Shamleless Plug

I'm embarking on a new part of my life that is happier and going in a direction! It's really refreshing.

I was married May 19th, 2012 to a great guy I met at the C.I.A and we're go excited to embark on a life together. He has as culinary degree to match my baking and pastry degree. It's going to be a Good life.

I hope you enjoy my thoughts on food and cooking. I am but a humble baker, who happens to love cooking and embraces the joy of food.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Pie Dough Meandering

I don't get the deal with pie crust. So many chefs and people who think they are pastry chefs religiously bleat on and on about the importance of cold fat, ice cold water and the proper distribution of the two. My last boss so deliriously and furiously defended her pie dough that the only time we were allowed to touch the damn mixer was cleaning it when she was done making her dough. Although it wasn't hard to figure out her recipe. About ten pounds Crisco, 50 pounds of flour, about a gallon of ice water and 2/3rds cup salt. Opps! There goes the "secret" recipe. But it sounds like your rough 3-2-1 ratio to me. The 3-2-1 ratio being 3 parts flour, 2 parts fat and 1 part water. Cut the fat into the flour and mix the water into that and you got pie dough.

Last year I was making a chicken pot pie, and forgot to both chill the fat and ice the water. I was annoyed over the tough crust I could expect. But that never happened. My crust was just as flaky, just as perfect as ever. This had to be a flaky fluke. So I tried it again the next time I made pie with the same excellent results.

Tonight, I made pulled pork pot pie. The crust, though needing a bit more salt, was tender, flaky and browned very nicely. So what's the deal with pie dough? I barely even followed the 3-2-1 method. Everyone seems to make a big deal out of it. Secret recipes, methods guarded with pretentious greed. Is there some Pillsbury dough boy conspiracy going on?

During the hay day of Food Network, Alton Brown was a very popular man. He had all the answers and could present it with flair, humor and understanding. His pie crust episode was no different. He stressed the importance of adding ice water in slow stages, even going as far as using a spray bottle. I remember thinking that while the idea was brilliant for proper water distribution, it seemed like a lot of work for pie crust. A mere vessel for transporting filling into your mouth.

Turns out, all this fuss is not needed. As long as you coat the fat with enough flour and make it into a cornmeal consistency, allow time for the dough to rest and use minimal rolling, you're golden. The culprit is over rolling and over working the dough. This is true for any dough you make. A cool hand and a firm but gentle touch is what can make puffy pastry dough or a tender pizza crust.

But of course, that's just my opinion. I've learned how to make the painstaking, multi-step, multi-hour pastry dough at school and one that took about an hour at home with identical results. Is either method right or wrong? No. Is one more traditional and therefore more trusted than the other? Sure. I love tradition. I love experiencing the way things were done classically. I have a deep respect for the classics. But if I can save myself several hours taking principles of those traditional methods and yield the same results, I'm going to take it.

Which brings me back to pie crust. There are incredibly fussy ways to make it, with people swearing this is the only way to make it properly. I have people like my former boss, who was defensive over a "secret" recipe. There is no secret recipe for pie crust. It's a ratio. A ratio, people! This isn't Grandpa Jack's secret recipe for moonshine.

Anyway, long story short, you probably don't need to worry too much about perfectly chilled fat and icy cold water. Nice to have, might increase the quality vaguely. But really, don't worry so much about deep coldness. In my opinion, as long as things are reasonably cold and you don't overwork the dough, you're probably good to go. Just don't flake out.

It's pork pot pie! And it's happy to see you!