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Nov 3, 2008 06:55 PM

Pastry Crust/Dough Without a Food Processor?

I found this awesome-sounding easy crust for a free-form fruit pie on Mark Bittman's blog. I'd love to try it, problem is, I don't own a food processor (I'm in a tiny NYC kitchen). Can a pastry wiz out there eyeball it and see if I could possibly try it with a different technique? A hand mixer and a pastry cutter perhaps? Any ideas?

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  1. The recipe calls this cookie dough, aka Pate Sucrée. Pate sucre is not flakey pie dough, so it’s rather easy to make. However, I’ve never made pate sucre with water before. Pate brisée or flakey pie dough is made with ice water. For pate sucrée egg yokes are used as the liquid.

    Making pate sucre by hand is easy I’ve done it at the cottage once or twice. Also, the butter does not need to be cold when making pate sucre, it fact it is easier and faster at or just below room temp. But again that is for pate sucrée not pate brisée.

    Place all the ingredients in a bowl or the counter top. Gather the ingredients with your finger tips and make a mass of dough. Not to worry about the butter being finely incorporated into a rough ball.

    Lightly flour you counter and place the ball on the flour. With the heal of your hand smear the dough outwards. (There is a French term for using the heal of your hand to incorporated the flour and butter, I can’t remember it.) Bring the dough back and make into a ball. Smear it again and roll it back into a ball. The butter should be incorporated into the flour at this point. Due to the water and yoke, you do not want to work the dough that much; you will develop the gluten in the flour. Make the dough into a disk, then wrap and cool in the fridge for an hour or so. This will make it easier to roll out into your pan.

    If you need to roll out the dough more than once or twice, may I suggest you allow the dough to sit in the pie tin before you add the filling in the fridge for 5-15 minutes. This will allow the gluten to relax. If the gluten is active when baking, the dough can shrink when baking. This can cause issue’s with the filling, especially custard or liquid.

    1. When I am too lazy to get out the food processor, I make pie dough by hand. I haven't seen the recipe you're referring to, but it is quite easy to make the dough with a pastry cutter, or if you don't have that, two knives. Just make sure that when you are done cutting in the butter or shortening that you don't have any huge pieces of butter floating around. Make sure the butter is really cold when you begin. (I cut the butter in small size pieces and then put the pieces in the freezer while I assemble the rest of the ingredients.) I also use Crisco in my pie dough, and I use the sticks and just keep them in the freezer to make sure that they are really cold when I begin. Try to work as quickly as possible so that everything stays as cold as it can. I even put ice cubes in the cold water while I work in the butter, then take them out and re-measure the water before I begin adding it.

      Hey, every granny in the world made pie dough before we even knew what a food processor was! You don't need one, though it does make the whole thing faster and thus creates fewer possibilities for the dough to get warm while you are working.

      9 Replies
      1. re: roxlet

        Freeze the stick of butter, unwrap, then grate it on the coarse holes of a box grater, holding it in the wrapping paper. You'll be finished before it has the chance to soften from the heat of your hand. You can get to almost the very bottom if you slow down toward the end, then just cut the nub into slivers.

        1. re: greygarious

          I've read about that technique, but I've never tried it. Maybe next time. Thanks for the reminder!

          1. re: greygarious

            Freezing butter and grating is great for flaky pie dough, however, Bittman’s recipe is for cookie pie dough also known as pate sucre. Cookie pie dough is not flakey. There is no reason to freeze or cut the butter into small pieces unless you are making flakey pie dough.

            This link has a picture of blind baked cookie pie dough. You will see that it is not flakey at all. It is ready to receive unbaked filling such as crème patisserie.

            1. re: Pastryrocks

              I was responding to roxlet's post about pie dough, not the Bittman recipe. By the way, the French term is fraisage.

              1. re: greygarious

                Thanks, for the life of me I could not remember the term. I lived in Montréal, Quebec for a few years and you would think my French/Quebecois would be better. I remember it being on a test I took a number of years ago in school, but for the life of me I could not remember the term.

                Forgive me I though you where replying to the Pate Sucrée recipe.

              2. re: Pastryrocks

                I don't know. I just took a look at the Bittman recipe and it sounds like regular pie dough with just a bit more sugar in it, not pate sucre, even though he says it is! Think about it: he says it's like a big cookie, but I don't know of any cookie recipe that has only 3 tablespoons of sugar to 1 1/2 cups of flour! He does not tell you to proceed as if you were making pate sucre -- he tells you to proceed as if you are making pie crust. I think that is a very odd posing from Bittman, to tell you the truth! At any rate, the food processor method he uses is the same that you would use for making any dough in the food processor, so I think you could use the grating method for sure, as well as the one that I mention above...

                1. re: roxlet

                  It does seem sort of strange to me. I was concerned if the apples have too much liquid in them that with a flakey pie dough it would make the crust soggy sooner than with a cookie dough crust. By adding the frozen butter into the dough, the dough will be flakier than pate sucrée, which will enable any liquid from the apples to soak right through the crust. With traditional pate sucrée, this would be less of a problem.

                  He does say to use Golden Delicious apples, which are my favorite this time of year. But I believe they also have more liquid this time of year.

              3. re: greygarious

                That is very clever!
                I will try that!

                1. re: cassoulady

                  Freezing and grating works very well for a very sticky butter scone dough too.