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Jun 12, 2010 03:24 PM

What went wrong with my pie crust?

Tried to follow joy of cooking recipe.

Crust was hard and crackery. It stuck to the pie dish and did not cut well at all.

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  1. The "hard and crackery" description you gave leads to me to think that's it's a fat to flour ratio issue; too much flour to fat, and/or possibly not enough water. What recipe from JofC did you use; I have a few formulas in my copy. When you wrote, "tried to follow..."do you mean you had problems following it, or substituted/changed proportions?

    The obvious question is did you measure fat/flour correctly? By "not cut well," do you mean the crust broke up badly when cutting or was hard, dry and crumbly? How was the texture of the dough after combining all the ingredients?

    1. By the way, I used a non-hydrogenated shortening from Whole Foods (all they had). I'm thinking that might have been the problem.

      4 Replies
      1. re: aventinus

        Well, I've not sure about shortening being an issue, as I use it in tandem with butter for my piecrusts. I've haven't used Whole foods brand, though. Did you combine it with butter or just use straight shortening? How did you measure your shortening?

        1. re: bushwickgirl

          Regular shortening (like Crisco) is hydrogenated fats. Whole Foods had only non-hydrogenated shortenings. (Not understanding chemistry very well, I suspect that it's basically just vegetable oil that is solid at room temperature but turns to liquid at a very low melting point.) I have a feeling this distinction might be important.

          But maybe not. This site seems to suggest you can make a pie crust with non-hydrogenated shortenings.

          1. re: aventinus

            Hi aventinus,

            What did the original recipe call for, because shortening and butter can give dramatically different results with shortening producing a more crackery texture. In addition, if you make the same crust thinner on a larger surface, it will also come out more crisp and crackery like.

            1. re: aventinus

              Criso makes non-hydrogenated shortening now, which is what I use. In reading your post downthread, you had too little fat and water, and possibly too much flour and working of the dough. I never sift flour for pie crusts, btw.

              Pie crust can be tricky; witness the many threads here on chow discussing it, and solving the problems that can occur. See the bottom of this page for other pie crust threads. All you can do is try again. Practice is a big part of perfect, if there is such a thing, pie crust. There are a number of good videos on youtube that will show you what the proper consistency of pie dough should be, the proper way to bring it together and roll it out. There are also many formulas for the dough, so if you find that you're not satisfied with the JofC recipe, try another one.

              Now that you've figured out what your issue was, try it again, and good luck with it.

        2. If this was a blind-baked crust, you may have overbaked it, or your oven thermostat may need calibration, but I agree that too much flour and/or not enough water is more likely. What type of flour did you use, and how did you measure it?

          3 Replies
          1. re: greygarious

            I used King Arthur's all purpose flour. I messed it by scooping it with measuring cups and leveling it with a knife. Then I sifted it as directed. (It's possible that I was supposed to measure the sifted flour, and that could explain everything. However, that's not what the recipe says.) I used the same scoop and level process to measure the shortening. No butter.

            This is my first time baking a pie. Though I have no experience and little idea what the dough is supposed to be like, I was uncomfortable with the dryness of the dough. It was not sticking together well and kept forming cracks when I rolled it out. By dipping my hands in ice water and working that into the dough, I was able to get dough that seemed a bit more cohesive and pliant. I don't think this could have been a mistake, because there's no way I could have formed the crusts without this extra water.

            The baked crust was hard and dry. I wouldn't really say crumbly; I'd say the opposite actually.

            1. re: aventinus

              If the recipe says "sifted flour", it means sift first, then scoop into the measure and level. If it says "flour, sifted", it means scoop and level first, then sift. Makes a big difference, and it is not impossible that sloppy editing resulted in incorrect directions.

              There may have been air pockets in the shortening, if you didn't force it into the measure thoroughly. A better way to measure is to submerge the shortening in water. For example: Your recipe says one cup of shortening. You put a cup of very cold water into a 2 cup measure, then add shortening and press it beneath the water until the water comes up to the 2-cup mark. Pour off the water and you're good to go. Wetting the shortening will not harm your dough.

          2. OK. Re-reading the recipe, I left out three tablespoons of butter. Stupid! Lesson learned: leave out three tablespoons of butter from the pie crust and it will ruin your pie.

            4 Replies
              1. re: aventinus

                Ha ha -- we've all been there.

                I suspect part of your problem may have been that you overworked it by adding in all that water as you were rolling it out. You really can't **underwork** pie crust. It should hold together as barely as possible, and should have very little in common with bread dough.

                You'll master it. It's like riding a bike -- it seems impossible at first, but once you learn the feel, it'll become second nature.

                1. re: dmd_kc

                  That's exactly what I was thinking. You want to add water all at once when making pastry dough. Fiddling with it too much can make it tough. The more you work it, the more you form gluten strands in the dough. You want as little gluten in pastry dough as possible. Think of it as the absolute opposite of bread, which you knead a lot to create long gluten strands that give bread it's firmness.

                  Now that you you know that you need a little more water than you thought, you can just add it at the beginning, instead of little by little. Good old trial and error. Also, I know that it's possible to buy pastry flour, which is actually a lower-gluten flour. I've never used it, but it might be more forgiving, especially if you're just learning. And remember to keep your ingredients as cold as possible.

                  Also, I have to say, as far as fats go, I've found nothing that beats half butter and half lard. I know that sounds terrible but it's actually not that bad. Still MUCH healthier than hydrogenated shortening. This creates the flakiest texture and a great taste. Just a thought!

                  1. re: Lady_Tenar

                    Interesting. Thanks everyone for your help. I'll try it again soon.

              2. aventinus, next time try Cook's Illustrated Foolproof Pie Crust (Vodka is the secret ingredient):


                1 Reply
                1. re: Norm Man

                  And I have to say the CI is a very good pie crust! Notice the high fat to flour ratio, 10 oz of combined fat. Most recipes only call for 6-7 oz, at the most. Nice and flaky, with no gluten development due to the vodka addition. Note the word "foolproof," as long as you have your technique together, they mean foolproof. I prefer this crust to any of J of C version or my years old standby from Gourmet.