  It is seriously so easy.  Never buy a pre-made crust again!

Now what you do with the crust from here is up to you.  In my case, I used the glass to cut rounds out of the dough and made some mini quiches in a muffin tin.  Check it out:

quich made from hoemade pastry dough
Mmmm.  Quiche.

Have you tried this method? Do you have any secret crust techniques you'd like to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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