Monday, November 23, 2009

Method: Perfect Pie Crust. Easier Than You'd Think

I've heard so much advice for perfecting pie crust. Freeze before baking. Visualize it coming out perfectly. Spend a year in culinary school. All three might help, but the best trick ever comes from the cooking side of the kitchen at Campagne in Seattle where I used to work.

On the pastry side of the kitchen we blind baked tarts all the time. We didn't usually use pie weights. Our in-house baker (a culinary student) sheeted sucree dough for the pastry team, and we kept them in the fridge, and they held up pretty well in the oven during blind baking (oops - did I lose you? Blind baking is cooking an empty pie crust.) At all other kitchens, my own included, I used pie weights - usually rice or old dry beans. I would line a tart shell, stick it in the freezer to firm up and then cover with a sheet of parchment paper and fill with the weights, pressing into the corners. I'd bake it for 20 minutes or so, then carefully remove the parchment, prick all over with a fork and bake another 10 minutes, or until it didn't look raw anywhere and was a little golden.

But today, after reading a post on Smitten Kitchen, I revisited the method from the other side of the Campagne kitchen. I removed my sucree-lined tart shell from the freezer, sprayed the shiny side of a piece of foil with baking spray and pressed it onto the crust. I baked it for about 20-25 minutes and voila! It. Came. Out. Perfectly. I'm so impressed. Looking forward to trying it out on other doughs, but don't anticipate problems. The Campagne cook used this technique exclusively on the crusts for quiche - deep dished, pie crusts. And they were always gorgeous. I am positively shocked that I've never tried this myself.

Here's the recipe for Pate Sucree, which I use for most tarts, and here's the recipe for pie dough. Happy Thanksgiving Prep!

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