This January in Baking School my class was "Pastry Fundamentals 1". There is no coincidence that the word "fun" is in the title. But also, pastry is in the title, and what does pastry make you think of?
PIE PIE PIE!
We got to learn all about PIE for a whole week! Yup, that whole week I lived, breathed, baked, ate, and dreamt pie. It was a pretty good week!
Growing up, I never liked pie. I don't really know why, but anytime I found out "pie" was for dessert, I was generally disappointed. Where's the chocolate cake? Didn't even matter what kind of pie it was, if it had pie in the title, I was out. I was a strange child.
Thank goodness I have grown up to realize that actually, pie is delicious. And also, that PIE can really mean and be so many many things. The crazy thing is, now I like allll kinds of pie! Give me all the pie! More correctly, let me bake all the pies! I'll need your help eating them.
The foundation of any good pie begins with the pie pastry. The crust. The dough. Many people judge the quality of a pie only on the pastry. The filling could be aces, but if the pastry is bad, then all seems to be lost! No pressure. So, this is where we begin our Pie Journey.
Despite it being notoriously difficult, pie dough is terribly simple at the same time. It only has 4 ingredients! Maybe 5 if you want to add the "optional" sugar. I generally always want to add sugar :)
PIE DOUGH: a mixture of FLOUR (pastry flour please), FAT (butter is best), LIQUID (water, usually but sometimes milk), and SALT (for flavo-flave!)
I suppose I was kind of under the impression that there is only one kind of pie dough. And everyone strives for THE perfect pie dough. This is sort of true... however the ideal pie dough really depends on what kind of pie you are making and what you are going to use it for.
For pie purposes, we can separate the pastry into two categories: Flaky and Mealy.
Sounds appetizing doesn't it?
But hang in there, pie is the prize!
Flaky pie dough is the dough that I always thought was what people are always trying to achieve. In my opinion, it is more pleasing to eat. Simply put, the butter is left in pretty large chunks, which create big pockets of steam in the hot oven, resulting in a flaky, melt in your mouth pastry. It is the pie dough you want on top of your pies, and the pie dough that you use if you want to pre-bake a pie shell.
The other pie dough is Mealy, which is very very similar, only the butter is brokedn down into smaller pieces, like the size of coarse cornmeal (name makes more sense now, right?). There is also a little bit less water in the dough, because more of the flour is coated by the fat, meaning the flour will absorb less water. Mealy dough is good for bottom crusts, when you have a liquid type filling that gets baked along with the shell. This is because the dough is less likely to absorb too much moisture, like a flakey pie shell would. No soggy crusts here!
At school we would use butter for flaky dough, and shortening for mealy dough. The shortening helps to make a mealy dough because it is easier to breakdown, and doesn't melt as quickly as butter. However BUTTER IS BETTER for flavour and hands down the number one choice for flaky pie dough. I'll give in and use shortening at school, but I think at home, I will always use butter, even for mealy dough. As my Chef at school (very often) says, "Butter good."
Flakey Pie Dough
Use this method for your top crusts, or for crusts that you need to pre-bake before adding filling!
Mealy Pie Dough
Use this method for your bottom shells, and pies that have a liquidy/fruity/custardy filling that gets baked with the shell!
Directions: (the procedure is the same for both recipes, except for step 2)
Pie till I die <3