Pastry Dough and Bob's Big Bag Apple Pie
In honor of my Sister Guyneth's birthday, and
for anybody else who is interested:
For a long time I did not understand the
principle of making flaky pie crust and pastry crust, so I decided to study
and practice. It wasn't hard to learn because of all the cooking shows
on TV, the internet, and cookbooks. However, it takes a little
practice, and I did mess up some pie crust.. So now I am writing to
share it with you, and to give a couple of recipes. I have included
pictures of Bob's Big Bag Apple Pie. That pie has earned me many special
favors from my wife Maria. She loves it.
One thing to note is that recipes often
tell you what without telling you why. So you think you can deviate
without getting in trouble, and you get in BIG trouble. Try to stick
to the recipe. I have given you some background on Pastry Dough first
so the recipes will make sense.
The Purpose of Pastry Dough
The first principle of pastry dough is that it
is intended to make a flaky flour-based crust that explodes into flakes when
you apply a fork to it to eat, that it should be light and tasty, and that
it should accompany something else such as a stew or dessert of fruit, meat,
or vegetables. The reason for a flaky, puffy baked pastry is that it
tastes so good without being doughy, mealy, cake-like, or
bread-like. The crispy puffiness of the pastry is a perfect complement
for soft or gooey filling. There are many ways you can arrange the
accompaniment for pastry:
- Crust alone - a piece of pastry baked with
sugar and cinnamon on top, a simple and wonderful treat for kids and
adults; or a pastry shell into which filling will be later added..
- Pie - a pie pan lined with pastry dough
(rolled or hand-molded), filled with fruit, pudding, or meat stew, and
optionally covered with a pastry crust top.
- House - a pastry "housing"
consisting of a floor and walls made of layers of pastry dough, then
filled with fruit or meat filling for baking.
In order to ensure that the pastry does not
become soggy, you sometimes need to pre-bake the pie crust, and then brush
it with a sealant such as an egg wash during a few minutes before removing
the crust from the oven. This is a sensible step for meat and other
pies that start with a filling that is very soupy.
How Pie Crust and Puffy Pastry Dough is
Baked pastry dough gets its flaky texture from
the nature of flour, water, and fat the dough contains, and from the way the
ingredients are mixed. The idea is that the final dough have streaks
or layers of fat which separate streaks or layers of the flour-water
dough. When the resulting dough is baked, the fat melts and steam from
the moisture of the surrounding dough fills the cavity left by the melted
fat and puffs the dough up.
The flour is the basic ingredient that produces
dough when mixed with water. The gluten in the flour makes the dough
stringy. A little oil in the mix allows the dough to stretch without
breaking. The doughiness of the mixture allows it to be molded,
rolled, and formed into shapes. The gluten keeps the dough together as
the mass rises or expands during the baking process.
Bakers can add various kinds of herbs or spices
to the flour to season it for taste. Doughs may have salt, ground anise
seed, or powdered sugar added. Honey and sugar are generally not added
because they make the dough sticky and difficult to handle.
Using fats like butter, lard, or leaf-lard
(from around the kidneys, and excellent for pastry) gives
the pastry a rich flavor. Using vegetable shortening, which has a
higher melting temperature, makes the process easier. When using lard
and butter, you must use ice-cold or very cold butter so it does not
melt. Unsalted butter makes butter stay solid longer.
The fat MUST NOT MELT during the mixing process
because it will blend in with the dough and make it crumbly instead of
flaky. For this reason, pie crust bakers have evolved a special
technique for mixing the flour, water, and fat
Mixing Fat with Flour
First, the flour and seasoning are mixed
together. Then the fat is added by a processing of "cutting"
it in until the mix is mealy, with many 1/4-inch pebbles of
flour-covered fat in it. You do the cutting process in one of
- draw knives across each other
repeatedly in the mix
- use a pastry blender tool that has a handle
on top and curved sheet metal below that has been cut into several knife
- use a food processor, and pulse it
Next, you add the liquid. The liquid
is normally water, but bakers also use thick dairy cream, sour cream,
yogurt, eggs, and juices. The water content in those liquids mixes
with the flour to produce the glutinous mass called
"dough". Whatever liquid you are going to add
should be blended before adding. And, the liquid must be ice-cold
in order to keep the fat from melting.
Mixing Liquid into Crumbs to Make Dough
You do NOT blend the liquid thoroughly into the crumbs to make the
dough. You toss it with a fork and do not handle it more than
absolutely necessary. Toss until liquid soaks into the flour and
begins to clump. Do NOT mix it until it forms a dough ball. If
you do, the fat will be blended in too well and the crust will not be
Refrigerating Dough and Keeping it Cold
Form the dough into one or more balls, put each in a plastic wrap, and
mash it into a thick pancake. If you are going to make a pie crust
with a crust topping, then you should make two balls.
Refrigerate the dough for an hour or freeze it for half an hour before
using it. This allows the gluten to become more binding, and
the fat to solidify. You may keep frozen dough for up to 3 months,
and refrigerated dough for up to 3 days.
Rolling the Dough
When you are ready to make the crust, remember that you will need to
work fast when rolling the dough. If your kitchen is warm, you
should get a slab of marble and refrigerate it for an hour or two, then
roll the dough on that slab. Otherwise, you may need to roll some
dough and then put it in the freezer or refrigerator for 15 or 20 minutes
You always roll pastry dough between two sheets of wax paper. Do not
use a floured surface to roll on unless you have no wax paper. Using
a floured surface increases the flour, presses it into the fat, and
reduces flakiness. Do not roll on a cutting board, as it will absorb
Roll from the center of the dough outward. Do not roll it too
flat. It should not be thinner than 1/8". Do not roll a
rolling pin back and forth. Instead, roll in an outward direction,
then pick up the rolling pin, set it in the center of the dough, then roll
again in an outward direction. If the dough makes an irregular
shape, try to even it by rolling gently from side to side. Do this
process quickly.You can put the entire rolled dough with wax paper into
the refrigerator if the fat begins to get too soft, and leave it in for 10
to 15 minutes.
Layering the Dough
Some recipes will call for layering the pastry dough. The idea of
this is to increase the number of flaky layers in the finished
pastry. Pie crust floors (bottoms) are not normally layered, but a
layered top crust can become beautifully puffy, crunchy,
and delicious. To layer the rolled crust, simply remove the wax
paper from the top, fold the dough, and re-roll it. You can fold it
4 to 6 times, refrigerating it between each fold. Or, you may make
two separate rolled doughs, remove the top from each, and lay one on top
of the other. For even more flakiness, brush or spread a thin layer
of fat onto half the rolled dough, and fold the other half onto it.
Then refrigerate it before rolling it. Obviously, the more fat you
add, the greasier the finished crust will be.
Putting Dough Sheet in Pan
Lay a crust into a pie pan while the bottom wax paper is still
attached and the top wax paper removed. Don't grease the pan
first. A shiny pie pan makes the best crusts. Glass pie pans
do not make good crusts. Once the dough sheet is centered properly,
remove the wax paper gently. Flute the dough with fingers or
fork. Don't use fingers if you are going to add a top
crust to the pie later. Just make sure the crust extends up the
sides, fits properly in the bottom, and covers the top lip. If the dough
overhangs the lip of the pan, trim it with scissors.
Pre-Baking a Crust
If you are going to pre-bake the crust before filling it, the crust will
bulge up and shrink, making an untidy mess of itself unless you prepare it
properly. To prepare it, poke holes in it with a fork to let steam
escape and prevent bulging. Then put something inside it to keep it
from shrinking and losing its shape. The easiest thing to do is to
drop another pie pan down inside the crust. A more difficult way is
to lay parchment paper in the pan and fill it with uncooked rice or
Baking the Crust or Pie
Bake the crust at 400 degrees in the center of the oven. Crusts
should be golden, not brown. Baking time is 12 to 16 minutes for the
crust alone, and 30 to 60 minutes for a pie, depending on the nature and
size of the filling. An apple pie filled with fresh raw apple
slices takes about 40 minutes, or 20 minutes if precooked. If
you are pre-baking the crust, remove the shape-holder after 10
minutes. If you will be adding a soupy filling, brush the crust with
egg wash (one egg beaten with two tablespoons of water) to seal the crust,
then finish the baking. Always brush the top crust on a
pie with egg wash or milk to give it a shiny glazed appearance.
Now that those preliminaries are out of the way, here are some recipes.
You can see food network recipes for puff pastries at
Bob's Big Bag
Note: See Photos. Pie's name comes from bag shape of crust.
- 1 stick frozen unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening
- 2 1/2 cups frozen bread flour
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 7 Tablespoons ice water
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Note: All ingredients should be cold or ice cold, and should be
processed quickly so they stay cold and fats do not melt or get too soft.
- Put dry ingredients in food processor and process for 15 seconds.
- Cut butter into 1-inch chunks and drop into food processor around on
top of flour.
- Tablespoon shortening into food processor in the same way.
- Pulse food processor for 5 to 10 seconds several times until contents
are mealy with pea-sized (1/3 to 1/4 inch) chunks in it.
- Draw ice water and quickly sprinkle it all around on contents.
- Pulse food processor in a few short bursts until dough begins to
- Remove immediately, form into ball, press flat, put in plastic bag,
and refrigerate for 1/2 hour or more.
- 8 Granny Smith or Macintosh apples: cored, peeled, sliced, and
tossed in a mixture of lemon juice and water
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- dash nutmeg
- dash allspice
- dash sea salt
- 1/4 stick butter (if salted, omit salt from recipe)
- Pie Dough from above recipe, refrigerated.
- Shiny metal pie pan
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees
- Prepare apples and set aside.
- Prepare seasoning mix. Put dry ingredients in food processor and
mix for 5 to 10 seconds. Cut butter into 4 pieces, add to
processor, mix for 5 to 10 seconds. Set aside
- Roll pie dough to 1/ 8-inch thick in one huge piece between layers of
wax paper. Remove top wax paper and invert and center sheet of
dough onto pie pan. Remove remaining wax paper without tearing
- Put apple slices in center of pie dough, heaped up.
- Sprinkle seasoning mix onto apples
- Bring edges of sheet of pie dough up toward center and press wrinkles
together, leaving apple visible through opening at top. Do not
close the opening.
- Bake for 40 minutes.
Perfect Traditional Apple Pie
- ½ cup butter or margarine, slightly
- 1 cup shortening
- 3 cups flour
- dash salt
- 1/4 tsp. baking powder
- ½ cup cold water
- Put butter, shortening, flour, salt and
baking powder in a bowl.
- Mix with a hand mixer or pastry blender
until pea-size crumbs.
- Pour water over mixture and toss with fork
until moistened. (The secret to tender, flaky pie crust is to handle the
dough as little as possible.)
- When ready to roll out, pack dough in a ball
like you would a snowball, the shape into a disk, and roll out with plenty
- Bake at 425 : single crust, 12-15 minutes;
double crust, 15-20 minutes.
Apple Pie Filling
- 7-8 cooking apples: cored, peeled, and sliced into a mixture of lemon
juice and water
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- dash nutmeg
- dash allspice
- dash salt
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- Prepare apples. Drain and steam apples.
- Mix remaining ingredients and set aside.
- When apples start to be transparent, drain again (quickly, pouring in
strainer then quickly back in pan, so not all the juice is drained off).
- Stir dry ingredients into apples.
- Pour filling in pie crust.
- Top with second crust and seal. Cut vents in top.
- Bake on bottom rack at 425 for 15-20 minutes, or until lightly browned.
- Cool on cooling rack
(Layered Puff Pastry Dough) :
You can use this pastry
dough for the top crust on meat or fruit pies or pies, or pastes.
- 1 pound all-purpose flour, accurately
- 1 pound (4 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut
into small pieces
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup heavy cream (or 1/2 cup heavy cream
mixed with 1/2 cup ice water)
- In the bowl of a food
processor or using the flat paddle of an electric mixer, mix 1/2 cup flour
with butter until very smooth. Shape the mixture into a flat square 1 inch
thick, wrap well in plastic, and chill for at least 30 minutes.
- Combine salt with the
remaining flour in a large mixing bowl, and add cream (or cream and
water). Mix the dough well by hand or with an electric mixer; the dough
will not be completely smooth but it should not be sticky. Shape it into a
flat square 1 1/2 inches thick, wrap in plastic, and chill, at least 30
- Remove the flour
dough from the refrigerator. On a lightly floured board, roll the dough
into a rectangle twice as long as the butter dough. Place the butter dough
in the center, fold up the ends to completely encase the butter dough, and
seal the edges by pinching them together. Wrap well in plastic, and chill
for at least 30 minutes, so that the dough achieves the same temperature
- Remove the dough from
the refrigerator and, on a lightly floured board, roll it out into a large
rectangle approximately 1/2 inch thick. Fold the dough into thirds,
aligning the edges carefully and brushing off any excess flour. The object
is to ensure that the butter is distributed evenly throughout, so that the
pastry will puff evenly when baked. Wrap the dough, and chill it for at
least 30 minutes. This completes 1 turn. Step 4 should be repeated 5 more
times; classic puff pastry gets 6 turns, creating hundreds of layers of
butter between layers of the flour dough (729 to be exact). Use as little
flour as possible when rolling out the dough, and always brush of any
excess. Remember to let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes in the
refrigerator between turns, or 15 minutes in the freezer. This chilling
makes the rolling out much easier, and it keeps the layers of butter of
equal thickness. By the 6th and final turn, the dough should be very
smooth, with no lumps of butter visible. Wrap the pastry in plastic wrap,
and refrigerate until ready to use (up to 2 days), or freeze for future
Yield: approximately 2 pounds