Help with All-Butter Pie Crusts

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Joined Dec 30, 2020
I’m learning to make flaky all-butter pie crusts, and have had pretty consistent (hilariously bad) results all three times. I’m not sure what’s going wrong and would be super grateful for this community’s feedback on what’s causing it. Here's a couple pics of my latest crust for reference: .

I’m using Erin Jeanne McDowell’s recipe and have watched her crust video a few times. My dough looks/feels pretty good until it hits the oven... and then all three crusts have become boiling butter lakes. The end result is almost like a thick taco salad bowl, except way harder and less... edible. I also noticed lots of shrinkage when I remove the weights/parchment and let it fully bake.

I’ve tried to reduce the amount of water as much as possible each try and extend the chill times, but it hasn’t really made a difference in the end result. Any feedback on what should I change to avoid this? Thanks for your help!
 
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Joined Feb 18, 2007
How long are you letting the dough rest?
Personally I think it's helpful to use a blend of shortening and butter as you develop your skill/ability. I am notoriously bad at pie crust (I always add too much water and rush it so it's tougher instead of tender). I would recommend the crust recipes from the Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum for a beginner.
 
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Joined May 5, 2010
Pie dough is notorious for making people believe it's easy to work with but the truth is that pie dough needs several rests not just one. Yes, you make the dough, mold it into a disk, wrap it and allow it to rest before rolling it out.
After you take it out from the fridge, it's going to be stiff. If you try to roll it, you'll have cracks. Allow the pie dough to sit out covered for 10 minutes before you roll it.
So, you've used ample flour and a rolling pin to roll the dough put larger than the pie tin.
Now...allow this to rest for 5 minutes before you drape it into the tin.
Do not try to pull the dough or stretch it if it's not large enough.
Take the dough back to the floured board and roll it larger.
Pulling and stretching dough makes it's shrink during baking.
Allow to rest again before baking.
Blind baking requires the dough to be pricked with a fork all over, then covered and weighted.
Allow to rest yet again.
You will be surprised what these simple rest times will do for your dough.
 
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Joined Oct 16, 2018
I would supplement chef Ross' comment with two important pieces of additional info. The longer you can allow your dough to rest the first time,the better - overnight is ideal. It allows the flour to fully hydrate to its maximum potential,and allows the gluten chains to start to relax.

And as a final step before blind baking the crust, after forming your crust, pop it in the freezer for half an hour before baking. The warmer the butter is,the faster it will liquify and run out of the crust. In fact, the colder you can keep all of your equipment and ingredients at every step, the better - some people even keep their flour and bowls in the freezer.
 
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Joined Dec 29, 2019
I’m learning to make flaky all-butter pie crusts, and have had pretty consistent (hilariously bad) results all three times. I’m not sure what’s going wrong and would be super grateful for this community’s feedback on what’s causing it. Here's a couple pics of my latest crust for reference: .

I’m using Erin Jeanne McDowell’s recipe and have watched her crust video a few times. My dough looks/feels pretty good until it hits the oven... and then all three crusts have become boiling butter lakes. The end result is almost like a thick taco salad bowl, except way harder and less... edible. I also noticed lots of shrinkage when I remove the weights/parchment and let it fully bake.

I’ve tried to reduce the amount of water as much as possible each try and extend the chill times, but it hasn’t really made a difference in the end result. Any feedback on what should I change to avoid this? Thanks for your help!
Butter is the worst way to make pie dough, the water content makes the dough elastic, causes shrinking and makes for tough texture.
 
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Joined Dec 29, 2019
It's not the butter, it's the technique. Think Pate Brisee, an all butter pastry crust.
Try the recipe on the side of a crisco can, you'll see was the butter.
When I see blind baking required for a simple pie it tells me the wrong dough is being used.
Theres a mentality that since butter tastes better it is better, that sort of reductionist logic fails to account for the emergent properties in baking.
 
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Joined May 5, 2010
Retiredbaker, did you not read my pervious posts on this thread about the handling of pie crust? Matters not if it's Crisco or butter, lard, or margarine for that matter. I say again, it's in the technique.
 
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Joined Dec 29, 2019
Retiredbaker, did you not read my pervious posts on this thread about the handling of pie crust? Matters not if it's Crisco or butter, lard, or margarine for that matter. I say again, it's in the technique.
yeh saw that and I'm wondering what you're doing, pie dough in my hands requires no resting.
No chilling if you're light handed with a pin.
something is fundamentally amiss.
 
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Joined May 5, 2010
I saw the video and I can now understand why for favor Crisco.
Did you hear the guy say that if you use cold butter the dough would be even more stable (3:04) ?
Chilling the dough for a time allows the gluten strands to relax. Keeping the dough cool while you are rolling it, and allowing it to rest between rolls, keeps the dough from shrinking, as does pulling and stretching it.
It would seem that either: Crisco pie dough allows for immediate use....OR.....(trying to be nice)....... this guys a shoemaker!!
 
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Joined Dec 29, 2019
I saw the video and I can now understand why for favor Crisco.
Did you hear the guy say that if you use cold butter the dough would be even more stable (3:04) ?
Chilling the dough for a time allows the gluten strands to relax. Keeping the dough cool while you are rolling it, and allowing it to rest between rolls, keeps the dough from shrinking, as does pulling and stretching it.
It would seem that either: Crisco pie dough allows for immediate use....OR.....(trying to be nice)....... this guys a shoemaker!!
There shouldn't be any gluten strands.

If you can make bread with the flour then its no good for pie dough.
 
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Joined May 5, 2010
There shouldn't be any gluten strands.

If you can make bread with the flour then its no good for pie dough.


OY!

What do you use to make pie dough with?
All flour contains gluten, so I guess I don't follow your reasoning.
Gluten is what gives dough structure. Gluten is made when water is added to flour.
 
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Joined Aug 13, 2019
Hmmm. I made a dough with ap flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, soured milk, and butter. The only work the dough saw was two gentle triple folds, then five minutes in the freezer, roll out and fill. I will use ice water, but feel the dairy creates a better crust when blind baking. When I do work dough, its gentle, more of a smear to spread the butter throughout the dough. Attached a pic of a lemon chess pie I made yesterday. You just have to do things over and over.
 

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Joined Dec 29, 2019
Hmmm. I made a dough with ap flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, soured milk, and butter. The only work the dough saw was two gentle triple folds, then five minutes in the freezer, roll out and fill. I will use ice water, but feel the dairy creates a better crust when blind baking. When I do work dough, its gentle, more of a smear to spread the butter throughout the dough. Attached a pic of a lemon chess pie I made yesterday. You just have to do things over and over.
you made rough puff ?
 
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Joined May 5, 2010

Thanks for the info. So the fine texture negates the need for resting the dough....?
Still not convinced.

I know that an acid or alcohol added to pie dough will make it more elastic and help with the flakiness. An egg added to the dough will make it more malleable and easier to roll.

I researched 8 recipes using pastry flour and 6 of them had resting the dough as a necessity.
Granted that the other 2 had you use the dough right from the mixer, but even their recipe required the fat be very cold and even putting the flour, salt, in a bag, in the freezer for an hour before proceeding.
Very curious indeed.
 
140
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Joined Dec 29, 2019
Thanks for the info. So the fine texture negates the need for resting the dough....?
Still not convinced.

I know that an acid or alcohol added to pie dough will make it more elastic and help with the flakiness. An egg added to the dough will make it more malleable and easier to roll.

I researched 8 recipes using pastry flour and 6 of them had resting the dough as a necessity.
Granted that the other 2 had you use the dough right from the mixer, but even their recipe required the fat be very cold and even putting the flour, salt, in a bag, in the freezer for an hour before proceeding.
Very curious indeed.
Its all about the 8% protein in pastry flour.
 
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