COOKING TECHNIQUES -- PIE AND TART CRUSTS
One of the hallmarks of a good cook is the ability to make a tender pie or tart crust. Here are some simple tips for good crusts.
#1 USE PASTRY FLOUR AND HANDLE DOUGH AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE:
Tough crusts can result when the gluten in the flour is developed by over handling the dough. Gluten is a protein that forms long strands that gives bread dough its stretchiness and gives bread its chewiness. The elasticity of bread dough contains the bubbles of gas created by the yeast--which is what makes the holes in the bread. But, pie and tart crusts should be flaky, not chewy, so low gluten pastry dough is best. Also, minimize handling of the crust dough to keep it tender.
#2 KEEP YOUR BUTTER AND WATER COLD:
When small bits of butter in the dough melt in the oven, steam is released to create flakiness in the cooked crust. You want to have small bits of butter dispersed in the dough, but not melted butter soaked into the flour. The aim is to coat the bits of butter with flour, add just enough liquid to hold the dough together and do it all quickly before the butter starts to melt and blend with the flour. Keep your butter and water as cold as possible. There are several techniques for the butter, including grating frozen butter. My technique is to cut the butter into small cubes, then put it back in the fridge for 10 minutes to chill before pulsing it into the flour in a food processor.
#3 USE A PLASTIC BAG TO MINIMIZE MESS
Put the flour/butter mixture into a plastic bag, then add the ice water. This minimizes the mess and you can easily squeeze the dough together into a ball inside the bag. Then, press it into a disk while it is still in the bag, this will minimize time spent rolling the dough. Refrigerate it for at least 20 minutes before rolling it out.
#4 USE PARCHMENT PAPER AND SLURRY TO GREASE THE PAN
This is what professional bakers do--make a slurry of 2 tablespoons melted butter plus 1 tablespoons flour to brush on over a sheet of parchment paper cut to fit the bottom of the tart or pie pan. I cut the parchment paper for a tart so it goes 1/2" up the side of the pan. This way, after the tart is cooled, it's easy to remove the ring and slide the tart off the bottom of the pan onto a serving dish by holding onto the edge of the parchment paper.
#5 USE A SILPAT
Professional bakers use a silpat for a number of techniques. It is a non-stick silicone mat. Lightly flour it, put the dough disc on top, put a light dusting of flour on the top of the dough and roll out quickly. The silpat is the width you'll need for a tart pan, so it's easier to roll out the proper sized circle. Flip the silpat onto the tart pan and peel it off the crust. This minimizes cracking that can happen if you use the traditional method of draping the dough over the rolling pin to transfer it into the tart pan.
#6 MAKE SURE THE OVEN IS TO TEMPERATURE BEFORE BAKING
Start preheating your oven in plenty of time to allow it to come to temperature before you bake the crust. If you put the crust in the oven when it is still heating, the butter melts into the flour without creating steam and your crust will most likely be tough. You may find an oven thermometer helpful in learning how long it takes your oven to preheat; every oven is different. Hope these tips on crust-making techniques helped!
SOME RECIPES USING CRUSTS:
Apple Farm Inn Macadamia Nut Pie
Apple Farm Inn Sweet Potato Pie Bars
Cellar360 Pear Galettes with Nightingale Syrup and Stilton Garnish
Tama's Roasted Vegetable Tart With Cheddar Cheese Crust