Let's Talk Pie Crust: Rolling out, Blind Baking, etc. Your Method?


Norcalbaker59

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I'm envious (love peaches). I hope you're also going to make peach preserves?
Oh I love peaches too. Apparently the trees are loaded with fruit this year. Her neighbor always gives the fruit away. So my sister makes pie and cobbler every year.
 
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Danny Lamprey

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I saw the Preppy Kitchen Guy use Vodka along with his water for hydration. Then did an egg wash on the crust. It looked good but being new to this i had never seen Vodka used for pie crust. It looked interesting... but NorCal’s recipe has yet to fail me so I don’t know if I’m comfortable venturing into that yet... lol
 

Norcalbaker59

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I saw the Preppy Kitchen Guy use Vodka along with his water for hydration. Then did an egg wash on the crust. It looked good but being new to this i had never seen Vodka used for pie crust. It looked interesting... but NorCal’s recipe has yet to fail me so I don’t know if I’m comfortable venturing into that yet... lol
The vodka definitely works. But vodka is fix for a self-inflicted problem caused by under-hydration. Hard to tell how much water he’s actually using because he doesn’t specify an amount, but 3 tablespoons and 300g flour would be around 12% hydration. Then he adds the vodka.

So strange that Americans go to all this trouble trying to fix the problems caused by low hydration instead of just putting in more water.

Find flaky pastry has hydration. Puff pastry is 50% hydration. I just posed a question to Stella Parks on her pie dough, because I noticed her hydration is at 50%. She mentioned it really has to do with the recipe, Her butter is also equal in weight to the flour.

So her piecrust is 100% flour and butter, and 50% hydration. That’s classic puff pastry ratios.

My piecrust is 100% flour, 70% butter, 30% hydration. I think my ratios are more typical for European tart crust.

Elizabeth Pruiett, American but French trained,
uses 100% flour, 66% butter, 33% hydration

Now if you look at her recipe you can see the simplicity of that, it’s a 1-2-3

But I find for my flour the water is too much and the fat not enough.
 

Danny Lamprey

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The vodka definitely works. But vodka is fix for a self-inflicted problem caused by under-hydration. Hard to tell how much water he’s actually using because he doesn’t specify an amount, but 3 tablespoons and 300g flour would be around 12% hydration. Then he adds the vodka.

So strange that Americans go to all this trouble trying to fix the problems caused by low hydration instead of just putting in more water.

Find flaky pastry has hydration. Puff pastry is 50% hydration. I just posed a question to Stella Parks on her pie dough, because I noticed her hydration is at 50%. She mentioned it really has to do with the recipe, Her butter is also equal in weight to the flour.

So her piecrust is 100% flour and butter, and 50% hydration. That’s classic puff pastry ratios.

My piecrust is 100% flour, 70% butter, 30% hydration. I think my ratios are more typical for European tart crust.

Elizabeth Pruiett, American but French trained,
uses 100% flour, 66% butter, 33% hydration

Now if you look at her recipe you can see the simplicity of that, it’s a 1-2-3

But I find for my flour the water is too much and the fat not enough.
He mentions in another video the exact amounts he is using but I also forget what those were. It was an interesting watch...

I have to confess, my crust from the previous forum did not turn out as flaky as yours seemed to... I also didn't do a double crust either or any type of egg wash or anything. It was very good and got rave reviews!
 

Norcalbaker59

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He mentions in another video the exact amounts he is using but I also forget what those were. It was an interesting watch...

I have to confess, my crust from the previous forum did not turn out as flaky as yours seemed to... I also didn't do a double crust either or any type of egg wash or anything. It was very good and got rave reviews!
Sometimes it takes a little bit of practice. It’s a little scary adding all that water because it goes against everything we’ve been taught about piecrust.

Why don’t you give Stella Parks pie crust a try? Her techniques are very similar to mine. We all use tha rough puff pastry technique. It has a lot more butter and a lot more water. But the extra butter and water will make it a lot easier to work with. It’s a little greasier, but it will also give you some very serious flaking.



https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2016/06/old-fashioned-flaky-pie-dough-recipe.html
 

Danny Lamprey

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Sometimes it takes a little bit of practice. It’s a little scary adding all that water because it goes against everything we’ve been taught about piecrust.

Why don’t you give Stella Parks pie crust a try? Her techniques are very similar to mine. We all use tha rough puff pastry technique. It has a lot more butter and a lot more water. But the extra butter and water will make it a lot easier to work with. It’s a little greasier, but it will also give you some very serious flaking.



https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2016/06/old-fashioned-flaky-pie-dough-recipe.html
I mean... I am not gonna lie, I do enjoy mashing the butter up by hand rather than putting it into the food processor... lol I'll give this a go as well! In the previous forum for the custard pie I made, I was A LOT more focused on getting the butter really incorporated into the flour... So I mashed and mashed until basically the dough was a very silky texture... Which was great for the custard pie. I didn't realize the aim was to keep the butter sort of in tact and hanging around the flour. I'll have to try again!
 
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Norcalbaker59

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I mean... I am not gonna lie, I do enjoy mashing the butter up by hand rather than putting it into the food processor... lol I'll give this a go as well! In the previous forum for the custard pie I made, I was A LOT more focused on getting the butter really incorporated into the flour... So I mashed and mashed until basically the dough was a very silky texture... Which was great for the custard pie. I didn't realize the aim was to keep the butter sort of in tact and hanging around the flour. I'll have to try again!
Lol. Smashing that butter into the flour is very therapeutic:). And I’m really glad to hear that you enjoy making the piecrust by hand. There’s a time and a place for tools. But some things are best made with the hands.


I think after you try this method a couple of times, whether it’s my ratios or Stella Parks ratios, you’ll get the hang of it and you’ll be making some amazingly flaky pie crust. You’re baking skills are well into the intermediate level. It’s just a matter of getting used to a new method for pie crust.
 

Danny Lamprey

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Quick question though, I’m going to attempt to make a blueberry pie... since I’m not blind baking do I still need to dock the bottom?
 

Norcalbaker59

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Quick question though, I’m going to attempt to make a blueberry pie... since I’m not blind baking do I still need to dock the bottom?
No never dock a crust when you are baking it raw with filling. The juices will leak through the holes and cause the crust to get soggy.

For high water content fruit filling like blueberries and cherries it’s critical you thicken the filling. The fruit will release its water during baking. Use Stella Parks ratios of sugar and tapioca starch. It works every time.

Weigh the fruit and use then use the following

Sugar 25% to 30% of the weight of the fruit

Tapioca starch 5% weight of the fruit

I just taught my sister how to make pie crust and a blueberry pie. She sent me a text last Sunday morning with these pics and said, “Holy S#%*! It Works!” Just amazing crust. And with a jellied fruit filling, it’s flakiness and thickness makes a great balance and mouthfeel.“

Stella Parks ratios sets the filling perfectly every time
8A75FDE2-AC43-471F-AF03-0617E9124529.jpeg


To get a nice brown crust on the bottom like she got here, place the rack lower in the oven. If using your ceramics pie plate you may not get as nice a crust as ceramic is very slow to heat. Glass and metal are the best material for browning pie crust. If using a metal pie plate you can preheat the rimmed baking sheet to aid browning the bottom as well.

Always use a rimmed baking sheet when baking high water content fruit, especially when it’s a lattice top. You can see where the filling bubbled up.

Baking hot is important to. I bake at 400F. I like to cover my pie with lightweight foil at 35 min into the bake to prevent over browning. Then remove at 55 min. I forgot to tell that to my sister so her pie crust is a bit brown.

864A200F-0E67-4220-941F-C763480F3E45.jpeg
 

Danny Lamprey

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Hmmm ok. I am using a glass pie plate and i have a rimmed baking sheet but, I don't have Tapioca Starch. I have Corn Starch i was going to use, would that work?
 

Norcalbaker59

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Hmmm ok. I am using a glass pie plate and i have a rimmed baking sheet but, I don't have Tapioca Starch. I have Corn Starch i was going to use, would that work?
There’s several reason for the tapioca starch.

The tapioca starch is clear. It’s very reliable. And it’s not thick and gooey in the right concentrations. It also will not impart any taste.
And it helps create a flaky, brown bottom crust.

There’s actually an incredible amount of science behind the tapioca starch and the sugar. That’s why you have to weigh the fruit, And use 25% and no more than 30% sugar. Then 5% tapioca starch. The sugar raises the gelatinization temperature of the tapioca starch. That keeps the starch from breaking down. If the starch breaks down, then the fruit releases all of its water. And you have a soggy crust. Then you don’t have a nice brown flaky bottom crust. It’s the magic of the tapioca starch and the sugar ratio that helps create brown and flaky crust on the bottom by keeping that filling thickened.

That’s why my sister sent me the photo of the bottom of her pie. She wanted me to see that everything I told her about the piecrust was right.

Bob’s Red Mill Tapioca Starch is the brand I always use. They recently changed their packaging and they have it labeled as “Tapioca Flour”. Then underneath that it says “Same As Tapioca Starch”. Why this stupid name change I don’t know.

By contrast cornstarch Is unreliable; is cloudy; is gooey; and if too much is used is chalky. There’s no way to guarantee cornstarch thickening the filling like tapioca starch.


You can read about the science of tapioca starch in pie filling in Stella Park’s article on Serious Eats

https://www.seriouseats.com/2016/06/how-to-make-the-ultimate-cherry-pie.html
 
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retired baker

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Well, we've concluded that all fats (i.e. those commonly used in pie crusts), if proportioned right, will give you the same pie crust results (if not the same flavor). And we've concluded that of the liquids commonly used in pie crust (usually in addition to water), only water is needed to create a tender flakey piecrust--again, if portioned correctly (exception: using an egg which makes for a more cookie-like crust). I'm not going bother discussing flour as I think we can all agree that all-purpose is the best white flour for a crust (lower protein as compared to high protein bread flour). Though I will ask...what about pastry flour? Is it better for a pie crust than all purpose?

~Other types of Flour: I think we can also agree that if you want to use a different type of flour for your pie crust (whole wheat, for example) you should NOT just substitute it into a recipe that was using all purpose. To get the best results, find recipe for pie crust using that particular flour.

Okay. So let's get to what this thread is really about. We have the right proportions, we've made the pie dough....

~Resting the dough: After being made, how long should the dough rest before rolling out? A lot of recipes call for putting that disk of dough in the refrigerator to rest for 30-60 minutes. But others argue that there's no point to that--you'll just have to bang on the chilled dough with your rolling pin to soften it. Roll it out right after you've made it, while it's pliable. Once it's in the pie plate, then you can let it rest in the refrigerator.

So: Is there a benefit to resting before rather than after rolling?

~Rolling out the dough: How much flour should you use on your board? How thin should you roll it out? Is there a "right" method to the rolling so you get a smooth sheet of the size and shape you want? Alternately, is there a good way to minimize getting a crust that looks like a continent and needs to be cut-and-pasted into a round shape?

~And what about baking time? Older recipes, concerned about burning the crust, rarely had a pie in the oven for longer than an hour, but some bakers now advocate longer, not only to make sure the filling is cooked to perfection, but that the crust is super good. Thoughts?

Finally, there are some five common issues bakers have with pie crusts during baking. What methods do you use to solve them?

(1) Difficulties with blind baking: instructions vary when it comes to blind baking. Some recipes say put in parchment paper, weigh it down (beans, rice, sugar...), bake X number of minutes in the oven, remove weights and finish baking. Others say bake all the way, then remove weights. Either way, I know I have trouble with blind baking, especially removing that weighted parchment. Crust gets stuck to it and tears.

(2) Shrinkage: Another blind baking problem. The pie crust shrinks. Obviously, the weights are meant to take care of this, but the fluted crust on the lip of the pie plate can still shrink inward...are there any other tips/tricks for avoiding a shrinking pie crust?

(3) Soggy bottoms in fruit pies: Best method for avoiding this?

(4) Domed tops with a lot of air between crust and filling: Typically an apple pie problem, and I actually, I know the answer to this one: don't put the apple filling into the pie raw. Put it in a pan and cook it on the stovetop for about ten minutes, let cool, then decant into the crust. I'll let NorCal discuss the science of why doming happens and why this fix works ;)

Bonus question: Do you need to dot the top of fruit pie fillings (like apple) with butter before putting the top crust on? Or was that the old way of avoiding the domed top?

(5) Burned bottoms. :p

Any issues I didn't cover? Extra tips & tricks to making sure that pie crust comes out awesome?
1 Blind baking, I never ever do that unless making a cream pie that doesn't go back in the oven.
2. see #1. You created the problem.
3. dough is too thin,... or not enough starch to absorb juice.
4. Don't pile the apples up so high and vent the top crust so it doesn't inflate like a balloon.
5. Use a tray.

All fats don't give the same results, butter tastes glorious but crisco makes a very tender crust, one can't compete for taste the other can't compete for texture and taste is more than flavor. Mouthfeel is very important.
I like both versions, I'll eat the lot.
 

Cahoot

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So I've been trying to master the basic pastry doughs recently, and so have made a ton of pie doughs and tart doughs in the past weeks. One area that I've universally had trouble with is combining the mixture into a dough ball after adding the water. Note this is only an issue when making pastries like pie dough and pâte brisée where the butter is cut/rubbed into the flour, not for pâte sucrée where the butter is creamed first.

No matter how much I mix, the dough just refuses to come together into a cohesive mass, and then I fear overdeveloping gluten from working the dough too much. I mix using a rubber spatula, not using a food processor/food processor, and I've usually even poured it onto the work surface to knead by hand to try to force it to come together. Each time I've had to add extra water, but then the resulting dough becomes somehow both sticky (from having too much water) and crumbly at the same time, although at least I can get it to form a ball at this point. And of course the results are that the crust is too tough from having too much water combined with overworking the dough in the initial stage. I've been using recipes from professional chefs (including NCB's 70% butter/30% hydration pie dough), so the problem is definitely my technique, not the recipe. In these recipes I've even been rubbing the butter into the flour more than the recipe calls for in hopes of avoiding this problem (essentially sacrificing some flakiness to avoid toughness), but I still encounter it every time.

The only times I haven't had problems with adding the water are when using Kenji Lopez-Alt's recipe that uses a food processor, and Stella Park's recipe that uses a 100% butter/50% hydration dough. However there are issues with each that I've seen pointed out on this forum, in that Kenji's dough isn't very flaky with all the butter being cut up into a paste, and Stella's dough is really greasy due to the high proportion of butter. Hence I'm not completely satisfied with those recipes, and the 70% butter/30% hydration dough seems to be the right ratio. Unfortunately I can't seem to get it right despite attempting it multiple times now, especially the part of folding the dough into layers as pseudo-lamination, which I've been absolutely butchering with my sticky AND crumbly overworked dough. Can anyone give me pointers on proper technique for combining the water in?
 

Norcalbaker59

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So I've been trying to master the basic pastry doughs recently, and so have made a ton of pie doughs and tart doughs in the past weeks. One area that I've universally had trouble with is combining the mixture into a dough ball after adding the water. Note this is only an issue when making pastries like pie dough and pâte brisée where the butter is cut/rubbed into the flour, not for pâte sucrée where the butter is creamed first.

No matter how much I mix, the dough just refuses to come together into a cohesive mass, and then I fear overdeveloping gluten from working the dough too much. I mix using a rubber spatula, not using a food processor/food processor, and I've usually even poured it onto the work surface to knead by hand to try to force it to come together. Each time I've had to add extra water, but then the resulting dough becomes somehow both sticky (from having too much water) and crumbly at the same time, although at least I can get it to form a ball at this point. And of course the results are that the crust is too tough from having too much water combined with overworking the dough in the initial stage. I've been using recipes from professional chefs (including NCB's 70% butter/30% hydration pie dough), so the problem is definitely my technique, not the recipe. In these recipes I've even been rubbing the butter into the flour more than the recipe calls for in hopes of avoiding this problem (essentially sacrificing some flakiness to avoid toughness), but I still encounter it every time.

The only times I haven't had problems with adding the water are when using Kenji Lopez-Alt's recipe that uses a food processor, and Stella Park's recipe that uses a 100% butter/50% hydration dough. However there are issues with each that I've seen pointed out on this forum, in that Kenji's dough isn't very flaky with all the butter being cut up into a paste, and Stella's dough is really greasy due to the high proportion of butter. Hence I'm not completely satisfied with those recipes, and the 70% butter/30% hydration dough seems to be the right ratio. Unfortunately I can't seem to get it right despite attempting it multiple times now, especially the part of folding the dough into layers as pseudo-lamination, which I've been absolutely butchering with my sticky AND crumbly overworked dough. Can anyone give me pointers on proper technique for combining the water in?
Do use the technique shown in the video below. Watch the video several times so that it’s kind of engrained in your brain. You’re going to add all the water at once. Not dribble it in. You need water to make a dough.

Use the ratios I gave.

Dissolve the salt in the water. Place the water in the freezer

weigh & cube the butter

weigh the flour

cut the butter into the flour

add all the water at once

 

Cahoot

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Do use the technique shown in the video below. Watch the video several times so that it’s kind of engrained in your brain. You’re going to add all the water at once. Not dribble it in. You need water to make a dough.

Use the ratios I gave.

Dissolve the salt in the water. Place the water in the freezer

weigh & cube the butter

weigh the flour

cut the butter into the flour

add all the water at once

Thank you for the video! I see that they start the rolling process for making the folds when the dough is much crumblier than I thought, but it eventually comes together during the process. I think that was a big part of where I went wrong trying to follow your formula - I was trying to make a much more cohesive dough ball than necessary before the folding process. Mixing the water in with the pastry cutter is interesting since I don't have one, but I assume the tool isn't isn't integral here; I assume using a fork or a spatula like what I usually use would make no difference.

One last question before I make another attempt: how finely do you cut in the butter before adding the water? I see from another one of your previous posts that you mention cutting the butter into 1/2" cubes then pinching them flat (identical to Stella Parks' procedure), but that doesn't seem right to me, since Stella's formula is also higher butter and fat. The flaky pie dough formula in my Professional Baking textbook by Wayne Gisslen also uses the same ratios as you with 70% fat, 30% hydration, and it instructs to cut in the fat until it's the size of peas or hazelnuts. In the FineCooking video, she says "1/2 to 3/4-inch chunks", but to me the butter looks to be much smaller than that, in fact similar to the Professional Baking instructions of pea/hazelnut-sized chunks.
 

Norcalbaker59

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Thank you for the video! I see that they start the rolling process for making the folds when the dough is much crumblier than I thought, but it eventually comes together during the process. I think that was a big part of where I went wrong trying to follow your formula - I was trying to make a much more cohesive dough ball than necessary before the folding process. Mixing the water in with the pastry cutter is interesting since I don't have one, but I assume the tool isn't isn't integral here; I assume using a fork or a spatula like what I usually use would make no difference.

One last question before I make another attempt: how finely do you cut in the butter before adding the water? I see from another one of your previous posts that you mention cutting the butter into 1/2" cubes then pinching them flat (identical to Stella Parks' procedure), but that doesn't seem right to me, since Stella's formula is also higher butter and fat. The flaky pie dough formula in my Professional Baking textbook by Wayne Gisslen also uses the same ratios as you with 70% fat, 30% hydration, and it instructs to cut in the fat until it's the size of peas or hazelnuts. In the FineCooking video, she says "1/2 to 3/4-inch chunks", but to me the butter looks to be much smaller than that, in fact similar to the Professional Baking instructions of pea/hazelnut-sized chunks.

You’re way overthinking this. You don’t need to use any kind of a tool.



Dissolve the salt in the water, place it in the freezer



Where your flour into a large wide bowl



Cut your butter into 1/2” cubs



Pinch the butter into with your fingers. I in fact use my fingers. Just pinch all the butter into the flour. That softens it.

Then break the flatten butter pieces into the flour so there’s big chunks of crumbs of butter and flour.

Then break up the flatten butter pieces into the flour so there’s big chunks of butter and flour. I would say your pieces of butter are going to be about 1/4” - 1/2”.

Then make a well in the center, pour all the water in. Take a fork and stir it all up.

Then turn everything out onto your countertop and start working it like video instructs. As you roll and fold the dough, the pieces of butter will flatten out into long flakes.

After you make your dough it’s important that you rested in the refrigerator for several hours. I rest mine overnight.

Then let the dough warm up on the counter for a good 20 minutes before you begin to roll it out.

Stop reading so many sources. All you’re doing is cluttering up your head with too much frivolous information. It’s just

pie dough. It’s really simple If you stop listening to so-called experts. They’re all wrong about pie dough.

Stella Parks recipe is actually based on puff pastry ratios. And you’re right it’s very greasy because the butter leaks through the dough.
 
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Cahoot

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You’re way overthinking this. You don’t need to use any kind of a tool.



Dissolve the salt in the water, place it in the freezer



Where your flour into a large wide bowl



Cut your butter into 1/2” cubs



Pinch the butter into with your fingers. I in fact use my fingers. Just pinch all the butter into the flour. That softens it.

Then break the flatten butter pieces into the flour so there’s big chunks of crumbs of butter and flour.

Then break up the flatten butter pieces into the flour so there’s big chunks of butter and flour. I would say your pieces of butter are going to be about 1/4” - 1/2”.

Then make a well in the center, pour all the water in. Take a fork and stir it all up.

Then turn everything out onto your countertop and start working it like video instructs. As you roll and fold the dough, the pieces of butter will flatten out into long flakes.

After you make your dough it’s important that you rested in the refrigerator for several hours. I rest mine overnight.

Then let the dough warm up on the counter for a good 20 minutes before you begin to roll it out.

Stop reading so many sources. All you’re doing is cluttering up your head with too much frivolous information. It’s just

pie dough. It’s really simple If you stop listening to so-called experts. They’re all wrong about pie dough.

Stella Parks recipe is actually based on puff pastry ratios. And you’re right it’s very greasy because the butter leaks through the dough.
Aha you're correct in that I'm definitely overthinking this. I realize I probably annoy a lot of people with all my questions and ultimately unimportant details I get into! I do do all the steps outlined when making pie dough (salt in ice water, resting dough, warming up before rolling), I think it was just the rolling the shaggy dough chunks into a cohesive dough part that I wasn't doing properly. I'll shut up now and make some pie dough :)
 

Norcalbaker59

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Aha you're correct in that I'm definitely overthinking this. I realize I probably annoy a lot of people with all my questions and ultimately unimportant details I get into! I do do all the steps outlined when making pie dough (salt in ice water, resting dough, warming up before rolling), I think it was just the rolling the shaggy dough chunks into a cohesive dough part that I wasn't doing properly. I'll shut up now and make some pie dough :)
It just takes some practice. And after three or four tries I guarantee you’ll have it down. And those practice pies? I guarantee nobody’s going to say no to a slice of those pie!!!!
 

Cahoot

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It just takes some practice. And after three or four tries I guarantee you’ll have it down. And those practice pies? I guarantee nobody’s going to say no to a slice of those pie!!!!
So I was able to use your pie dough formula again, this time in a blueberry pie. Making it was much smoother this time - it was pretty crumbling after mixing in the water, but I knew to just press on with the folding process and after 3 turns, I was able to get a cohesive dough without stressing about overworking it! Baked the pie yesterday and cut into it today, it's flaky yet still very tender.

I don't have the greatest close-up of the cross-section, especially because the top crust is a lattice and not one solid piece, but you can still see the flakes in the crust. There's also a thin layer of more mealy dough between the bottom crust and the filling, but I guess that's inevitable with a fruit pie.

I used Stella Parks' recipe, and it also turned out wonderful, with the filling firm enough but not gloopy. Very happy with the results, but I'm definitely planning on practicing making the dough to use for a further variety of pies!
 

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Norcalbaker59

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So I was able to use your pie dough formula again, this time in a blueberry pie. Making it was much smoother this time - it was pretty crumbling after mixing in the water, but I knew to just press on with the folding process and after 3 turns, I was able to get a cohesive dough without stressing about overworking it! Baked the pie yesterday and cut into it today, it's flaky yet still very tender.

I don't have the greatest close-up of the cross-section, especially because the top crust is a lattice and not one solid piece, but you can still see the flakes in the crust. There's also a thin layer of more mealy dough between the bottom crust and the filling, but I guess that's inevitable with a fruit pie.

I used Stella Parks' recipe, and it also turned out wonderful, with the filling firm enough but not gloopy. Very happy with the results, but I'm definitely planning on practicing making the dough to use for a further variety of pies!
@Cahoot, that’s a beautiful blueberry pie! And isn’t Stella Park’s tapioca thickening by weight just genius? It is absolutely full proof.

trust me, once you make this crust a few times you’ll have it down. I make it so often that I don’t even pull up my ratios on my iPad anymore.

To get a little better texture on your bottom crust, chill the crust after you roll it out or after you set it into the pie tin. You can either put it in the freezer for about 10 minutes or put it in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

but the crust really looks amazing so you’re definitely well on your way to mastering piecrust.
 

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