I love to bake. Baking is a type of catharsis for me. It’s mindless and also incredibly precise at the same time. I should be able to bake a pie in my sleep at this point, but there is such a science to it that I am always afraid of forgetting an amount or a step. But one thing remains – the secret to my pies and the only pie crust recipe you will ever need. Julia Child’s pâte brisée is the perfect short paste recipe. In Julia’s own words, “a good French pastry crust is tender, crunchy, and buttery.” This pie crust is perfectly flaky and Remington will not let me make any other type of pie crust. Ever.
The recipe and proportions for the crust are below, but I want to show you step by step how to roll the dough out and actually shape it into a pie shape, including crimping the edge. That all starts with a well floured work space. I am fortunate enough to have a marble counter top on my island in our remodeled kitchen, which is the ideal work space for rolling out dough. Marble is known for remaining very cold to the touch and you want to keep your dough as cold a possible. You have to work diligently and quickly as you roll out the dough. Warm dough is soft dough and soft dough easily tears. So well flour your work space. Take your disc shaped crust out of the fridge just when you are ready to roll it out. Using a rolling pin, apply gentle pressure to roll the dough into an even circle turning after each roll of the pin just until you have a circle large enough of even thickness to cover your pie dish with an inch overhang. You can use your pie dish as a guide to see you have a circle the right size yet. Don’t worry it doesn’t need to be perfect. You will clean up the edges and they will get tucked in along the rim of the pie dish anyway. And as Julia says, “No matter what happens in the kitchen, never apologize.”
There are two ways to “pick up” a rolled out crust and lay it onto a pie dish in my book. You can fold it in half and in half again, pick it up and unfold it onto the dish. Or you can roll it onto your rolling pin and un-roll it onto your pie dish. This time I chose the latter because my crust had gotten a little warm and soft, so I was afraid handling any more would make it worse.
Carefully roll it out and lay it onto your dish, evening it out so it is centered and helping it to settle into the corners of the dish.
The next step is to trim off the excess crust with kitchen shears. You want to leave just about an inch all the way around. Now roll the edge under itself so that it is sitting just on the rim of the pie dish. I also like to sort of pinch it with my fingers so that it really sits up tall on the rim.
Next you need to crimp that edge. There are many many methods for crimping and decorating a crust, but the classic is shown below. Place your pointer finger and thumb from one hand on the outer edge, while your thumb or pointer finger from the other hand is on the inner edge pinching/pushing between them to create the ruffle below.
Crimping is not only decorative, but it provides a very important aspect to the crust in that it helps to prevent it from slumping down the pie dish as it bakes. When the fat in the crust heats up in the oven, it causes the crust as it warms to want to slide down from gravity. The crimped edge holds the crust in place, ideally.
While your oven is preheating to 400, throw your pie crust back into the fridge to firm up those fats again. A chilled pie will also be less likely to collapse or slump. Pie weights also help to serve this purpose.
Lightly butter foil or parchment paper and gently line the crust with it by delicately placing the foil or parchment on the inside of the crust and pressing it into the sides and bottom taking care not to break off the edge. Fill the foil or parchment with pie weights or dried beans.
For a par-baked crust, you are going to bake for 8-9 minutes covered, then 2-3 more uncovered. For a fully baked crust, you will bake an additional 7-10 minutes uncovered (for a total of 10-13 minutes uncovered). Before you return the uncovered pie crust to the oven, be sure to gently prick it with a fork all over. This helps to keep the crust from ballooning up and developing air pockets.
Voila, par-baked beauty! It’s not perfect, but it’s lovingly crafted by hand and delicious! Never apologize!
Author: Julia Child from Mastering the Art of French Cooking
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp sugar
- 6 oz chilled butter cut into 1/2 inch bits
- 4 Tbsp chilled shortening
- A scant half cup of ice water
This recipe can be made either by hand or in a food processor. I've included directions for both, but if mixing by hand consider Julia's notes: You must train yourself to work rapidly, particularly if your kitchen is warm, so that the butter will soften as little as possible. Use very quick, light finger movements, and do not linger on the dough at all with the warm palms of your hands. A pastry blender may be used if you wish, but a necessary part of learning how to cook is to get the feel of the dough in your fingers.
If mixing by hand: Place flour, salt, sugar, butter, and vegetable shortening in a big mixing bowl. Rub the flour and fat together rapidly between the tips of your fingers until the fat is broken into pieces the size of oatmeal flakes Do not overdo this step as the fat will be blended more thoroughly later. Add the water and blend quickly with one hand, fingers held together and slightly cupped, as you rapidly gather the dough into a mass. Sprinkle up to 1 tablespoon more water by dropletes over any unmassed remains and add them to the main body of the dough firmly into a roughly shaped ball. It should just hold together and be pliable, but not sticky. Proceed to the fraisage.
If using a food processor: Fit the bowl of your food processor with a steel blade; measure flour, salt, and sugar into the bowl. Pulse a couple of times to aerate and blend together the dry ingredients. Add butter and shortening to the bowl; Pulse 4 to 5 times. Measure out 1/4 cup of iced water in a small bowl, turn your food processor on, and then slowly pour it in all at once. Immediately begin to turn the machine off and on several times until the dough begins to mass together. If this doesn't happen rather quickly, dribble in the remaining iced water and continue to pulse the machine off and on. If the dough still doesn't begin to mass together, repeat one more time. Once the dough has begun to mass together it is done. Do not over mix the dough. Scrape the dough out onto your work surface, and proceed to the fraisage.
The fraisage (the final blending): Place the dough on a lightly floured surface. With the heel of one hand, not the palm which is too warm, rapidly press the pastry by two-spoonful bits down on the surface and away from you in a firm, quick smear of about 6-inches. [The goal of the fraisage is to incorporate streaks of butter into the dough, which will help create a flaky crust; you will actually be able to see the streaks of butter throughout the dough.]
With a scraper or spatula, gather the dough again into a mass; knead it briefly into a fairly smooth round ball. Sprinkle it lightly with flour and wrap it in waxed paper. Allow it to rest in the refrigerator for 2 hours or overnight or in the freezer for 1 hour before rolling it out. Once the dough has rested, proceed to roll it out as shown in this blog post.
Baking: Bake at the middle level of a preheated 400-degree oven for 8-9 minutes until pastry is set. Remove the foil and pie weights. Prick bottom of pastry with a fork to keep it from rising.
For partially cooked shell: Return to oven for 2 to 3 minutes more. When the shell is starting to color and just beginning to shrink from sides, remove it from the oven.
For a fully cooked shell: Bake 7 to 10 minutes more, or until the shell is very lightly browned.
-Well-wrapped uncooked pastry dough will keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. It can also be frozen for a month or two, but be sure to wrap it and then seal in a freezer bag.
-Weighing dry ingredients is the most accurate way to get consistent results with any kind of baking. If you don't have a kitchen scale available, be sure to use the scoop and sweep method to measure your flour, in which your gently spoon flour into the cup measurement and then use a knife to level it off. This prevents the flour from being packed in, which happens when you use the cup measurement as the scoop itself. When you pack the flour in like this, you are actually getting a lot more flour than anticipated, which can definitely alter finicky baked goods like pastry dough. For more information on how to accurately measure flour, click here.
-I like to cube and measure out the butter, shortening, and water first, then stick them in the freezer while I start to measure the other ingredients. By the time I need the butter, shortening, and water, they've chilled nicely.
-Keeping everything as cold as possible really helps. Try working on a marble slab (like this one that I used before I had marble counter tops) if you have it!
-You might not need to use as much water either. I'd advise to start slowly with the water and keeping adding more as needed. (I never use the full half cup)
-Finally, try not to overwork the dough at any stage in the process. If it becomes hard to work with when you are rolling it out, just stick it back in the fridge (covered) for 10-15 minutes and come back to it. Overworked pastry dough is tough and chewy.
-I provided the recipe for making two pie crusts because I always make two when I am making pastry dough since it keeps so well in the freezer - that way I am one step closer to a homemade dessert during the holidays when you never know when you might need one.
P.S. I’d love for you all to follow along with my posts and never miss a new one. Follow my blog with Bloglovin