It's Pi Day - Time to Make Pastry!
Today is March 14th – in other words it is Pi Day. Which means it is a great day to talk about pastry!
Pastry can seem very difficult to make –I was intimidated by it for a long time. Laminated/puff pastry can definitely be a challenge to make, but I used to think that even basic pastry (e.g. short-crust), was very complicated. In reality, short-crust pastry only has 4 ingredients. I also used to believe that I needed special equipment like a food processor to make it, but I now know that you can make delicious pastry with just a bowl, a knife and a cheese grater – and even the grater is optional.
So in honor of Pi Day, why not get your hands floury and buttery, and try out homemade pastry?
What you need
For one short-crust pastry pie-crust you’ll need:
4 oz / 110 g all-purpose / plain flour
2 oz / 50 g unsalted butter
A pinch of salt
3-4 tablespoons cold water
To make pie crust for the top and bottom, just double the amounts above.
I strongly recommend that you weigh your ingredients as this definitely helps you to get consistent results.
However, if you don’t possess a scale, I found that 4 oz of flour was about ¾ cup. As for the butter, 2 oz is 4 tablespoons or ½ stick.
What to do
Measure the flour into a bowl and add the salt. Mix well.
Then cut the butter into small chunks and add them to the flour.
TIP: I use a grater and grate the butter into the flour – much quicker and easier!
Using your fingers, gently rub the butter into the flour until all of the butter is covered in flour and the mixture looks uniformly crumbly.
Then add about 2 tablespoons of water and, using your hands, combine the mixture until it forms a smooth dough, and the bowl is clean.
TIP: you may need to add more water but be patient at first and give the flour a chance to absorb the water you’ve already added. When you do add the water, add a small amount at a time – e.g. ½ tablespoon.
Wrap the pastry in saran wrap / clingfilm and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 20-30 minutes or longer. Overnight is OK too.
TIP: To make it easier to roll-out shape the dough into a flat disc, not a ball, before you wrap it up to rest.
Once the pastry is rested, you’re ready to roll it out and make a delicious pie crust!
How much time?
Weighing the ingredients, grating the butter and mixing it into the flour, then forming the dough only took me 15 minutes.
Buying 15 oz of pie crust costs about $3.49 for a name-brand and $2.50 for the store variety, but the equivalent amount of homemade short-crust pastry is only $1.78.
Is it worth it?
For me, homemade pastry definitely gets a 5-pig rating. It’s simple and quick to make, cheaper than store-bought pastry and you probably already have the ingredients to hand.
Although pastry is not the healthiest food in the world, making your own is much healthier than buying it. Just compare the 4 ingredients listed above, to the ingredients listed on the store-bought pastry:
Enriched, bleached flour, wheat starch, lard, water, sugar, contains 2% or less of: salt, sodium propionate and citric acid and potassium sorbate, xanthan gum, colored with yellow 5, red 40.
Anything else I should know?
Why do I need to let the pastry rest?
There are 3 main reasons why it’s a good idea to let your pastry rest in the fridge before you roll it out:
As you were mixing in the butter and water to the flour, you were also activating the gluten in the flour. Gluten is great in bread, but not in pastry. Letting the pastry rest allows the gluten to “relax” so your crust will be more tender.
Extra time also allows the flour to absorb the water more evenly.
Cutting or grating the butter and then mixing it into the flour does result in the butter softening or even melting. Putting the dough into the fridge cools and hardens the butter again which will result in a flakier crust.
Why does this recipe just use butter? Why not other types of fat like oil, margarine or lard?
Why just butter? Simply because it tastes wonderful, plus I like that it contains just 2 ingredients: cream and natural flavors! However, an all-butter pastry is a little like Goldilocks, it can be harder to work with unless the temperature is just right: if the pastry is too cold it can be difficult to roll-out, and if it is too warm the pastry can tear.
One solution is to replace half of the butter with lard or block margarine. This will produce a pastry that is easier to roll-out, holds its shape well and produces a crispy, flaky crust. However, it is not as flavorful as an all-butter pastry.
As for oils, you can use them to make pie dough, but the resulting pastry will have a mealy consistency that is hard to roll out and will not be as flaky. So I don’t recommend them!
Can I freeze pastry dough?
Absolutely! I have frozen dough in my freezer right now, because it’s so convenient to
I usually wrap it in saran wrap / cling film or foil and place in a freezer bag. It lasts about 3 months. When you want to use it, just take it out of the freezer a few hours or the night before you want to use it, and defrost in the fridge.
What kind of pies can I make with short-crust pastry?
Short-crust pastry can be used for both savory and sweet pies. If your pie has a crust on top, then brush the pastry with some beaten egg (for a savory pie) or, for a sweet pie, brush it with water or milk and sprinkle it with sugar.
What kind of pie will you be making for Pi day?