Chef Sam’s Perfect Pie Crust
431D3 Pie Crust
The 431D3 pie crust is not just the name of a pie crust, it’s the recipe. 4 tablespoons of Crisco, 3 tablespoons of butter, 1 packed cup of flour (155 grams exactly or approx. 1 1/3 cup sifted flour or 5 3/8 ozs.), a Dash of salt and 3 tablespoons of water.
Optional are 2 tablespoons of sugar for a dessert crust and browning effect; or for a savory crust, use a teaspoon of garlic powder (or onion powder) and 1 tablespoon of parsley. Add in moderation whatever your taste or culinary creation calls for in a pie crust.
What makes the 431D3 pie crust infallible is the order and how the ingredients are put together.
The first step is to properly measure the flour and add the other dry ingredients. Pulse or stir the mixture to incorporate the ingredients evenly.
The second step is to incorporate the Crisco with the flour mixture. Crisco shortening contains no water. This is the secret step. The Crisco is blended with the flour mixture thoroughly to ensure that the shorting encapsulates the particles of flour so that when we add the liquid no (or very little) gluten can form. This can be done by hand, but it takes a while. A small mixer or chopper appliance does much better and faster job. Pulse 8 to 10 times to incorporate the Crisco.
The third step is to mix in the butter. Be aware that butter contains water. It can be as much as 30% water and still be USDA grade A. Water in the butter can form gluten in the dough. The butter should be cold from the refrigerator and cut into pieces, if you desire a tender crumb crust. Pulse 3 to 5 times to incorporate the butter.
If you desire a long flakey crust, the butter should be cut into pieces and frozen. Pulse 2 to 3 times to incorporate butter
For a tender crumb crust, incorporate the butter until the flour mixture looks coarse and grainy like coarse-ground corn meal. (3to 5 pulses)
For a long flake crust, the butter is incorporated only until the flour mixture has small pea size lumps of butter in the mixture. (2 to 3 pluses)
Check the mixture and stop or pulse more to get the right consistency for the type of crust you desire.
If using a processor, dump the mixture into a bowl to add the water. Do not mix in the water with a processor; it is too easy to form gluten by over mixing with a food processor.
The fourth step is to add three tablespoons of tap water, and my sympathy to all the cooks who have struggled over the years with ice water in pie crust. With the flour properly encapsulated by the Crisco, there is no need for such nonsense.
The pie crust is stirred with a fork in a circular manner, just to bring it together. Don’t be afraid of the dough. Gather it together and form a ball by hand. You can even knead it or fold it on a floured surface to make it pliable and uniform.
The dough should be uniform, soft and pliable. There is no need to chill the dough; it can be rolled out immediately.
I use a 16 X 20 inch cutting board to roll out my pie crust. It gives me plenty of room to properly roll out the pie crust. On top of the board, I put a 12 X 15 inch thin plastic cutting sheet (see photo 3).
Lightly flour the plastic cutting sheet. Then gather the dough and place on the plastic sheet.
There is a tricky technique to getting the dough rolled out. Once you get the dough into a ball, flatten it with your hand or by tapping it into a circle with a rolling pen (just like Julia did on her video, but disregard all the other stuff she said.)
The secret to rolling out a perfectly circular pie crust is to roll in 12 directions, stopping half way through to mend the edge of the pie crust.
The plastic sheet turns easily on the cutting board and makes this real easy. Roll straight away, back and forth, forming the crust about 3 inches from the center, in both directions. This usually takes a single stroke or two of rolling. Turn the crust 30 degrees and roll again (30 deg.) Turn the crust 30 degrees and roll again (60 deg.) Turn the crust 30 degrees and roll again (90 deg.) Do the same thing two more times (120 deg.) and (150 deg.).
If the crust is not in a circle, lightly cross roll a stroke or two to make it into a circle.
Now is the time to mend the edges. You cannot do this with a regular pie dough formulation, but you can with the 431D3. Go around the edge of the crust and compress any cracks or irregularities that occurred in the first step of rolling with the tips of your fingers. The dough is half rolled out.
The second rolling out (another 6 inches) will bring the crust to the edge of the plastic cutting sheet and a perfect size for a 9” pie pan with 1 ½ inch sides.
Use the same procedure as in the first rolling. Don’t over strain the dough. If it takes you three rolling steps to get the crust to the edge of the 12 inch cutting plastic, roll out the crust in three steps instead of two. Each time mend the edge and flour the surface, so the crust does not stick to the plastic sheet. You may turn over the crust and roll the other side if you like. Keep your rolling pen floured too.
You can lightly cross roll the crust (edges) to shape it into a circle. When you finish rolling out the crust, dust off any excess flour on the plastic sheet and pie crust.
With the pie crust in a 12inch circle, place an inverted pie pan over the center of the pie crust (upside down on the crust) , with one hand on the pie pan bottom and other hand under the plastic sheet, flip the pie crust and pan upright. Set the pan down and gently separate the plastic from the crust. Gently ease the crust into the pan, until it settles into the pie pan. Try not to stretch the pie crust. Fold up any overhanging excess dough to the rim of the pie pan and flute the edge. You may take the long sides and patch the short side or holes or tears, using a little water to patch things up, if necessary.
Should something go wrong and the pie crust falls apart, don’t worry. Take the parts, lightly re-wet them, form a new ball and roll it out again. Don’t try this with any other pie crust, as the 431D3 is the perfect crust. I have, on occasion, done this up to three times, and the crust came out tender and just fine.
The 431D3 pie crust shrinks very little. Poke the bottom and sides with a fork and bake at 425 for 17 minutes. No need for beans, marbles or foil to blind bake the pie crust, if you properly poked the crust in the pan. If it does bubble, just poke it when it comes out of the oven. It will cool flat.
The crust can be prebaked for 5 minutes, then filled, for pumpkin pies if you desire a crustier bottom.
Regardless of prebaking a pie crust, custard or other pies that call for an unbaked shell, the bottom crust of a pie needs to be baked for 17 minutes at 425 degrees, on the middle oven rack. The oven can then be turned down to finish baking the pie; otherwise the bottom crust may be soggy.
Stay tuned for the Master Course in Pie Crust…a 4 hour lab course you can do in your own kitchen and totally understand flours and shortening in pie crusts.
Enjoy. Chef Sam
copyright 2012 Sammy Hampton all rights reserved