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Pie crust -- chilling flour?

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I understand the science behind using chilled butter and shortening, ice water, chilling the crust, etc. So I'm wondering, why not go beyond that and chill your flour? Would that alter the chemistry of the flour too much? Or would it actually help prevent forming tough gluten that takes away from the flakiness of pie crust? Or would it simply do nothing? Any thoughts? Anyone tried this? Seen it in a recipe?

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  1. No I"ve never chilled my flour, I'm happy witht the results nevertheless.

    2 Replies
    1. re: coll

      That's a very good point. Same here. I guess I was just asking from more of a curiosity standpoint. And perhaps ensuring definite consistency.

      1. re: korrie

        Well you're right, I'm starting to rethink my position after reading the other answers!

    2. Go ahead. Chill the flour if it helps you keep everything really cold. I often store flour in the fridge because I use different types and I want to keep them fresh.

      3 Replies
      1. re: roxlet

        I keep whole wheat flour in the fridge too. Also my pastry cloth and my wooden rolling pin. If I had to choose one or the other, I'd chill the pin rather than the flour, since dough gets chilled before rolling anyway.

        1. re: greygarious

          That's a great idea; I didn't even think of that. Making a pie right now, and I'm gonna throw my pin in the fridge.

          1. re: greygarious

            How do u store the flour (vessel?) I used to store flour in the refrigerator in my old place. I may have to store some flour for the summer and want to avoid condensation.

        2. I've never done that but it sounds like an excellent idea. I don't think anything in flour gives a hoot whether it's warm or cold, at least within the vary narrow range that we humans perceive as such, but fats have a narrower range - much narrower. I think anything that helps to prevent the fat from becoming liquid while the dough is being made and rolled out is a very good thing.

          1. Some RLB'S recipes call for freezing the flour mix first.

            1. If it is particularly warm in the kitchen I will chill the flour. Putting cold butter into warm flour will warm the butter and defeat the purpose of using cold butter.

              1 Reply
              1. re: babette feasts

                I suppose that depends on how warm your kitchen is. I have never noticed flour to be "warm" at all, and when I add my frozen butter, Crisco and ice water, the whole mass is extremely cold.

              2. Chilling the flour will not change its "chemistry" - but it will help keep the butter/shortening/lard stay solid as you cut it in.

                There are two things to avoid when making pie crust. One is forming gluten. This happens when the flour gets wet. Kneading speeds gluten formation, but the real culprit is water. This is why the no-knead bread recipes work the way they do. (Long rises in your fridge.) Gluten makes your dough tough and hard. If you use butter in your pie crust it pays to check the fat content of the butter. Some brands of butter are wetter than others, making them less desirable for pie crust.

                The other thing to avoid is warmth. The key to a flaky crust is the fat must stay solid and the mixture of flour and fat must be a mixture of little lumps of fat covered with flour. If you go too far or the fat melts, you just have greasy flour and your crust will turn out fall-apart sandy. In a properly made pie crust, when you roll out the dough you are actually squashing the little lumps of flour-covered fat and forming them into flakes.

                I hope this helps.

                2 Replies
                1. re: PinchOfSalt

                  Correct, which is why I freeze my butter, and grate it into the flour with a large-holed Microplane. Then quickly cut in the Crisco that has been in the freezer in small pieces, and sprinkle on your ice water.

                  1. re: roxlet

                    Exactly what I do, with consistantly good results.

                2. Can't imagine chilled flour will do much. Flour is not much of a conductor of heat. More of an insulator. And as soon as you sift it it is room temp.

                  1. I doubt it would make much difference if any, and certainly not if you sift it, which ought to bring it close to room temperature just like that.

                    1. No need to chill the flour or the rolling pin. Any potential benefits (doubtful) will be miniscule and short-lived.

                      1. Not necessary.

                        Flour does not hold temp very well (either hot or cold).

                        1. I chill the fats and liquids and sometimes the utensils, and chill the dough again at every stage, but I've never chilled the flour. It doesn't get that warm where I live (Seattle) so I never thought it would make much difference (and I tend otherwise to go to extremes in my quest for the perfect pie crust).

                          My mother never chilled any of her ingredients. She cooked in a minimally-air conditioned house in the Sacramento Valley (summer temps up to 110° and higher), and then a minimally-air conditioned mobile home in Alabama (a balmy 90° most of the summer). Her pie crusts were exquisite--light and flaky beyond belief. Go figure.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: MsMaryMc

                            Piecrusts were made beautifully long before refrigeration and air conditioning were invented and/or available.

                            1. re: sandylc

                              Food for thought.

                              1. re: sandylc

                                True. My Mom could make a pie in no time flat, the crust was perfection, and her secret, lard and chidings not to overmix the pastry. For me, I need all the help I can get in making pie crust for some reason.

                                1. re: sandylc

                                  Wonderful point.

                              2. Anna Olsen the pastry chef chills her flour.

                                1. In "Baking with Julia," I saw most of the episodes and not one of the guest bakers and pastry chefs used chilled flour or even spoke of it. Chilled butter or other fat, yes.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: John Francis

                                    And Julia often mentioned keeping in her refrigerator a granite slab on which she rolled dough. I figure every little bit of cold might help, so why not chill as many components as are practical for you?

                                  2. The recipe for pie crust which I got from mother-in-law, the best Yankee pie baker I know, calls for cutting shortening into the flour and salt and then chilling the mixture.

                                    When you want a pie crust, you measure out a couple cups of the mixture, add ice cold water and you can roll the crust immediately without waiting.

                                    This is one of those tips you won't hear much about. But I've been sharing it for years on Chowhound.

                                    People would sneer at me when I told them about refrigerating flour/shortening and then Alton Brown discussed it on his show and said how well it worked - and voila it's now culinary brilliance.

                                    Grandma’s Pie Crust Recipe
                                    (This makes enough for several pies)

                                    6 cups all purpose flour
                                    2 tsp. salt
                                    2 and 1/3 cups shortening (grandma uses half regular Crisco, half butter flavored Crisco, with ZERO trans fats)

                                    1. Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl.
                                    2. Cut in half of the shortening with a pastry blender, to make coarse crumbs. (They will NOT be uniform in size and shape, nor fine like coarse meal.)
                                    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 Crust Pie:
                                    Measure out 2 cups of the cold crumb mixture.
                                    Add 4 Tablespoons of ice cold water. Stir gently and quickly.
                                    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. Do the same with the remaining half for the second crust.

                                    1. Sounds like a good opportunity to do a little experiment. I chill my flour by dint of storing it in the freezer. Keeps it fresher, especially whole wheat flour, which I find gets stale pretty quickly.