Mastering the pastry crust

Look at that pastry crust!

Two simple kitchen items will forever change your relationship to the pastry crust: parchment and plastic wrap.  Read on to find out how.

Here’s something I don’t know if I should admit on a mostly-cooking blog:  I don’t read recipes.  Not really.  I look at pictures, I read ingredients, I get ideas.  I don’t usually get into the nitty-gritty.  Unless the recipe is from Gourmet, in which case I assume my efforts will end in complete disaster if I don’t cook the egg for precisely 20 seconds and sift the flour at a 12 degree angle.

So my next admission will now not surprise you:  I am (now, was) terrible at making pastry crust.  Every time I had to pre-bake a pie crust, it would fall into a heap in the middle of the dish after a few minutes in the oven.  I would consider it a major success if I got the crust to remain half-way up the lip of the pan.

When I recently agreed to co-hostess a dinner where we planned to serve quiche to a large party, I knew I had to master the crust.  So, I plopped down with a cookbook to read up on the art of pastry.

There in plain English was the solution to my years of failure:  weight the crust while pre-baking!  If you don’t have pie weights (I don’t even know what a pie weight would look like), you simply line the formed crust with parchment and fill with dry beans or rice.

REVOLUTION!! (number one)

Line the crust with parchment paper, and weight the pastry crust with dry rice or beans

It is also helpful to re-chill the crust after forming in the dish and before placing in the oven.  Easy enough.

Here is the next transformative trick, and this one I figured out by myself:

You can roll out your pastry crust with a piece of saran wrap in between the pastry and the rolling pin.  Do you know how easy this trick makes rolling out crust?  Super easy.  Painless.  And it makes the process of folding up your rolled crust into a triangle to insert into the pie pan easier as well, as the pastry doesn’t get all stuck to itself.

REVOLUTION number two!

Plastic wrap & Pastry Crust: Together at last!

Then I got really carried away, and pre-rolled all of my crusts for the pending quiche dinner, covered them with plastic wrap, folded them into little triangles, and stored them in a large zip-top bag for storage in the freezer.  Never will I be tempted to buy pre-made pie crust again!  Well…

Anyhow, here is the full recipe for making a pastry crust.  Of course, if you’re the kind of person who reads recipes, you probably already know how to make perfect crusts.

For one 8-10 inch crust,

1 stick (8 tbs) cold butter

1 cup flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/8 cup (~3 tbs) ice water

For a sweet pie crust, you’ll want to add a tsp of sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cube the butter. In a medium bowl, mix the flour and salt.  Add the butter to a food processor, and a third of the flour, pulse a few times.  Add the next third of flour, pulse 3-4 times.  Add the rest of the flour, and pulse until incorporated.  Add the ice water, and pulse again until incorporated.

Remove the dough from the mixer, and turn out onto a clean surface.  Using your hands, form into a ball, wrap with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 30 mins, or the freezer for 10.

Partially unwrap the chilled dough and place on a clean, floured surface.  Keeping the plastic wrap over the top of the dough, use a rolling pin to roll out until the crust is quite thin, about 1/4 inch, and wide enough to fit an 8-10 inch pie or tart pan.

Keeping the plastic wrap on the top of the rolled crust, fold the crust in half toward you, and then into quarters.  Place the folded crust in the pan, and unfold.  Press the crust up along the sides of the dish, and get fancy with pinching the crust around the top, if it’s that kind of dish.

Remove the plastic wrap and poke a few holes in the crust with a fork.  Place in the fridge for 10+ minutes.

Place a sheet of parchment paper in the chilled, formed crust, and fill the crust with dry beans or rice.  Bake the crust for 10-20 minutes, depending on how long or whether you need to cook the filling. For a quiche crust, I found that a cooking time of about 10 minutes was good for the crust alone.

Remove the crust from the oven, let cool for a few minutes, and remove the rice- or bean-filled parchment. Tip! If you’re making multiple crusts, have the next one ready to go, grab all the edges of the parchment to keep the dry goods inside, and transfer the whole thing directly to the next crust.




Butter, flour, salt

Butter, flour, salt, water

Plastic wrap & Pastry Crust: Together at last!

Into the tin!

The plastic's job is done

Fill that Crust

Getting pastry ready to store

Zip it up! You can put these plastic-wrapped pastry crusts in the freezer for a day when you suddenly need a quiche or pie.

Look at those pastries!




Filed under Food

2 responses to “Mastering the pastry crust

  1. Pingback: End-of-Week Salad « nerds in the kitchen

  2. Pingback: Sweet Potato Cakes with Kale & Lettuce, Topped with Sprouted Mung Bean Salad « nerds in the kitchen

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