“I think of all doughs as living things, even tart dough. It has an opinion. It will stretch only so far. You have to listen to the dough” – Thomas Keller
Now I know why Apple pies are synonymous with mothers, 🙂, phewie!
If you’ve ever eaten homemade “Chakka varatty” – a notoriously difficult Kerala delicacy to conjure, and exceptionally addictive (similar to pate de fruit of the western world); If you’ve tasted the finicky “Achappam” (a crunchy, mildly sweet, local fried snack), fresh from your kitchen; or If you’ve eaten a homemade Apple pie, even once, in life… know that you are loved.
Why do we cook?.. or bake?… because there are people we care about, people who care for us, because of the provision made possible… Cooking speaks of our well being, shows that we have each other, it showcases God’s goodness and faithfulness.
The seasons are for you, and me. The Sun rises, collaborates with the leaves to produce the act of photosynthesis, and prepares a table for us! “O taste and see that the Lord is good”, is pretty deep… Psalms 34:8
OK, I digress, but it is all so interconnected! Back to our pie story…
The Pie, That Humbles.
I usually steer clear of making pies simply because the involvement is very high and it needs constant attention. It is one of those super-sensitive foods, and pretty much deserves the treatment you would give another fellow human being!
“Listen to your dough, what does it say”… Revered cooks and chefs meant every word when they said that.
It baffles me that they call it, “Humble pie”… really?!
Pie dough humbles you in the making. You cannot rush it for it it will refuse to perform, and the dough, “needs rest before changing environments.”
But why pie… Because it is worth it. It is a memorable memory created.
Because the best pastry is the one you make at home. Rose Levy Beranbaum said it. No bulk baking will match it, ’cause when you bake at home, you give it all the individual attention that it needs, and it will always yield a superior product than any store can offer. Promise!
Wonder why Apple pie is an American food type… It is as Indian as American, we have an ample supply of apples throughout the year, and we have all the good varieties… Red Delicious, Pink Lady, Gala, Fuji, to name a few.
One thing is a given, it’s holiday baking for sure. Venture into it only if you have sufficient time and are feeling 100 percent. Pie requires that of you. Is that why pie is an integral part of thanksgiving? Maybe…
I remember when I started pie-making some years ago… My first pie collapsed upon baking. The upper crust broke. The filling was runny.
More futile attempts followed; my pies were far from good looking, the pie crust was always fragile and the bottom, mostly under cooked. But somewhere it had a minimum taste, and my solace was that it didn’t go to waste.
Adults and children love pie… Kids, I think ‘coz of the crackly crust and the warm, full bite of a luscious jammy filling, and adults …well, for the same reason ☺️
Now the pastry case for pie, that’s a study in itself. Let me explain in brief, what I have learnt. You may decide what pie dough you want…
But wait, please in no way be discouraged by the technical complexity that you are about to read below…the idea is not to make you want to run away from baking a pie, esp for the uninitiated, rather to help ensure that you get it right.
Kindly read on..
1. Pate Brisee
Also known as Pate a Foncer which means, “Dough used to line tart shells”, an ideal pastry case for cooked custards, and fruit. Use non-fragile fruits, eg., Apples, pears, etc.
2. Pate Sucree
This pastry is sweeter. “Mainly used for blind-baked Almond cream, flan, and chocolate tarts.”
The method used is the familiar Creaming method, but “.. avoid incorporating too much air into the dough or you will end up with a very airy and porous dough that will get soggy as soon as it is in contact with the humidity of a cream or the refrigerator. Air bubbles also like to puff open during the baking process, which will make the baked dough separate very slightly, so it won’t be as stable and resistant to becoming soggy.”
3. Pate Sablee
“Crisp and crumbly, Sablee pastry is used blind baked for fresh fruit, cream and chocolate tart, and tartlets.”
The method used is the sanding method, whereby “We first mix the butter with the flour, allowing the fat in the butter to wrap itself around the gluten in the flour. This prevents the gluten from developing, which would cause the dough to be rubbery…The higher fat content in the sablée dough also makes the dough flaky and slightly more fragile compared to a sweet dough.”
However, “… you can use a creaming technique with a sablée recipe and vice versa. For example, if the sablée recipe you want to use calls for a sanding technique but you want a more stable dough—say you want to keep the tart you are making for a few days—you can always change the mixing method to a creaming method. Or you can use the sanding method for a sweet dough if you want your dough to be more flaky and fragile.”
Told you, this is a tad technical… But don’t give up as yet, we’re almost there…
Confused which pie dough to use? Here’s a straightforward answer :
“Sablée is a different type of dough that is richer in butter and egg yolks than pâte sucrée (Sweet Dough), thus more crumbly (sable means sand)… Because pâte sucrée makes a sturdier crust, you would choose to use it if you wanted to make, say, a strawberry tart that would keep for 2 days. It would stay firm despite the juice from the strawberries. But if you want a flakier, richer-tasting crust and you plan on eating the tart on the same day, sablée would be the dough to make.”
Also, a word of caution, do yourself a favour, pls pls pls do not avoid the egg in this case.
“Egg yolk also helps bind the dough and contributes great flavor, texture, and color to the final product. The lecithin in the yolk is what makes it a great binder.”
I have had untold misery having avoided eggs in pies and tarts. You have been forewarned, smile.
Consider working in an AC environment while rolling out and shaping pie dough. It is a requirement if you live in humid climes like ours.
How to roll pie dough :
Roll your pie dough between two pieces of parchment paper
“Begin rolling gently, to stretch out the dough. The key to rolling dough evenly and successfully is to roll gently, 3 times in one direction, from the edge nearest to you to the far edge, then check to see if the dough has stuck to the parchment paper or Silpat. You must always be able to slide the dough on the rolling surface during the rolling process. If it is sticking, run an offset spatula underneath to loosen it, then gently lift it off and lightly dust underneath with flour. Rotate the dough a quarter turn clockwise, make sure that there is still enough flour underneath that it doesn’t stick, and roll 3 more times. Never apply too much pressure to the dough; this will make it stick to the board or to the rolling pin. Continue to rotate the dough, check the flour, and roll 3 times, until it has reached the desired thickness, about ¼ inch.”
If you plan on blind baking :
“Using a fork, perforate the bottom of the shell, making rows of little holes up and down the bottom of the dough with the tines of your fork. This step, called “docking,” is important, as it will allow steam to escape evenly during baking.”
Cut out a piece of parchment paper, to fit the diameter of the pan, with a slight overhang, in order to lift it out later. Fill it with rice, dry beans, or dry green peas.
“Bake with this “faux filling” for 15 minutes, then remove the faux filling and return the tart shell to the oven. Bake until golden brown and evenly colored, another 5 minutes in a convection oven, 15 minutes in a regular oven. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before filling.”
Brush your pre-baked pie shells with a bit of egg white, this would help seal the bottom crust, I usually do so 3-4 minutes before I take the pie tin out of the oven.
For those of us who work in a home environment, in order to avoid soggy bottom for pie crusts, bake the pie along with the filling on the oven floor in the final stages. Switching on the bottom rod of the oven also helps, halfway through the bake, if it’s a home oven like a Morphy Richards but you will have to keep a strict vigil.
If your decorative pieces are browning while the rest of the pie is baking, simply cover them with Aluminum foil.
And if your pies take long to bake, esp for home cooks, cover the surface loosely with Aluminum foil “and make a vent in the centre to prevent the crust from steaming”, as mentioned by Rose Levy Beranbaum in her “Pie and Pastry Bible”.
If you really want to enhance your pie-making skills, here is a comprehensive read which you shouldn’t miss,
Want a recipe for a sturdy pie crust, and a delicious Apple pie filling, here is a reliable recipe,
Thanks for stopping by and trust we will all have a safe and protected New year!