Archive for November 13th, 2010

November 13, 2010

Pie Crust (Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home)

(Updated 11/21/10)

Thank you Thomas Keller for this pie crust recipe. Pie crust can be difficult and it will probably take you a couple tries to get it right, if it’s your first time. Thomas Keller is the famed chef/owner of the restaurant the French Laundry in Yountville near Napa California, and owner of Per Se restaurant in New York (along with numerous others).  I purchased Keller’s cookbook ad hoc at home, which include recipes Keller makes for his family at home, and now at Keller’s family style restaurant, Ad Hoc. Recipes in this book are sometimes difficult, he is after all the chef and owner of two restaurants with 3-star Michelin guide ratings (top rating) and considered one of the top 50 restaurants in the world! So I did not anticipate the recipes to be anything less than fantastic and step-intensive. It is what I like to do, challenge myself to become a better cook. This book is not for those who are looking for the fast easy meals, it’s for those serious about the process of cooking and learning to be better. Not to say there aren’t recipes in this cook book that are simple. One of those simple recipes is pie crust – but can I really call any type of dough recipe simple? Maybe not for everyone.

Many of you may know I am not much of a baker, however I think I am actually beginning to break of out that and becoming a pretty good baker, so hopefully I won’t be able to say this much longer. In the past my attempts at homemade pie crust have been plausible attempts at best. My journeys with doughs and breads are very cautious and I follow baking recipes very rigidly, because baking is very scientific.  And now we have come to my relationship with baking – which is complicated. I cook by throwing together ingredients that I think work together. I know when I read a recipe I can deviate from it quite a bit, and I know how to use certain techniques and apply it to a multitude of ingredients. Baking is a very structured use of fat, flour, and a leavening agent and of course adding other ingredients which determine the final product – breads, cakes, pastries, brownies, etc.  All which I love and I do enjoy the baking process.  It’s very difficult to explain to someone how pie dough should feel or how bread dough should bounce back. Until you experience it for yourself (a number of times) I know I am not sure if it really is the way the dough should look and feel.  However, the more I bake the more I realize that while the basic ingredients are virtually static I can play with the measurements to get different results and this is the only way I will learn.

After my past experience with pie crust and my two attempts this particular day, I decided to get daring and add more water than what the recipe called for in this recipe. I remembered back to my bread making class with Peter Reinhart in Reno, he told the class he had to alter his own recipe to add more water because our environment was drier than he was used to.  Yet another hurdle in baking! The environment in which the recipe in a cookbook was developed may be completely different from your environment, which also lends to my cautiousness when thinking about baking!  You have to have some kind of intuition and understanding of the scientific parts of cooking to know when you may not have to let your dough rise as long, or when to add more water or less leavening. It’s complicated! (Updated: Thus, I always fall back on my good friend (our relationship is strictly me with his book or Good Eats on the tv) Alton Brown. I will trust anything this guy tells me – he gets down to the scientific part of food/cooking/baking and it helps my understanding with how cooking and baking work. I was perusing Alton’s baking book and read his section on pie crust. His advice was to use as little water as possible to prevent your pie crust from shrinking. So out the door my “more water” method went, not that my crust didn’t come out, but it shrunk substantially and I was looking for a fix for that. The other suggestion of Alton – keep all your equipment and ingredients very cold! I will redo with this tips in mind and will post updated photos).

  • 2 ½ c. flour
  • 1 ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 ½ sticks (10 oz) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch cubes
  • ice water in a spray bottle

You can make this dough with your hands, a pastry blender, or by pulsing in a food processor with a dough blade. (knead with your hands though)

Straight from the fridge, cut the butter into cubes and place in your bowl then stick it all in the freezer for about 15 min. In another bowl, mix the salt and flour. Add the cubes of very cold butter and toss with the flour to coat. Then start working the butter into the flour until the butter pieces are no larger than pea size.  Spray the surface of your flour with just enough to wet the flour with water pulse a few times until the dough just holds together when pinched.  Add more water if the dough is too dry and crumbly, but be careful of the water it’s not good for the flakiness of your crust – per Alton Brown use as little water as possible. 

Do this part with your hands if you used a food processor: Knead the dough until it is completely smooth and the butter is incorporated.  Divide the dough in half and shape into a 1” thick disk. Wrap with plastic and chill in the refrigerator at least an hour (more time is fine too)– the dough can be stored in the freezer for later use at this point as well, just move it to the refrigerator the day before you want to use the dough.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator allow the dough to sit for a few minutes at room temperature. I placed the dough on a large piece of plastic wrap it is easier to work with and lightly dusted my rolling-pin and the dough with flour.

Roll out the dough to a 13”-14” round, about 1/8 of an inch thick. Roll from the center, rotating the dough about a half inch frequently and adding a little flour to the dough to prevent from sticking to the rolling-pin.

Flip the dough (dough-side) onto one hand (keeping the plastic wrap attached) And lay into your pie plate. I used a Quiche pan, but you can use any pie plate you wish. Gently press the dough into the corners and up the sides of the dish, remove the plastic wrap.

Pie Dough

SIDE NOTE: Some recipes you will want to pre-cook the pie dough, Keller’s recipe did not include instructions on precooking so here are my directions: 375° – cover the pie crust with foil and pour pie weights (dried beans) onto the foil. Bake for 20 minutes, or until crust is light brown. Then remove the foil and weights and cook until the crust is lightly browned on the bottom. Ready to use!

Just an example of the pie crust in use…

Caramel Pumpkin Pie