Have you ever had that moment where you set your teeth in that mouth-watering looking pie only to find the base completely soggy? Or like a thick giant cookie impossible to chew? Here is what you should know to ensure a perfect crust each and every time.
– A pie crust is meant to be flaky, it is supposed to crumble. Its main ingredients are flour, sugar, and butter (or a vegetable-based grease), and may include salt, eggs, water and a flavour, such as vanilla extract.
– It is key to prevent gluten to develop for a flaky texture. Gluten is a protein inherent to flour, with the ability to form large webs of molecules when flour is mixed with liquid. In bread making, a baker will knead the dough for an extended period, allowing the gluten to fully develop into an elastic network. Pie crusts require the exact opposite in order to be able to crumble. As fat is an insulator, the aim is to trap the flour molecules in tiny layers of fat.
– In baking it is very important to sieve all dry ingredients (such as icing sugar, flour, cacao, etc.).
– According to French tradition, there are two techniques for the elaboration of pie crust: sablage and cremage.
Sablage: Cut the butter into the flour until obtaining a flour-like texture. Add the sugar, making sure not to do so too soon. Add liquids (usually eggs) last. Instead of kneading, form a dough frasing the mixture. This means pushing the dough in small amounts over the work surface with the lower half of the palm of your hand. Repeat this step only once.
Cremage: Mix butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until pale and creamy. Mix in the eggs. Now quickly mix in the flour. This method traps small air pockets in its molecular structure, which through baking form a fragile crumbly structure.
– Both sablage and cremage are easy techniques for crust making. However, your pie crust will be slightly different depending on which method you use. Cremage crust is less friable and softer than sablage, it is also more compact, and it is higher in humidity and therefore takes longer to cool.
– It is important to leave the dough to rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. This allows the grease to become firm and weaken any gluten that may have developed.
– The chilled dough should be rolled out and baked in a greased and floured pie pan. It is important to make small perforations with a fork (or perforator-tool) for uniform baking.
– To prevent the dough from shrinking in the oven, the unbaked pie crust should be chilled before baking for 30-60 min (or safe time and use your freezer).
– There are 3 ways to bake a pie, depending mainly on its filling. 1. Bake only the crust. Some bakers prefer to stuff the crust with a fake-filling such as beans or peas. This prevents the crust from shrinking. I like to freeze mine before baking instead. 2. Pre-bake the crust, add the filling and finish baking. 3. Bake the crust and the filling at the same time.
– Both the dough and the crust are easy to store, they can both be frozen and taken out when necessary. In the refrigerator they last at least 2-3 weeks, in the freezer up to 3 months.
– Two classic French pie crust recipes are the sablée and the sucrée, the latter being sweeter. Adjust your crust according to its filling: sweeter fillings should opt for sablée crust. Standard measurements are:
Sucrée dough: 250 gr flour, 100 gr butter, 120 gr icing sugar, 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
Sablée dough: 250 gr flour, 130 gr butter, 115 gr icing sugar, 1 egg
Bake both at 170°C/ 338°F for about 15 minutes