I cannot recommend enough The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. If you’ve never heard of Rose, you are either new to cooking, or simply are not a baker, because she is justifiably famous for her Cake Bible; the Pastry Bible and Christmas Cookie books are equally as wonderful. I’m sure the Bread Bible is as well, although I have yet to get my hands on a copy. Friends that I cook for often simply have to hear that it is a “Rose” recipe and they start drooling like Pavlov’s dogs. For a science geek like myself, the level of detail and “understanding” sections are fascinating and extremely helpful. Even my culinary-school-trained pastry chef fiance’ admits that my pastry crust is better than his.
OK, I will get off my Rose soapbox now. But seriously, if you love to cook, you should get this book. I’m just saying.
This is the pastry dough I make most often; I tend to prefer the Flaky Cream Cheese version (which I will try to post, but is also available on Epicurious, along with the Basic Flaky Pie Crust version), but I have found that among my many ‘tasters’ the Deluxe version wins every time. So – the recipe. I will not give all of Rose’s tips and advice; for that, you should get the book. (And no, I do not professionally shill for Rose, although I suppose it sounds like that! It really is a remarkable cookbook).
Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Deluxe Flaky Pie Crust
Pastry for one 9-inch pie shell or a 9 1/2 to 10-inch by 1-inch tart shell.
- 8 tbsp (4 oz) Ronnybrook Farm unsalted butter, cold
- 1 1/2 cups (lightly spooned, 6.5 oz) Wild Hive Farm whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/4 tsp salt (for savory pastry, add additional 1/8 tsp salt)
- 1/8 tsp baking powder (optional; to omit, double the salt)
- 4 1/2 tbsp ice water
- 1 1/2 tsp organic, unfiltered cider vinegar
- Cut the butter into small (about 3/4 inch) cubes. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze until frozen solid, at least 30 minutes. (I tend to keep butter cubes in a couple of 4 oz packets in the freezer for ease of pastry making).
- Place flour, salt and baking powder in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag and freeze for at least 30 minutes. (I often skip this step and have not noticed a big difference.)
- Place the flour mixture in a food processor with the metal blade (I use a mini Cuisinart) and pulse for a few seconds to combine.
- Add the frozen butter and pulse until the butter becomes the size of small lima beans (toss with fork to see the clumps). Add the ice water and vinegar and pulse until the dough just begins to come together (about 30-45 seconds). Pinch a bit of dough between your fingers; if it sticks, you are done.
- Transfer the dough mixture to the Ziploc bag. Holding both ends of the bag opening with your fingers, knead the mixture with the knuckles and heels of your hand, from the outside of the bag, until the mixture holds together in one piece and feels slightly stretchy when pulled.
- Remove the dough from the Ziploc and form into a disk. Wrap the disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (or, at a minimum, 45 minutes).
- I always use WW pastry flour for maximum flakiness; however, for savory crust you could substitute up to 1/2 cup of another whole grain flour (hard red spring wheat, spelt, triticale, rye) for a different flavor. Of course, regular, all-purpose white flour or white pastry flour can be used, but really, why would you? The taste of local, freshly milled whole wheat flour in this crust cannot be beat.
- For a savory crust, add 1 tbsp fresh chopped herbs (thyme, parsley, rosemary, etc.) or 1 tsp dried herbs to the flour and black, white, or cayenne pepper to taste (1/8 – 1/2 tsp) to flour.
- For Rose’s Cream Cheese version, replace 2 tbsp (1 oz) of butter with 1/4 cup (2.25 oz) of cream cheese, reduce the flour to 1 cup + 1 tbsp (5 oz) reduce the ice water to 1 tbsp, and use 1/8 tsp each of salt and baking powder. Add the cream cheese first, pulse, then add the frozen butter cubes. Proceed as above. This version rolls beautifully, and is easier to work with than the deluxe flaky version, so is great for lattice or decorative tops or borders. It is only slightly less flaky than the deluxe with a very subtle tang from the cream cheese that works very well with many recipes, sweet and savory.
Refrigerated, 2 days. Frozen, up to 3 months (although I have used dough that is 1 year old without problem).
Most pie crust recipes call for 1/8″ thickness. I’m quite fond of rolling pin rings – being an anal science geek I love the accuracy, but it also ensures that I don’t make the outside edges of my pie dough too thin. Worth the small investment if you make a lot of pastry like I do.
Remove dough from refrigerator and let warm up for 10-20 minutes (until the dough does not crack at the edges when you flatten with your palm). Rose suggests rolling out the dough between two sheets of Saran wrap – I guess this is to prevent adding extra flour, but I find the process very frustrating, and on a wooden board with a small sprinkling of pastry flour, this dough rolls out like a dream.
Always roll from the center out towards the edges using even, steady pressure. Lift and turn the dough, and roll away from you, as you roll. The edges will be trimmed anyway, so there is no need to roll out a perfect circle. When the dough circle is a couple of inches larger in diameter than your pan, gently lift the dough and lay it into the pan (no greasing or flouring of the pan is necessary). If the dough is very thin or fragile, you can lift by rolling it onto a rolling pin, or sliding underneath one of those thin, flexible cutting boards. Make sure to press the edges of the dough firmly into the pan, gently sliding the dough down the edges and into the pan; this will help to prevent shrinkage upon baking. Dust off any excess flour and trim the edges, to about 1/4 inch longer than the pan, with kitchen shears. Leave excess standing above the rim of a tart pan; for a pie pan, fold excess under and press down, with your thumb or a fork, all around the edges of the pan.
The more time you let the dough rest, the less it will shrink during baking. I find that a pie crust does not shrink much, even if pre-baking the shell, but a tart crust will tend to shrink, so I leave an extra 1/4″ standing above the rim of a tart pan. Once fitted into the pan, wrap well in plastic wrap and refrigerate once again; overnight is ideal, but a minimum of 45 minutes will allow the dough to relax.
To pre-bake a pie or tart crust, pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees (400 degrees if using convection oven or convection setting on a combination oven. All pastry will cook well in convection.) for at least 20 minutes. Weight the pie shell by fitting parchment paper, or a large coffee filter, into the shell. Fill with pie weights, dried beans, rice or what works for you (I use small stones that orginally came in a vase of flowers). Bake for 20 minutes (15 minutes convection); remove weights and parchment, and prick pie shell all over the bottom. If the edge is browning too quickly protect with a foil ring or edge protector. Return to oven for 7 to 10 minutes (3 to 6 minutes convection), or until pastry is golden brown. Smaller pies, tarts and tartlets will cook more quickly; adjust times accordingly. Cool on cooling rack. If desired, while still warm, brush with one egg white to protect crust from becoming soggy with a liquid pie filling.
Pastry also bakes quite well after freezing; if you need to freeze for some time and you will need to use the pan, roll out the dough, line the pan with plastic wrap, fill the pan with dough and freeze. Once frozen, lift out the frozen shell and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. To bake, do not thaw, put shell back into original pan, and bake according to instructions above.