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In this article, we reveal the secrets of the most perfect pie dough.
When choosing flour for pie dough, it is important to understand the role of proteins in flour. When you add water to the flour, some of the protein turns into gluten, an elastic substance that gives baked products the structure they need to stay firm. The higher the protein content, the stronger the structure. In baked goods such as bread, a strong structure helps the product to rise better. In pie dough, however, a strong structure can create hardness, which is certainly not what we want. Therefore, choose a flour with a moderate-higher protein content, such as all-purpose flour (11.7% protein) or pastry flour (8.0% protein).
Salt is the ingredient that adds flavour to pie dough. If you leave out the salt, the dough will be tasteless. If you are using unsalted butter and/or fat, about half a teaspoon of salt per cup of flour is just the right measure. If using salted butter, reduce the amount of salt added by a quarter teaspoon per 8 tablespoons of butter in the recipe.
Which salt is best? Choose fine salt. As the pie dough has very little liquid, finely ground salt spreads better over the dough.
Which is the best fat for pie dough? All fats will work, so it depends on your preference and dietary choices. We recommend a mixture of butter and vegetable fat.
Why a combination? Butter is very flavourful but melts at low temperatures, which can be a problem when baking dough. Vegetable fat has a higher melting point, which helps the stability of the crust during baking.
If your crust sits and pulls away from the sides of the baking tray during baking, this is due to the butter. The combination of butter and vegetable fat combines the best qualities of both: flavour and stability during baking.
Liquid + protein in flour = gluten. Once gluten has formed, the additional processing of the dough - mixing and rolling - strengthens it and at the same time reduces its tenderness.
The best pie dough is the perfect balance of fat, flour and liquid. Too much fat will make the crust greasy and too brittle. Too much liquid can create too much gluten, leading to a hard and chewy dough.
Some bakers use milk or sour milk in their crust. Due to the presence of milk proteins, both types of liquid will help to brown the crust and add some flavour. However, the classic crust liquid is water - ice water.
Why ice water? Ice water keeps the fat particles cold and intact. This creates small pockets of fat that gradually melt during baking and form small cavities in the dough - this creates crumbliness.
How to add enough liquid? Less is more: the less liquid you add to the pie dough (within reason), the more tender the crust will be.
Slowly add the ice water to the dough until the dough starts to stick together. Careful, really only add so much water and no more. Observe as you mix; when the dough starts to clump and you grasp it with your hand, squeeze it and it doesn''t break into pieces, stop adding water.
Gather the dough into a ball. Divide it in two and flatten each part into the shape of a hockey puck.
That''s it. You have finished. You have just made the best crust for apple pie, blueberry pie, lemon pie or whatever your favourite pie is. Handled properly, the crust will be tender and crumbly, golden brown and delicious.
Now that you have all the information, it''s time to head into the kitchen and make your own perfect pie dough. Don''t be afraid to experiment with different ingredients and techniques to create your own unique version of pie dough. Remember that the key to success is the right choice of ingredients, the balance between fat, flour and liquid and the gentle handling of the dough.
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