Pie Revolution

I've made hundreds of pies in the last ten years since I won our local pie contest. Hundreds. For family, for clients, for friends, for pie classes...and I started a business that requires me to bake. A lot.

So I'm so excited to say that I have learned something new and important about pie making!

I love to learn new and important things!

I can make pretty good pie but there is something about my pies that has always bothered me and I didn't know how to fix it. Because I make a lot of pie and because I am lazy, I always use a food processor to make the pie dough. I have not found a good way to use a processor and not end up with dough that has had the fat to closely incorporated into the flour. In my Pie Crust 101 post I explain the importance of the proper composition of fat and flour in pie dough. Our grandmothers, who cut the fat and flour together by hand, did not have as much trouble with the fat getting too completely blended with the flour. The food processor, because it is so efficient and fast, makes short work of the process and it's easy to over-process the dough. I haven't been able to find a good and reliable way around it.

The trouble with having the fat too finely incorporated into the flour is that the dough ends up very "short" like a short bread, and the baked crust crumbles instead of flaking. Pie dough simply has to be flaky. The short crust was still delicious but it just wasn't a real traditional pie crust and that has always bothered me. But....I didn't know how to fix it. Except to cut the flour and fat by hand, which I'm too lazy to do. Especially when I'm making a wagon load of pie dough.

Then I read this blog post over at Serious Eats. It is a wonderful article about this very problem. I love scientific examinations of food and cooking (Cooks Illustrated! Yay!) and this article, written by a former CI food scientist, does a fantastic job of explaining what is happening with the pie dough in a food processor and the author proposes the way to make the crust flaky as it should be. I was somewhat skeptical but anxious to try it out.

And what is the celebration of America's independence without the iconic American dessert? Well, it's just not a complete American celebration! So since it was our holiday weekend I had a good excuse to make a pie and try out the recipe from the blog article.

For the fat in the recipe I used two thirds my best butter and one third my best lard. I was consternated by the amount of water the recipe called for since it made the dough very, very sticky! But I refrigerated the dough over night and made the pie with cold dough, still soft enough to roll because of the addition of lard.

Oh my heavens! The dough had a lovely satin texture that I've only seen in my dreams. It had the aroma of my grandmother's kitchen. Soft, satiny, moist but not wet, the dough rolled so easily and perfectly. I didn't need to use my parchment paper method, just a fine dusting of flour and... easy as pie... the dough was in the pie pan.  No sticking, no cracking, not too firm to manipulate as a cold butter dough can sometimes be. Divine.

You can imagine that I was very anxious to taste this pie and find out if the crust was indeed flaky and not crumbly.

It was. Perfectly flaky! Just like grandma's pie always was!

I learned something new about pie and I couldn't be happier! I think it will revolutionize my pie making from now on!

Try this recipe and see if you don't love that satiny dough too!