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Pie pastry method

Biscuits's picture

Several years ago, I was on a quest to perfect my pie pastry.  Having finally done that - using all butter, soft flour, keeping everything icy-cold, ensuring that the butter got no smaller than peas when cutting in, and handling as little as possible - I still noticed - occasionally - variations in my pastry.  Today I was making pastry for an apple pie, and I realized what that variation was caused by. 

I had pulled out my recipe book to review the amounts of things I needed, and happened to glance at the brief instructions I had penned, and noticed that it said "butter into flour in mixer".  And I realized something.  Sometimes I make pie pastry in my mixer, and sometimes in my FP.  But my best results were gotten when I did it in my mixer.

So - I decided to test myself.  I made a batch of pastry in my FP and one in my mixer.  The doughs were the same in every aspect except which machine I used to create them.  I then completed the pastry, after it had chilled, cut a small piece off of each, rolled gently into a little rectangle, brushed with milk and sprinkled with sugar.  Then baked.

The pastry that I made in the FP was very good, but the one made in my mixer was much flakier and tender.  Now - DH could barely tell the difference.  He thought they were both terrific, but I could tell the subtle difference.  Let's face it - we are our own worst critics.

Anyway - my conclusion is that I have more control with my mixer over how much the butter is worked into the flour than I do with my FP.  Even though I was extremely careful using my FP not to overwork the dough, it still didn't give me the control I had with my mixer.  And since I concluded a very long time ago that the size of the cut-in-butter matters a great deal to the flakiness of the dough, I have to conclude that, for me at least, using the mixer gives me a superior pastry.

I'm curious if anyone else has ever tried using their mixer to make pie-pastry and what you think of the results?

Not all who wander are lost....

Ancora Imparo -

iguana667's picture

(post #29643, reply #1 of 76)

Biscuit, I love it when you post observations like this. I've never tried making pie crust in my mixer, but if you give me a little more detail, I will give it a try, if only because the fp is a pain to clean. I use Mean's piecrust recipe which does involve some Crisco. Still, I think it's worth the experiment. Here are my questions:

--Paddle attachment?

--How fast do you mix?

--Is fat refrigerated or frozen?

Thanks, ig

Gretchen's picture

(post #29643, reply #2 of 76)

Yes, I make biscuits and pie crusts using the whisk of my KA--think I mentioned it a long time ago and several were surprised it would work.


meljanbil's picture

(post #29643, reply #3 of 76)

I've never tried it in the KA, could you share the technique.  I have taken to the FB at RLB's suggestion and have only been somewhat pleased.  I'm excited to try a new technique. 

This may sound ignorant, but what is soft flour?  I'm thinking cake flour, but I thought that was a no-no in pastry making.  Pastry flour? 

rozzie's picture

(post #29643, reply #4 of 76)

Ooooooh! I just love it when you guys do this! An experiment with actual results you can taste.

The weather today is rain with a chance of rain and humidity in my kitchen is currently crust for me today.

Thanks Biscuit for the KA tip. I'll try the KA instead of the FP next dry day. I assume everything must be cold....bowl, whisk-y thing, flour, butter, etc?

Biscuits's picture

(post #29643, reply #5 of 76)

I cut my butter into very large chunks - slice the stick lengthwise, then turn it over and lengthwise again, then cut into cubes - probably 1/2" cubes.  I then toss it in the flour and then put the whole thing in the freezer for about an hour.  Pull out, put on the mixer with the paddle attachment, and keep it on stir - lowest speed.  Then I watch.  When the butter is in chunks about the size of a large pea - no smaller, I add the liquid - again, icy-cold, not tap-cold.  Mix again on very low speed ONLY until it starts to come together in a shaggy mess, then stop, turn out onto a board, press it together, divide in half, press each into a rough disk, wrap in plastic and chill thoroughly.

Turn each half onto a floured board, roll into appropriate shape (square for turnovers, circle for pie).

I use the following formula:

8 oz. unsalted butter

9 oz. soft flour (not pastry or cake flour, just soft, southern AP flour, like White Lily)

1/4 c. sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 c. (more or less) ice-cold water


It sounds like a lot a high butter/flour ratio, I know, but it works.  In school I was taught the 3-2-1 formula:  3 parts flour, 2 parts fat, 1 part liquid.  But - this formula has given me the best results.

Not all who wander are lost....

Ancora Imparo -

Gretchen's picture

(post #29643, reply #7 of 76)

The whisk really works well--I think it is lighter than the paddle with more surfact to cut in the butter.  What about Glenys's tip about grating the cold butter.


Edited 8/21/2004 5:47 pm ET by GRETCHEN

Biscuits's picture

(post #29643, reply #14 of 76)

I do use Glenys idea of grating cold butter, but only for short pastry, not for regular pie pastry.  Grating it makes it too small for pie pastry.

Not all who wander are lost....

Ancora Imparo -

knitpik1's picture

(post #29643, reply #43 of 76)

Biscuit, could you please explain what's the difference between short pastry and pie pastry? And when do you use short pastry? I need to get this straight once and for all.<G>

Biscuits's picture

(post #29643, reply #49 of 76)

Well, the primary difference is the ratio of fat to flour.  Usually a "short" pastry has a higher fat content, and it is also worked into the flour more.

Remember when we talked about pie pastry and making sure the butter doesn't get cut in too small?  That's so the pastry will be nice and light and flaky.  This is the type of pastry seen for pies and turnovers, both savory and sweet.

Now - when you are talking "short" pastry, this is the type of dough used primarily for tarts.  The fat gets worked into the flour much smaller - some even "rub" the butter into the flour.  It still should have a light, flaky texture to it, but more fine textured and smooth.  For sweet tarts usually a fairly good quantity of sugar is added to the dough.

Not all who wander are lost....

Ancora Imparo -

knitpik1's picture

(post #29643, reply #63 of 76)

Thanks, Biscuit. That's very interesting. I didn't even know pies and tarts use different pastry. Well, my mam probably told me that a hundred times but it never stuck. I was not into pies for a long time.

MEANCHEF's picture

(post #29643, reply #64 of 76)

Tart dough is much easier to work with.  Tarts in general are so much better than pies in almost every respect.  I almost never make pies.

Biscuits's picture

(post #29643, reply #65 of 76)

I agree with that.  I almost never make pies, and it will probably be a long time before I make another one.  They never get eaten here.  I mean, about 1/2 of it will go, but then no more.  Max and DH prefer little turnovers, or tarts for some reason.


Not all who wander are lost....

Ancora Imparo -

moxie's picture

(post #29643, reply #66 of 76)

DH "prefers little tarts," does he? Imagine.

"I have always relied on the kindness of strangers." - Blanche Dubois

Biscuits's picture

(post #29643, reply #70 of 76)

You were BORN for the corner...

Not all who wander are lost....

Ancora Imparo -

SallyBR's picture

(post #29643, reply #71 of 76)

I am also surprised by that!  Go figure!



MEANCHEF's picture

(post #29643, reply #72 of 76)

Why do you think Biscuit has a table dancing job?

CTI's picture

(post #29643, reply #67 of 76)

Do you make a savory tart shell? The two tart dough recipes of yours on Zaar were for sweet fillings, but maybe I missed one. Thanks!

MEANCHEF's picture

(post #29643, reply #68 of 76)

I use the pie dough less the sugar for savory

CTI's picture

(post #29643, reply #69 of 76)

Thank you! It's on the menu for this weekend.

CookiM0nster's picture

(post #29643, reply #6 of 76)

Intersting. I've never liked the results I get with the FP, but have never tried using my mixer. I always do pie crust by hand - and I mean blending it with my hands.

I'm intruiged by the soft flour. I made quiche following a Julia Child recipe this week, and she called for AP flour with a bit of cake flour blended in. I noticed a definite improvement in the quality of my crust (and I was pretty fond of my pie crusts as they were).

Tangent alert!

The quiche recipe was outstanding, btw, easily the best I've ever had. It used a thinner crust and shallower custard than I'm used to, and this really made a big difference. I did the bacon quiche out of The Way to Cook, using all cream, and adding a handful of finely diced onion.

Edited 8/21/2004 4:46 pm ET by COOKIM0NSTER

Adele's picture

(post #29643, reply #10 of 76)

CM- hasn't it been a loooooong time since you've done a comparison?  Was carrot cake the last one?

Thanks for the info, Biscuit.  Pie crust is something I'm still working on.

But, but, it's SUPPOSED to taste like that!

But, but, it's SUPPOSED to taste like that!

favorablyimpressed's picture

(post #29643, reply #11 of 76)

Glad to hear that you, too, have not been pleased using the FP for pie crust.  I prefer using a pastry blender as I learned in my cooking classes in junior high school . . . more years ago than I'd care to admit.  I remember my mother cutting in shortening using two knives when I was a child.  But she always used her hands when creaming butter and sugar for cakes.

Don't your hands create too much heat for the pastry crust?  Well, I guess not.

Lword's picture

(post #29643, reply #12 of 76)

>I prefer using a pastry blender

Same here, back in the days when I did pastry. The metal stays cold and you can easily see to move things around in the bowl to get the desired pea size. If the weather is hot, keep a spare bowl in the freezer and switch midstream. Maybe having a spare pastry blender in the freezer would also help, or you could submerge in crushed ice. I do like the idea of grated butter. It seems the curls would really help to spread the flakiness. Next winter! You experts are absolutely awesome!

"If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one." Mother Teresa
CookiM0nster's picture

(post #29643, reply #13 of 76)

"Don't your hands create too much heat for the pastry crust? Well, I guess not."

My hands are always cold, so it's never been a problem. I like the the control of being able to feel exactly which pieces of butter are still too large.

A pastry blender is my second choice.

Biscuits's picture

(post #29643, reply #15 of 76)

(G) And my hands are way too warm to do it by hand, which is why I've tried to use the machines.  For some reason, using a pastry blender doesn't work for me.  I'm not sure why, but I just don't like using them - it feels weird in my hand or something. 

Like I said in the beginning, really, this is just what I've found works best FOR ME.  If there is one thing I've learned on this Board, it's that there is no one way to do anything, and that everyone has methods that work best for them, but may not work best for someone else.

I was just curious if anyone else noticed that a FP doesn't necessarily make the best pie pastry, and if anyone else was using a KA to make it. 

BTW - my pie tastes great!  The crust is magnificent, if I do say so myself! (G)

Not all who wander are lost....

Ancora Imparo -

MEANCHEF's picture

(post #29643, reply #17 of 76)

I cut the butter in with a fp and then liquid by hand.  works perfectly.

Wolvie's picture

(post #29643, reply #21 of 76)

ah. good idea.

"We fed the heart on fantasy...the heart grew brutal on the fare" WB Yeats


CookiM0nster's picture

(post #29643, reply #29 of 76)

"If there is one thing I've learned on this Board, it's that there is no one way to do anything, and that everyone has methods that work best for them, but may not work best for someone else."

Absolutely. I hope you didn't think I meant to imply otherwise.

You will love this quiche. The crust is perfectly crisp, even on the bottom. I think the secret is its thinness. I've been making my quiche crusts too thick.

Biscuits's picture

(post #29643, reply #30 of 76)

I hope you didn't think I meant to imply otherwise.

No, I didn't!  (G)  I just wanted to be clear that I wasn't stating that using the KA was the perfect way to make pie pastry - just the perfect way FOR ME, and I was simply curious if anyone else used that method and found it successful as well.

Not all who wander are lost....

Ancora Imparo -

Jean's picture

(post #29643, reply #31 of 76)

It's on my next time try this list.

 I don't know how I got over the hill without getting to the top.
Will Rogers

A  clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
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