A Shorter Life of Pie
November 17, 2019 6:56 AM   Subscribe

Archive link.

Whoever decided on forced login at NYT cooking is really shortsighted. Do they track how many people abandon the tab at that point? I swear.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:05 AM on November 17, 2019 [25 favorites]

Even the web.archive.org link has the "subscribe" banner in front of it for me. Here's an archive.is link, if that helps anybody.
posted by clawsoon at 7:29 AM on November 17, 2019 [4 favorites]

[Leaving this up because the first two comments offer workarounds, but yeah, this is a good example of the single-link NYT post that just doesn't work well.]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:41 AM on November 17, 2019 [17 favorites]

That happens about half the time when I load it from wayback, but pressing the stop button right after the page loads seems to prevent it.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:42 AM on November 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

Will try this. Why is grating the dough better than just dumping the dough into the pan straight from the food processor when it's in crumbly bits, which they said also works in a time pinch. Seems like an unnecessary step to make a ball then grate it.
posted by waving at 7:46 AM on November 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

You may have just changed my life. For the better.
posted by procrastination at 7:48 AM on November 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

Does this only work for egg doughs? My typical pie dough is just a flour/butter/water base and I don't think I could ever get it to form a log, much less grate it. It looks like they process their dough a lot longer, too - I stop before the sand stage.
posted by muddgirl at 7:54 AM on November 17, 2019 [3 favorites]

Alternative workaround: disable JavaScript on nytimes.com and then open the link in a private/incognito tab.
posted by I paid money to offer this... insight? at 8:02 AM on November 17, 2019 [6 favorites]

(Disables JavaScript, discovers no correlative difference in pie crust texture, closes tab).
posted by aspersioncast at 8:22 AM on November 17, 2019 [25 favorites]

"Renounced flakiness" is all is took for me to brush this one off. For goodness sake, if you don't want to make a decent pie, just make a cake or something. Pie crust takes practice, but it's not some secret arcane art. And while you're practicing you get to eat pie!

A mealy crust (or short crust) is pretty easy. But if you use a food processor, you won't get the practice to take it to the next level. Make brown butter by melting butter on the stove and letting all the water content boil off. The solids will brown up and smell like butterscotch. Freeze the brown butter. When you make your pie crust, simply grate the frozen brown butter into your flour, toss in the ice water, and work quickly and gently into a crumbly ball. A good clean counter and a dough scraper are a must. Fold over the dough a couple of times, pressing it all together so it's less crumbly but never sticky. When it mostly holds together, put it back in the freezer for a few minutes. Take it out and roll it.

There are no shortcuts that are better than practice. Pie is a thing that Matters To Me, and good pie crust is the hill I will die on.
posted by rikschell at 8:42 AM on November 17, 2019 [55 favorites]

Can't read the article, but I can relate to the difficulty of wanting a traditional simple egg-less pie crust that comes out tender and flaky. After many many years' struggle I've happily settled on Kenji's Easy Pie Dough recipe. It works every time.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 8:46 AM on November 17, 2019 [6 favorites]

This method does not fix the upper pie crust, which is responsible for the majority of my swears.
posted by Nanukthedog at 9:06 AM on November 17, 2019 [3 favorites]

I have been baking a lot of pie crusts lately, and I am here for this thread. Please, tell me more about your pie dough secrets.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:10 AM on November 17, 2019

I learned to make my crust (yes, in a food processor) from Ken Haedrich "Dean" of the Pie Academy. In my experience there are no shortcuts, it just takes practice to get the consistency right and be able to work to dough quickly enough.
posted by muddgirl at 9:11 AM on November 17, 2019

I’ve made this flaky one a couple of times recently and it’s interesting. It’s not too far off from my regular crust but you keep the butter in bigger chunks initially, it has more water, and the folding! I’ve never added the sugar, though.

Usually I smoosh the butter into smaller pieces, and occasionally use milk instead of water. Agreed that pie crust really isn’t that hard and just needs practice. And the acceptance that for any combination of ingredients, mood, temperature, or humidity, you just might fail and have to re-make it sometimes.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 9:23 AM on November 17, 2019 [3 favorites]

I've started using Ina Garten's recipe and this video helped me visualize it well. The key to making the dough is very cold butter and shortening. Also, when it's time to roll, I've found it is easiest to roll it between two layers of parchment paper. That way I can turn it easily and move the finished crust without tearing it. At this point, the hardest part about making pie crust is washing the food processor and its parts. I should get a dishwasher.
posted by advicepig at 9:42 AM on November 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

Flaky or why bother.

I'm a huge fan of the Cook's Illustrated recipe -- the one they published before they discovered using vodka in it. Haven't tried the vodka version.
posted by amtho at 9:43 AM on November 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oh also -- I love putting spice and a little sugar in the crust.

But then, I also make pumpkin pie without the crust. I mean, why bother with crust at all unless it's going to be amazing and delicious!
posted by amtho at 9:44 AM on November 17, 2019

Pumpkin pie? Graham cracker crust ftw.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:50 AM on November 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

One of my greatest joys after Thanksgiving (perhaps the best part of Thanksgiving dinner for me, in fact) is the following week of eating pecan pie for breakfast without a fork. So this …
I’ve subsequently renounced flakiness, crimped edges and latticed lids in favor of grated crusts just thick enough to cradle wobbly curds, and tender enough that they crumble when I try to eat a slice like a piece of pizza, without a plate.
… caused me to have a physical reaction and mutter "heresy." But she addresses that (and people like me) in the final paragraph:
Pastry aficionados have bristled at the shortcut, and household pie mavens may feel it undermines a hard-earned skill.
I never really felt like the skill was hard-earned. Maybe I was just lucky, or maybe I had enough experience with other dough before I first tried to make a pie crust, but I've never had a crust turn out worse than okay. I've never had to give up and start over. But anyway. My preferences about being able to eat pie out of hand aside, if this gets more people into Team Pie instead of Team Cake, I'm broadly in favor of it.
posted by fedward at 9:56 AM on November 17, 2019

My pie dough secret is to use cultured butter (In the US, its usually called European butter).
posted by surlyben at 9:57 AM on November 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

My secret to pie dough:

1. Make a proper apple pie at your in-laws.
1a. Use a combination of cold sabled butter as well as melted butter in the dough to achieve a combination of flaky plates as well as smoothness and a buttery feel.
1b. Do not over work the dough.
1c. Chill the dough.
1d. Roll out the dough, cut it in half and put the bottom part down
1e. Fill the pie, pick up the top crust.
1f. What?!? the top part crumbled... why do they have the heat on so high in this house... it is killing my working time.
1g. Remove top part. gather for re-rolling, chill.
1h. Repeat steps d,f and g with increased level of panic as many times as you like.
1i. Get asked why I don't just roll it out and put that on the top and snap at the heathens that don't understand what sabling is or does.
1j. Repeat steps d, f and g again... this time adding profuse sweating... are my hands too warm now as well...
1k. Be (still) banned 10 years later from making pie dough at the holidays.

My secret is that I am banned... I am banned from making pies for the holidays.
posted by Nanukthedog at 10:03 AM on November 17, 2019 [16 favorites]

Kenji Lopez-Alt, inventor of the 'vodka crust' for Cook's Illustrated, now recommends this technique instead, as the vodka makes the dough a little sticky.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 10:03 AM on November 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

Saying this is a better pie crust doesn't make it so. And since I've been fiddling around with crust recipes since last spring, I can't - on principle - endorse any type of shortcut whatsoever.

I make rough puff pastry (if interested, Google for instructions) with these ingredients: 12 oz butter cut in cubes no bigger than .5"; equal part by weight of all purpose flour, .75 t salt and baking powder, .75 c sour cream (in place of the water). You can add flour as needed to make the dough workable. Follow instructions re rolling the dough.

It's work, but it's absolutely worth the effort.
posted by she's not there at 10:06 AM on November 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

Synchronistically enough, I just read this Salon piece about "the flakiest pie crust of all time".
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:11 AM on November 17, 2019

I am a Philistine; Pillsbury pie crust tastes pretty good, leaves the kitchen cleaner. Apple pie requires peeling a number of apples, which I cheerfully do. Here is a review of apple pie recipes. Making a syrup of cider sounds pretty good. Maybe I will get a fancy rolling pin to make pretty top crust. I have some tiny cookie cutters, and use them for schmancy-ing up my pies; a small effort goes a long way.

If anyone has great expertise with non-dairy(no milk, butter, yogurt or cream) pumpkin pie filling, please share. Almond milk is fine, but maybe there's something better.
posted by theora55 at 11:08 AM on November 17, 2019

The pie crust recipe my mother used always turns out well and has the perfect texture. Unfortunately it uses shortening. I have yet to find a pie crust I like as well that uses butter. (Just substituting butter in the old familiar recipe has been tried and is not the solution.) So far the best I've come up with is the Smitten Kitchen recipe with pastry flour instead of regular. I'm intrigued by the idea of using Irish or European butter, as recommended by surlyben and Greg-Ace's Salon article. I think it does make a difference with shortbread cookies.

I might try the grating method sometime, but one of its biggest drawbacks is that you can't use it to make the little rolls of leftover pie dough scraps that are actually better than pie. I'm actually squarely on Team Cake myself. I'm not a fan of cooked fruit desserts, but I make them for the rest of the family and it's nice to make a pot pie now and then. The best thing about making pie is that when you're done you squish together all the leftover pie dough scraps, roll them into a rectangle, spread it with butter, sprinkle it with cinnamon sugar, roll it up and cut it into sections to bake along with the pie. (Not thin slices like cinnamon rolls, but little logs. The best ones are nice and fat and the pie dough in the middle doesn't get all the way cooked, which is just fine.)
posted by Redstart at 11:25 AM on November 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

Can't be doing with shortcrust pastry in any form (and trust me, I've had good shortcrust) - there's just something about it I don't like. I like a good rough puff or hot water crust (though I can rarely be bothered to make either) but what I really like is a good suet pastry. It's also way easier than other pastries - just use twice the weight of self-raising flour to suet, dash of salt and add cold water until it's a rollable texture. If it's going to be for a sweet (like jam roly-poly) I add sugar, but purists would keep the pastry savoury and just have the sweetness coming from the filling.
posted by Vortisaur at 12:28 PM on November 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

Redstart, my mom is also a die-hard crisco crust person so we often compare. Try experimenting with lard (ideally rendered leaf lard from a butcher — or I’ve also gotten it from a local fancy pie shop!) and different ratios of lard/butter, and also milk instead of water. The nature of crisco is just going to give you those soft flaky layers that are hard to exactly replicate, though.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 12:33 PM on November 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

Rikshcell, quite so. While I don't do browned butter, I agree 100% that the problem with pie crust for most people is practice. I wrote a screed about it ages ago, and when I didn't have a homepage anymore I put it on my livejournal in 2010. It imported to my dreamwidth without issue. It's here, if anyone cares.

These days I do not make apple pies so much as tarte tatin (my eaters-of-pastry like it better), which still has a crust. The skills I learned in making pie crusts transferred right over.

If you want a more-flaky crust (big shattery flakes) and not a mealy crust (fine, almost erodes to your fingertip touch, melts in mouth), it's the same recipe only leave the hunks of fat bigger. Some small-pea sized lumps and visible fat bits are OK if you're going for "more flaky" but if you want "more mealy" you need to cut the fat in to where it looks like cornmeal texture. The doughs otherwise handle pretty much the same. It's a matter of preference. I like a mealy crust for pies and a flaky crust for tarte tatin, so... I do that.
posted by which_chick at 12:35 PM on November 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

(This thread has caused me to consider that it might be that my favourite bakery's rhubarb tart is so good because it is made with a hot water pastry - can't confirm, but looking at the texture. I will now leave you shortcrust-liking weirdos to your shortcrust talk.)
posted by Vortisaur at 12:39 PM on November 17, 2019

Yeah, there are a lot of wrong ways but there isn't only one right way to make a pie crust. Right now I'm working on a combination of frozen grated butter and refrigerated bacon fat. I actually just broke the grater yesterday due to it not being designed for such shenanigans. Cutting butter into 1/4" cubes is for suckers. I'm using a spray bottle for the ice water because I'm tired of drips of water making some spots too wet and other spots too dry. I'm converting most of the volume measurements into mass because what the hell are some recipes thinking?

This is apple pie #3 for the year and every one has been very different. I'm pre-cooking the apples a little, and then refrigerating so there isn't a huge gap between the crust and the fruit. This is the one time I'm holding off from adding an alarming amount of ginger(both crystallized and powder) because a friend is allergic. I'm also going to cut out a little tinfoil crust protector so my crust doesn't get so dark.

Pie crust is a great thing to be fussy about, but I strongly suggest you find out what works for you and ignore the people who tell you to freeze the entire contents of your kitchen to prevent the bad pie demons from ruining your life.
posted by Dmenet at 1:04 PM on November 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

I got onto the Serious Eat's "old-fashioned" (shrug) method, which kinda constructs your dough like one would a croissant. I've tried the "blender" method but it always gave me incredibly tough dough.

Sift your dry ingredients into bowl. Cut your cold butter into 1/2" cubes, toss with the flour/sugar/salt mixture, then squeeze each piece of butter flat between thumb and forefinger. Add water to just bring it all together into a shaggy ball. Cool in fridge a bit.

Bring out of fridge, roll out thick, fold in half and half again, then roll to appropriate thickness for pie. Cool a bit and then transfer to your baking dish.
posted by bobloblaw at 1:36 PM on November 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

tough dough

I don't want to cause a big tough-dough, but I couldn't help reading that as "tuff duff".
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:16 PM on November 17, 2019 [3 favorites]

Baking is still mostly a mystery to me, but towards the end of my last kitchen job, I ended up in a different branch where things were a lot more... distributed? Democratic? In the kitchen I’d been in, the head of the kitchen sort of kept all the desserts to himself, but in the new place, it ended up being a large part of my daily prep list, cut all these veggies, make the pizza sauce, and oh yeah, we need three cheesecakes, or four apple pies. The kitchen manager I was working under wasn’t the most talkative or approachable, but after I surprised him by telling him I’d never made desserts at the other shop, he walked me through the processes, kept an eye on me a couple times, then just stepped back and let me run with it.

I ended up leaving the company before I made enough of the desserts to the point where it would be something that would stick though, which I kind of regret. It was kind of awesome to learn how to make pies (crumble topping, though, never did the rolled top). Something masochistic in me wants to try to make an apple pie for thanksgiving though...
posted by Ghidorah at 3:03 PM on November 17, 2019

I've managed to get flaky pie crusts from a variety of methods, some mentioned above. However, the real and actual elusive problem for me is to find a gluten free pie crust for a savoury pie that I find satisfactory.
posted by Ashwagandha at 4:28 PM on November 17, 2019

I like to bake quite a bit. I don't balk at pies (key lime mostly, but pecan and pumpkin as necessary).

For standard pies (not something like a graham crust) I can make a pie crust that's pretty decent, but I haven't bothered in years. I just use the store-bought crust that comes pre-rolled. It's about 80-90 percent of the quality for 10 percent of the effort.

Besides, everyone knows the filling is where it's at.
posted by oddman at 6:35 PM on November 17, 2019 [3 favorites]

Some of you have terrible opinions about pie and deserve your terrible pies ;P
posted by rikschell at 6:41 PM on November 17, 2019 [4 favorites]

My trick is to mist the water into mixture rather than sprinkle.
posted by lowtide at 7:07 PM on November 17, 2019

Lard + butter in say 30/70 ratio. If you have suet grate a bit of that in, and a spoon of duck fat, sure. A barnyard reunion in the crust, all melting at different temperatures as the pie bakes.
After the first roll-out, sprinkle with flake salt. If making apple pie, add caraway seeds. Fold once, roll again. A bit of salty crunch complements most fillings.
Wood-fired oven and pie pan-sided cast-iron skillet? Now we're talking.
posted by St. Oops at 9:46 PM on November 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

I just use the store-bought crust that comes pre-rolled. It's about 80-90 percent of the quality for 10 percent of the effort.

I just want you to know that there are people here (rikschell is one, and I am another, and I bet there are more of our brethren lurking) that are making a Very Particular Face right now. For full effect, imagine Kermit the Frog when Jim Henson makes his hand into a rage-quivering fist.

Anyone who thinks a store-made crust is even the same kind of food product as a real pie crust must have suffered severe tongue trauma, and I both pity and scorn them

My previous treatise on pie crusts can be found on an AskMe from a few years ago
posted by Mayor West at 5:05 AM on November 18, 2019 [6 favorites]

one of its biggest drawbacks is that you can't use it to make the little rolls of leftover pie dough scraps that are actually better than pie.

Yes! Pie dough strips, laid out on a cookie sheet, sprinkled with cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar, and baked just until brown -- there is nothing nothing better.

That, and a crustless pumpkin pie with homemade whipped cream (almost no sugar in the cream). Perfection.
posted by amtho at 9:29 AM on November 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

Ashwaganda, I’ve been working on a gluten free pie crust for myself and so far the best ones have been bob’s red mill all-purpose gluten free flour with a little too much xanthan gum added. I don’t always measure but it’s been best when I’m like “oh shit I think I added too much!” So like probably a teaspoon for a pie crust. That’s a good savory flour because it has a lot of chickpea flour in it, it’s nice. It’s hard to work with as a dough but bakes up well. You can also work it a little more because you don’t need to worry about gluten development! But you want to keep those butter pockets so not too much. I tend to roll it out a little warmer than i would a regular gluten dough.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 10:06 AM on November 18, 2019

Also pie dough strips rolled around homemade jam and prinkled with cinnamon and sugar...
posted by Karmakaze at 10:08 AM on November 18, 2019

Pie dough stripes brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with parm and baked til toasty. Yes, even if your pie dough was sweet to start with.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:11 AM on November 18, 2019

My grandmother was a die-hard butter-flavored crisco user. Her recipe included a paste of flour and water.

But I have to say (sorry, Babci!), it was once I tried Michael Ruhlman's recipe from Ratio that I could make consistent, flaky pie crust. Best pie crust? Half leaf lard and half butter. I am rather sad that my wife doesn't eat pork . . . but the all butter crust is still delicious!
posted by carrioncomfort at 11:14 AM on November 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

Off on a tangent here. I recently made an apple with chipotle peppers in adobo sauce pie that turned out great. I mashed up one chipotle real good with a fork and thoroughly mixed it into the pie filling so there wouldn't be any hot spots. It was better than the cayenne apple pie. BTW, everyone said a teaspoon of cayenne was way too much.
posted by Daddy-O at 11:39 AM on November 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

> If anyone has great expertise with non-dairy(no milk, butter, yogurt or cream) pumpkin pie filling, please share. Almond milk is fine, but maybe there's something better.

Here's mine:

1 (8-ounce) package Tofutti cream cheese
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin purée [OR bake a medium butternut squash, cool, scoop out flesh into a cheesecloth, mash up with your hands, and squeeze out liquid.]
3/4 cup maple syrup (original recipe was 1 c.)
1/4 c. bourbon (I may have added more than that...)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon garam masala (sub cloves and nutmeg if you don't have garam masala)
1/2 cup pecan halves (optional)

Preheat oven to 400°F.

For the filling, blend tofutti and maple syrup in a food processor or blender until creamy and smooth. Add pumpkin, bourbon, salt, spices, and purée until smooth; set aside.

Pour pumpkin filling into pie shell and bake until just set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour.

Set pie aside to let cool then top decorate with pecans, if you want.

Not to give away ALL my pie secrets, but I almost always make "pumpkin" pie with butternut squash. Easier to find and bake myself and no added ingredients.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:10 PM on November 19, 2019

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