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How Long Did it Take You to Learn How to Make Pie Dough?

I'm really getting frustrated!

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  1. If you want to get it right in one shot, look at http://sweets.seriouseats.com/2011/07...

    Also see http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/800929 for the ATK "vodka recipe", etc.

    To answer the question, it probably took me 6 attempts before I made something I was proud of.... but that was before I found chowhound.com !

    1. When I learned that if it felt/looked too dry, I could add a bit more water and not fret about it.
      When I do make it, I also use a processor.

      1. A little while, mostly because I was afraid of it.

        You can add a LOT more water than you think and it'll be fine. You can always add flour. I do it by hand because I loathe cleaning the machine and it always ends up fine.

        Also, the panic about "IT MUST BE ICE COLD" made for a lot of hard-to-roll-out, cracked-edge crusts. Let it warm up a bit, then put it in the pan and chill it for 15-30 minutes or so before filling and baking, c'est tout.

        1. a dough that looks too dry or too wet will recover nicely if you chill it or put it in the freezer in plastic wrap before rolling for at least 30 minutes...follow the directions and then go with the process. add a bit of water or a bit of flour after chilling...but chill first! don't worry about cracking, just patch it.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Madrid

            I'm going to give it another shot tomorow. Thanks for the tips.

          2. I made my first pie thirty years ago, but I only began to feel consistently confident in my dough when I started following Marion Cunningham's method that she teaches to Jeffrey Steingarten in his book "The Man Who Ate Everything." Googling around, I found this:
            She doesn't use special implements or have you chill or freeze anything. You work the dough with your hands, which considerably shortens the learning curve too, because you're right in there feeling if it's good or not. And I find if I chill the dough for a couple of minutes whenever I feel my hands are melting the butter (I always use butter), and if I chill it after I mix it just when I'm making the filling, it's easy to roll. Definitely don't overthink! Actual mistakes are preferable to hypervigilance.

            My proportions are 1 1/4 cups flour, 1/4-1/2 t salt, 1/2 cup butter and 5 T water for a single crust. Good luck!

            1. I learned how when I was a girl, so I never developed a phobia. The trick is to add enough water to make sure it holds together. People are always afraid to add too much water. WHen I teach my pie making class, I teach the vodka crust method, but you don't have to do that.

              1. I fooled around for a long time and got to your point and took a class. Best thing I ever did. There's nothing like having someone do it in front of you, so you know what it should look like, and then watch over your shoulder and tell you where you're going wrong.

                Best hints--Mix less than you think you should and you should see chunks of butter.

                6 Replies
                1. re: chowser

                  Yes, chowser, I have been fumbling around with different recipes & methods for years & still came up with flops. Just so happened I took a class a couple of weeks ago & was completely amazed at how simple it was. The basic recipe is listed below. If anyone is interested, I shall "walk" you through all the steps we followed at the class. Trust me, it is the little things that matter. What recipe did you lear from?

                  PIE CRUST

                  2 cups A/P flour

                  1 teaspoon salt

                  2/3 cup shortening

                  1/2 cup ice water

                  1. re: cstout

                    The one I had was all butter and used a little lemon juice and was heavy in ice water. You work it so little that the dough is just barely comes together when you flatten it into a disk. The teacher was a pastry chef at the Inn at Little Washington.

                    1. re: chowser

                      Gosh, your class sounded like it was upscale, what did the rest of the recipe consist of?

                      1. re: cstout

                        Not really upscale, definitely geared towards beginners but the instructor was awesome. The recipe:

                        2 1/2 c. flour
                        1 c cold butter, cut into small cubes
                        1/2 tsp salt
                        1/2 c ice water
                        1/4 tsp lemon juice

                        Using food processor, mix flour, butter, salt on low until pieces of butter are just larger than pea (until the edges of the butter are smoothed is a good guide).

                        Add water, lemon juice slowly and mix until "shaggy mess" about 30 secs.

                        Turn out dough and form into disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate up to 2 days or freeze. This looks nothing like the smooth pie dough you get when you buy them-- you see visible chunks of butter, not large.

                        1. re: chowser

                          chowser, I am wondering what the lemon juice does since it is such a minute amount? Now I want to try your recipe, I guess I am feeling pretty darn bold since I FINALLY can make a decent piecrust, so now I want to venture to other recipes. Watch me get "flopped" in the face, never fails.

                          1. re: cstout

                            Theoretically, acid makes for a more tender crust. Some people use vinegar but the instructor said she prefers lemon juice for the flavor. I've never tried w/out. This pie crust is very buttery, home made looking, not smooth like some pie crusts.

                2. Daisy, what's got you boggled down?
                  How can we help you?
                  I stated yesterday on a thread about pie dough that it's not all that difficult once you get it down [if you have a pastry chef for a gramma] and I did. [wink]

                  what is wrong with what you do in your pie dough?

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: iL Divo

                    Do you make house calls??? I took the pie class at the CIA and it was great. But the chef demonstrated how to make the dough, we didn't actually make it. They had tons of dough prepared ready for us to roll out and make the filling for.

                    He cut the dough with two knives and did it very quickly. I understand the concept and have watched numerous videos, but when I try making the dough with a pastry cutter, it seems to be just shredding the butter as opposed to giving me the walnut sized chunks of butter. The fillings I've made and are very good. But I've tried making the dough 4 times now. It is impossible to roll out. It just crumbles.

                    I'm using the iced cold water, King Arthur Pastry flour, unsalted european style butter. I'm just not combining this correctly.

                    1. re: DaisyM

                      Use the tips of your fingers. My pie dough (and my Southern biscuits) improved dramatically after I stopped using machinery. When you feel it getting a little slimy, stop and chill it until it's firm again. The gesture is a lot like the "money" gesture (rubbing your thumb across your other four fingertips).

                      I use standard AP flour, ice water, unsalted butter, and flour.

                      (Tip, incidentally: if you combine a pint of good heavy cream with half a cup of buttermilk or yoghurt and leave it in a clean, non-plastic bowl out on the counter for 24 hours, then whip it into butter with a towel thrown over the mixer to prevent splashback, you can make your own European-style butter with about five minutes' effort and at less than half the cost of Lurpak.)

                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                        I was doing everything trying to avoid touching the dough cause I'm so fearful of melting the butter! I even put the bowl, flour,and pastry cutter in the fridge. I had my husband cut the butter into perfect cubes, because of his surgical skills.

                        1. re: DaisyM

                          OK, that's a little overkill. Do this: make a pie crust that you swear is going to fail. Make like you're never going to use it (i.e., don't make it when you actually need to bring a pie somewhere).

                          Work the stuffing out of it. Use your fingers. Get in there and get to know what pie dough feels like. Roll it out. It might be a hot mess—but you'd be surprised how forgiving the stuff is. And if you really do make a disaster, well, brush it with egg and dust it with cinnamon sugar and make pie dough cookies. If you don't, well, consider whipping together a simple baked custard and baking it in the pie dough.

                          1. re: Das Ubergeek

                            Das Ubergeek, thanks for all you practical folks like you who keep all the willie nillies like me on the right track. Sometimes we can make the simpliest project into a mountain. We are not talking rocket science, but in defensive of the "clueless", if you have struggled for years like some of us have, you would appreciate every bit of info you can get your hands on. Did I just make a "pun" or what? Anyway, on a more serious note, we have certainly lost our "touch" with the food we prepare. Blenders, food processors, stand mixers, immersion blenders, whizzers & I don't know what all, have distanced us from our food. Let us get back to using our hands in the kitchen, touching our food, taking the time to chop, blend, knead, & put forth love into every ingredient. I know the world is so fast paced, but I think the world is needing a more "hands on approach" in the kitchen. Excuse me for getting on the soapbox, but I truely think a simple sandwich made with love is much better than some "gourmet" meal popped into the microwave to be eaten alone. Thank you for letting me share your space.

                      2. re: DaisyM

                        ok, so how are do you live from southern California? are you here or another state? serious..........

                        last night I made my husband pie-ettes. little tiny baby banana cream pies.
                        almost barely more than a bite. soo soo soo good.
                        anyway, Pillsbury regular flour. I softened butter for something I needed& forgot it in the nuker. just short of melted and thought dang. put the 'close to melted' in the butter bell to firm up it did. so I used that for the crust of the pies last night. not a measurer, but in Cuisinart went 10-12 oz flour/1/2 t salt/1 T sugar. couple of pulses.
                        pulsed the 1/4 c butter in a few times then slowly slowly slowly streamed the 2/12 T ice water with ice chips in it.....watching it until it just pulled from the sides of the bowl and out it came onto the marble slab. it needed nothing more, no more flour except what I rubbed on my hands, the marble was cold so it worked perfectly, I rolled it flat, folded it over 4 times into a triangle, plastic wrapped it&in frig for 1/2 hour. took it out, nothing more needed, rolled out perfectly, cut into 6" rounds, placed in muffin cups to bake first. took out let cool, filled with 2T of banana filling, cut strips out of the leftover raw crust for lattice on top made cinnamon raw sugar sprinkled on top of lattice, baked off, and that dough crust was so tender and flaky.

                        1. re: iL Divo

                          iL Divo, you are fantastic, making do with what you have, no recipe & some banana filling. Hubby should give you a big kiss for those itty bitty bites. Thanks for sharing. I am from TX....does it show that bad? Oh well, that is why I am here at Chowhound, to learn all I can from great people like you!!!

                          1. re: cstout

                            auhhhhhhhhhh, so sweet cstout

                            I got big kisses from him, always do, why do you think I bake and cook for him? hahahah
                            it's the hugs and kisses and ???...............
                            he works so hard, does so much, loves me and shows me that everyday, I can't resist making things for him that delight his tastebuds. it's easy because it's my favorite thing to do, cook and bake.
                            I didn't have banana filling on hand, I had 2 huge bananas.
                            I'm a recipe and cookbook collector but as much as I read, I don't follow [usually] it's a 'shoot from the hip and hope all works out' thing for me. these little pie-ettes, well, sometimes I even surprise myself.
                            but again, with my gramma being a famed pastry chef and me usually sitting my her side on a stool, I picked up a lot of information and knowledge. also, it helped to be able to put my tiny hands on her arthritic little hands to feel how she did things. auh the memories............

                            1. re: iL Divo

                              Yes, the memories are so wonderful, sometimes it hurts to remember all those times, but it hurts in a good sort of way. I sure wish I could put something together out of "not much" like you do. I am able to do that with cooking, but with baking, I must have a recipe & every ingredient listed in there. Have not been much of a sweet eater, so maybe that is why, but I am going to start practicing the spur of the moment thing soon. Wait, I just know I have recipe around here that will tell me what to do with those luscious apples, oh well, old habits are hard to break. Happy baking (and kisses).

                    2. I learned from my mom, when I was a kid. Adding enough water was a problem at first--if the dough is too dry it is crumbly and won't stay together. Moving it from the counter to the pie plate was another obstacle, til I figured out I could roll it up on the pin and unroll it onto the plate.

                      Something I have learned recently is to use all butter (Mama used Crisco). I use the food processor to quite thoroughly blend half of the butter with all of the flour, then I use a coarse grater to grate the rest of the butter into the mix--I freeze the butter first. Stir the grated butter in with the water--that leaves some bigger pieces of butter to make the nice flakes.

                      Now, I love to work with pastry, making fancy fluted edges and cutouts of apples or leaves to decorate the top.

                      1. It probably took me a dozen attempts but I never had confidence until I found the "vodka recipe". I absolutely adore the results and the fact that the directions are so precise.

                        1. I learned from my Grandmother over 50 years ago. When I made it all the time I was good at it but if you only make pie for 2 holidays per year you sort of lose your touch. When I learned we used Crisco. That is now such a no no I would never admit to doing it at all. When the solid shortening toodoo hit the fan I switched to oil crust which was good but not flakey enough to be called great. Last year I decided to learn a real foody method so I make a butter/lard crust which was fabulous. But, my real secret, a commercial made frozen crust that comes in lumps that you roll out your self, is called "Pappy's Pie Crust". It is made in Minnesota, possibly by swedish elves and they are a small company so not always easy to find. They use lard, the texture is great, I can cut the lumps in pieces and make tarts or pastries that are uniform in size and I never have to worry about how it will come out. I would hate to have to rely on my rusty skills at holiday time so I will continue with Pappy's as long as they stay in business.

                          1. i think i got it right out of the gate, but i didn't know i was supposed to be intimidated. had i known then what i know now, i may not have attempted it. but i use julia's pate brisee from mastering the art of french cooking. i just TRUST julia, so i wasn't scared. her recipes just seem to work.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: eLizard

                              oh and per the revisions in MtAoFC, i do it all in the food processor. i think julia said once that's the only reason she has one....to make pie crust. but i could totally be making that up.

                              1. re: eLizard

                                eLizard, which Julia cookbook is your favorite? I don't have any of her books so I am in the dark about how many she has or what was the most popular, but I have heard her name so many times, so I think I can trust her too!!!!

                                1. re: cstout

                                  mastering the art of french cooking.

                                  1. re: cstout


                                    if you can pull up online in MTAOFC as mentioned by eLizard, it's on page 139-140. her directions for making a pastry dough is very clear and concise. she's masterful for certain.
                                    but her ingredients are simple: butter/vegetable shortening/cold water/salt/sugar

                                    1. re: iL Divo

                                      I will search that out right now, thanks to both of you.

                                2. I can't remember, but my mom taught me as a kid.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: rasputina

                                    This is my mother-in-law's recipe for pie crust. What she does is make the flour, shortening, salt mixture ahead of time, chills it, and then measures out the amount of crumbs she wants, adds ice water, and then immediately rolls it out. The chilled flour mixture stores well for several months. The cold shortening plus cold water is key.

                                    Grandma's Pie Crust (Makes enough for several pies):

                                    6 cups all purpose flour
                                    2 tsp. salt
                                    2 and 1/3 cups shortening -she uses half regular Crisco, half butter flavored Crisco, with 0 trans fats. Use shortening sticks for accurate measuring.

                                    1. Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl.
                                    2. Cut in half the shortening with a pastry blender, to make coarse crumbs. - They will NOT be uniform in size and shape.
                                    3. Cut in the remaining shortening. Place in airtight container and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. (Will keep up to 3 months no problem). You will get enough crust mixture for several pies.

                                    For a 9 inch double crusted pie:

                                    1. Measure 2 cups of the cold crumb mixture.
                                    2. Add 4 Tablespoons of ice cold water. Stir gently and quickly.
                                    3. Dough should be soft and not dry. Add a little more flour if too wet, or a little more water if dry.
                                    Take half the dough, form a circle and roll out immediately on a floured board. Place in pie pan.
                                    4. Roll out the other half of the dough for the top crust.

                                    1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                      TrishUntrapped, you are a doll, I worked with a lady many years ago that handed me a recipe like that, but I somehow lost it & she quit before I could get it again. Think she called it Dough Master Mix. I have often thought of it, but could not ever find her again. Strange how I just started thinking about it when all the pie business started around here. Thank you, thank you. Seems to me she said she purchased several of those aluminum pie pans & made a bunch of crusts to store in the freezer. She said to stack them after they became frozen & wrap in a plastic bag & then in double bagged brown paper sack. Besides she always kept the master mix on hand too. Yes, she was a fabulous pie maker & the office loved it when she brought pies, they were very simple & in season, peaches in spring, apples in fall, etc..

                                      Anyway I cannot thank you enough, you read my thoughts across the miles.

                                      1. re: cstout

                                        Cstout, that's a lovely story! I bet those pies were fantastic. This recipe works so well because the crumbs are cold, you add cold water and then you can roll it right out. If you make some pies with this recipe please post photos!!! ;-)

                                  2. DaisyM,

                                    I feel your pain, but there is light at the end of the tunnel and delicious pies too. Growing up, as one of seven kids, my mom gave us all rolling pins and we made the Thanksgiving pies. The crust recipe called 'No fail Pie Crust' included an egg and vinegar and it indeed made a nice crust even after it was rolled to death.

                                    Fast forward, I was fortunate to marry into a family where my mother-in-law is a fantastic Yankee pie baker. Flaky crust, juicy but thickened filling. Just a slice of heaven on a plate. She gave me her recipe, I followed it, yet my pies still didn't come out as good as hers. I finally convinced her to let me take photos of her making a pie so I could make a slideshow. The secrets I learned: The dough should not be too dry. That seems to be a major issue. Measure your flour carefully. For apple pie, precook apples slightly then you can use more apples and not worry about uncooked or slimy drippy filling.

                                    Here is link to slideshow. I will post the crust recipe in a new post underneath this one. (EDIT TO ADD: SOMEHOW THE PIE CRUST RECIPE POSTED ABOVE THIS POST)


                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                      My goodness girl, you are so lucky to have your MIL...go right now & give her a big hug for me & tell her she is a super star here on Chowhound. Yes, you are lucky to be in that family & she is lucky to have a wonderful daughter in law. Just curious, do you know why vinegar is used in some pie doughs? Have seen that but just don't know what is the purpose. Thanks again for posting the webshots.

                                      Hi Granny & please bake me a Yankee pie sometime.

                                      1. re: cstout

                                        My mom said the vinegar and egg gave the dough enough "elasticity" so it could be rolled and re-rolled without getting tough. While that is certainly true, to be honest I prefer the more traditional taste and texture of the recipe I posted here. Just flour, salt, shortening, water. Works beautifully.

                                        I am a firm believer though that there are many ways to skin an apple. If you find a recipe that works for you, use it. Whether it has vinegar, vodka, whatever... Make pie!!

                                        1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                          Yep, Trish, sometimes I think I spend WAY too much time posting & not enough being in the kitchen. Its kinda like opening up doors & seeing how people are doing things in there. I just LIKE to read about food & you folks certainly keep me at the "pooter" way into the night or past suppertime. I think I am addicted, let's roll the dice & see if any more ideas/recipes pop up. Geez, don't tell anyone, I could get into a lot of trouble for this addiction of mine. Someone might unplug me & then my life will go down the tube, pardon the pun.