Pie: How to Achieve the Perfect Crust
We can’t deny the brilliance of a versatile carb. Sure, potatoes can be cooked any which way and there are a myriad of different breads to bake. However, we’re talking specifically about pie. Filled with sweet or savoury ingredients, this flaky crusted pastry is always a crowd-pleaser at a pot luck dinner. In today’s blog, we’ll talk about the various varieties of pie and how to achieve the perfect crust.
The History of Pies
The word “pie” finds its source in the magpie. Named because of its assortment of fillings, pies and magpies both collect odds and ends. One such recipe called for exactly that: asking its bakers to include beef, beef suet, hens, ducks, rabbits, hard-cooked egg yolks, date, raisins, and prunes.
Early pies, called galettes, had crusts made of ground oats, wheat, rye, or barley containing honey inside. Like the modern pastry, the could contain any number of ingredients. In fact, the oldest recipe for a chicken filling was found written on a table dating back to 2000 BC.
Using the tart’s crust to preserve the juices of cooked birds and meats, Romans never intended to actually eat the flour based conduction. However, soon they would develop recipes that included a rye dough filled with goat’s cheese and honey.
Eventually, pies would find themselves as a staple of traveling and working people. Being easy to make and easy to transport, the dough was transformed into a variety of easily mouldable shapes. One such being the famous Cornish pasty.
While the crusts of the past were used to preserve the food inside, modern day baking is more of an “occasional undertaking” but still truly delicious when done!
Crust and Fillings
Coming in a variety of different shapes and sizes, these tarts are defined by their crusts.
- Filled (also known as single-crust or bottom-crust) tarts have pastry lining the baking dish. Leaving the filling on top of the crust but open to the world.
- A top-crust has the filling in the bottom of the dish and is covered with a pastry before baking.
- A two-crust has the filling completely enclosed in the pastry shell.
Adding onto these differences can be:
- What flour is used: wheat, rye, etc.
- What fat is used: butter, oil, etc.
Filling-wise, bakers can choose between a sweet or savoury tart.
Sweet ingredients include:
- Fruits such as apples and cherries.
- Nuts such as pecans and almonds.
- Brown sugar to create a sugar pie.
- Sweetened vegetables such as rhubarb.
Savoury ingredients comprise of:
- Meats such as steak or chicken.
- Eggs and cheese to form a quiche.
- A mixture of meat and vegetables to create a classic pot pie.
Achieving the Perfect Pie Crust
Regardless of the type of pie you choose to bake, achieving the perfect crust is a must. Don’t fret — we have some tips for you!
- Use a mixture of butter and shortening to create a crust that is easy to work with and delicious to eat. Sour cream is also a very easy fat!
- Do the mixing in smaller increments. Add the butter half at a time to the food processor. This helps to keep the dough smooth.
- Sprinkle with ice water to encourage the dough to stick together. Avoid too much water otherwise your crust will be tough!
- Let the dough sit for 1 hour to 2 days in the refrigerator. Once out, allow it to be at room temperature for 5-10 minutes.
- Use an egg-wash to achieve the perfect pie coating. Apply it to the crust before baking with a pastry brush.