Homemade pie is always so much nicer than store-bought. You can cheat and buy the pie crust, but it just isn’t the same as making it yourself. You might feel intimidated to make the pie crust yourself because of all the things that can go wrong, but you don’t have to be.
If your pie crust keeps falling apart, it is probably dry. To remedy this, add more cold water to the dough mixture in small amounts at a time. Gently massage the dough to incorporate the moisture until just combined.
Continue reading to learn about what you can do when your pie crust keeps falling apart and how to avoid other pie crust fails.
Understanding Why Your Crust Keeps Falling Apart
A crumbly dough is not only tricky to work with, but it will affect how the pie crust bakes. There are two reasons why your dough could be crumbly:
- The pastry is too dry.
- You’ve undermixed the ingredients.
Below I will discuss these issues and outline how you should go about solving them.
Identifying and Fixing Dry Dough
There are several reasons why your dough will be dry. Some of these include:
- Adding too much salt.
- Not adding enough water.
- Adding too much flour.
- Using dough that is old.
- The weather.
- You use a different variety of flour than the recipe.
Below are some ways you can ensure your dough doesn’t become too dry.
Measure Ingredients Exactly As the Recipe Outlines
Making pastry is an exact science, so if you don’t measure the ingredients absolutely correctly, the recipe is likely to fail. Add only the precise amount of salt that the recipe calls for as salt absorbs water. If you add even a little more salt than required, it will absorb a lot of the water in the dough, making it crumbly and too salty.
When you measure the flour, make sure it is level if you are using measuring cups. You can also measure it using a scale for an even more accurate measurement. Adding just a spoon more will make the dough crumbly.
To get the exact amount of water, measure it using a measuring jug that has the measurements printed on it; this usually yields more accurate measurements for liquids than a measuring cup designed for dry ingredients.
Use Recently Prepared Dough
While it is best to chill your dough in the fridge before baking, you should not leave it in the fridge for too long – overnight or up to a day is fine, but any longer than that and your dough will become dry.
If you like to make your dough ahead of time and leave it in the fridge until needed, don’t store it uncovered, as this will dry it out faster. Instead, wrap it in plastic wrap. This will help it retain its moisture.
Consider the Weather
Unfortunately, one thing you have no control over is the weather. The moisture in the air will affect how your pastry turns out, so even if you are careful to measure out your ingredients correctly and follow the recipe to the tee, the result will be different on a hot, humid day and a cold, dry day.
Use the Correct Type of Flour
Try to use the type of flour stipulated in the recipe, as some types of flour soak up more water than others at different rates.
You will know the dough is too dry if the flour doesn’t stick together. Add a little cold water to the dough and gently rub it in. You must use cold water to keep the butter cold and prevent it from melting. You can use your fingertips to gently incorporate the water with the flour or use a fork. You want to hydrate the flour with the water rather than mix the water, flour, and butter together.
You will know you’ve added enough water when you squeeze a little chunk of flour between your fingers, and it sticks together rather than falling apart.
Identifying Undermixed Dough
The other reason your dough is crumbly could be because you’ve not mixed the ingredients properly.
When you undermix the ingredients, you don’t allow them to bind together, and no gluten develops. Gluten is essential because it gives the pastry structure. So, if you’ve added enough water, make sure to incorporate the ingredients together until they are adequately bound together.
Why Your Pastry Is Cracking
Even if you’ve followed the recipe and measured the ingredients correctly, you might find that the pastry cracks when you’re rolling it. Although frustrating, this can be fixed quite easily.
There are a few reasons your pastry might crack:
- You haven’t let the dough rest.
- The dough is not chilled.
- The dough is too cold.
- The dough is too dry.
- You rolled the dough unevenly.
- The work surface was over-floured.
The following sections will discuss how you can solve the problems mentioned above.
Let the Dough Rest in the Refrigerator
After making the dough, you must leave it to rest for at least thirty minutes—leaving it for a few hours is even better. It is best to let it rest in the fridge so that the dough stays chilled and the butter doesn’t melt. This step is vital as it allows the flour to moisten and gives the gluten time to develop. The gluten is what holds the pastry together and prevents it from cracking.
There is a fine line between chilled and cold. You want your dough to be chilled but not cold. If you’ve allowed the dough to rest for longer than an hour, take it out of the fridge about five to ten minutes before you want to roll it, depending on your climate. This will give it a bit of time to warm up if it’s cold.
Be careful not to let the pastry get too warm, though, as you don’t want it to melt. If you like making lots of pastry, it’s worth investing in a marble pastry board (or marble countertops if you can afford it!). Marble will keep the dough cool which is especially helpful if you live in a warm climate since the cool dough is less likely to crack.
Reincorporate Moisture Accordingly
You might have made your dough perfectly and popped it in the fridge to chill, but when you take it out, you notice it’s dry. This is normal, as the air in the fridge is very drying. Sprinkle drops of cold water on the dough and gently reincorporate the moisture.
Strive for Evenly Rolled Pastry
When rolling out your pastry, use the same amount of pressure on each side so that the dough rolls out evenly. Uneven rolling causes the dough to stretch out on one side, making it crack. For best results, use a rolling pin that doesn’t have handles because these allow you to evenly distribute the weight you use when you roll the dough.
Limit the Amount of Flour on Your Work Surface
Flouring your countertop or work surface prevents the dough from sticking to the surface and tearing as you lift it. Be sure that you don’t over-flour the counter, though, as the flour will dry out the dough, causing it to crack.
The best method is to roll your dough between two pieces of parchment paper. Make sure that the glossy side of each piece is in contact with the dough.
Fixing Cracks in Your Pastry
If you notice tiny cracks in your pastry, you can fix them by gently pinching the dough together to close the crack. If the cracks are a bit larger, use extra pieces of dough to patch up the crack, then roll over it to smooth it out.
In some cases, the dough is too dry or warm to remedy. In this case, it may be best to start over with the rolling process. Follow a few simple steps to restore your dough to a manageable consistency:
- Roll the dough into a ball.
- Sprinkle cool water over the pastry and rub it in.
- Wrap the dough in plastic wrap.
- Place the wrapped dough in the fridge to chill for about thirty minutes.
- When the dough is sufficiently cooled, roll it out again.
Managing Pie Crust That Is Tough Instead of Flaky
There are two common reasons your pie crust is tough instead of flaky:
- The dough is overmixed.
- The butter was incorporated incorrectly.
Read on to learn about these problems and how to fix them.
Avoid Overmixing the Dough
Overmixing the dough causes the crust to become tough. When you knead or mix dough, the gluten in the flour develops and stretches, becoming elastic. This is great for bread, but it’s not the texture you want in a pie crust.
When combining the ingredients, make sure you mix until just combined, and don’t overwork the dough. Also, make sure you don’t add too much flour, as this will also change the texture of the pastry.
Incorporate Butter Correctly
Another reason your pie crust might not be flaky is that the butter melted or you cut the pieces of butter too small.
Only take the butter out of the fridge when you need it and cut it into pieces roughly about the size of a walnut. When adding it to the flour, you should still be able to see the chunks of butter. These pieces of cold butter make layers in your dough, and when it melts in the oven, it creates pockets of steam. This makes the texture flaky.
Adding warm water will melt the butter, and too much water will cause the dough to become sticky and gelatinized. These factors all affect the texture of the pastry.
Understanding Why Pie Crust Is Soggy at the Bottom
It can be disheartening when you go to the trouble of making a pie only to find the bottom is soggy when you take it out of the oven. The wet bottom can be caused by the following factors:
- A low oven temperature.
- The filling is too moist.
- Not pricking the dough before baking.
Always preheat your oven and only put the pastry in when heated. Steam will evaporate too slowly if the oven is not hot enough, causing moisture to accumulate in the pan, making the pie crust soggy. The same occurs if the filling is too watery—the humidity builds up in the dough, making it soggy.
Before baking the pie crust, you must prick the dough. Pricking it creates holes for the steam to escape. If you bake it without pricking it first, the moisture can get trapped between the pan and the dough, causing it to become soggy.
Pale Color Indicates an Underbaked Crust
Your pie crust might fall apart if it is underbaked. Color is an easy way to tell whether your crust is sufficiently cooked.
The pie crust should be a beautiful golden brown color. If your pie crust is looking a bit pale, it could be undercooked. This can be easily fixed by popping it back in the oven. To ensure the pastry cooks properly, you must do the following:
- Choose an oven temperature that is hot enough.
- Ensure the dough is not rolled too thick.
- Leave the pastry in the oven for the required time.
Another reason for a dull-looking pie crust is that there isn’t enough butter in the dough. Butter helps the pastry to brown as it bakes. Before putting your pie crust in the oven, brush it with egg wash to give it a golden color.
Fixing Doughy Texture in Pie Crust
No one likes doughy pastry. Not only is it unpleasant to eat, but it falls apart easily and doesn’t hold its structure. A doughy texture is usually caused by the following shortcomings:
- You added too much water to the dough.
- The pie was not baked for long enough.
When you add more water than you need to the dough, the flour gelatinizes and causes the pastry to become doughy. Since the pie has already been baked, there isn’t much you can do to remedy this.
If you’ve taken the pie out too early, you can easily pop it back inside the oven. Ensure that the oven is hot enough as a cool oven won’t bake the crust properly.
Why Your Pie Crust Shrinks When It’s Baked
You might find that your pie crust has shrunk after taking it out of the oven. While it will still be tasty, you were probably hoping for it to be the same size as it was when you put it in the oven. Pie crusts can shrink for the following reasons:
- The dough didn’t rest before baking.
- The dough was warm when you put it in the oven.
- You blind-baked the pie crust empty.
Allowing your pie crust to rest after you’ve rolled it gives it time for the gluten to expand, so it doesn’t retract in the oven. After rolling out your dough, place it in the oven to chill and rest for about thirty minutes before baking.
If you are blind-baking your pie crust, the following steps are essential:
- Prick the dough.
- Place parchment paper on top.
- Cover the dough with pie weights or baking beans. If you don’t have these, you can use dried beans. The weight keeps the dough in place and prevents it from shrinking.
The key to making a fool-proof pie crust is to use cold ingredients, allow the dough to rest, and chill it before rolling and baking. You must measure the ingredients accurately and be careful not to overwork the dough because this will ruin the texture.
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