Why was my pie crust crumbly? I used a recipe provided by James Beard in the manual to my Cuisinart (vintage 1982).

I did everything as directed . . . .frozen butter, ice water, did not overprocess . . . . and the dough itself, when I rolled it out after chilling, was a dream to handle. I tented the outer edge with foil after about 20 minutes, so it was not too dark. But it would not yield when I tried to remove each slice, breaking into three or four large pieces instead. It tasted great, but it looked so, so sad. What did I do wrong? This has never happened to me before. Thank you. ;o)



AntoniaJames August 23, 2011
Thanks so much, HLA! I really appreciate it. ;o)
hardlikearmour August 22, 2011
AJ, I just sent you a link to the Cook's Illustrated recipe for the foolproof pie dough.
jasonjason August 22, 2011
I've also never had luck using a food processor for cut-in fat doughs, so I almost always make them by hand. That being said, if your batch is just too big to do by hand, do it the way we learned in pastry school -- in the stand mixer. Pulse the flour and fat on and off until you get the right size lumps and then stream the water in on "stir", mixing just until it's nearly come together. Then frissage the dough on the counter as usual.
AntoniaJames August 22, 2011
HLA, I have used spirits in pie crusts before, but don't as a general rule. I see you posted a recipe for a crust that uses vodka. I think I'll try it! Thank you so much. ;o)
hardlikearmour August 22, 2011
AJ, have you tried the "foolproof" pie dough recipe using a vodka and water mix? The vodka doesn't promote gluten formation, so you can make a moister dough w/o much risk of overprocessing. I cut the fat in with the processor, then dump it into a bowl and add the liquid. The dough is really easy to work with, patches like a dream if it tears, and comes out with a great texture in the end. Do give it a go sometime!
AntoniaJames August 22, 2011
Thanks, ChefJune!! I served this pie at a dinner party -- a going-away dinner for my son and close family friends -- and it was declared "the best pecan I've ever eaten" by a member of the older generation (a guest), so it was not a big deal, though it was bit annoying. I'll probably make a double crust blueberry pie right before my younger son goes back to college. I'm looking forward to it! I appreciate everyone's advice. Thanks again! ;o)
ChefJune August 22, 2011
I used to teach folks how to use their Cuisinarts. If you let the dough form a ball, you've overprocessed. The trick is to stop it just before that ball forms.

I've done my crusts with all sorts of ingredients 100% in the processor for years now, and they all work fine. It just takes practice to be able to stop the processor before it gets to the ball stage.

Take heart, AJ, taste is the most important part, anyway! ;D
sdebrango August 22, 2011
I think it will be perfect for a galette. I have never heard of a hot water crust sounds really interesting!
cookinginvictoria August 22, 2011
So sorry that this happened to you. I know that lots of people swear by making pie crust in the food processor, but every time I do it, despite my best efforts, I overprocess the dough. I find making it by hand the best for me -- I am touching the dough at all stages and feel a bit more in control of the process. Too bad that the pastry looked so sad, but at least it tasted good. Small comfort, I know. :)
AntoniaJames August 22, 2011
Thanks, both of you! Next time I'll dump the pulsed flour + butter out and mix in the water by hand. It's a bit more effort, but worth it! I have a second crust from this batch in my fridge. I haven't rolled it out, so I think I'll shape it into a galette instead of putting it into a pie pan. Just as well . . . I have ripe peaches and the last of this season's blueberries on hand. They'll do just fine in a galette. Thanks again! ;o)
AntoniaJames August 22, 2011
I usually use my mother's old-fashioned shortening and hot water crust, which defies all the typical rules of pie crust making. But it works, producing a tender, forgiving crust that cuts beautifully, tastes good (especially when I use good leaf lard instead of the shortening) and never lets me down. I suspect you're right about the over-processing. Instead of running it until the dough formed a ball on the blade, I probably should have just taken it out as soon as all the tiny bits appeared fairly uniform and looked like dough, and then squeezed it into submission in the plastic wrap. Thanks so much! ;o)
sdebrango August 22, 2011
That is sad, I agree with boulangere it sounds like it was overprocessed. I always underprocess pulsing only a few times and mixing the water in by hand I find that if I add the water while in the food processor the dough is tougher. I basically just use it to incorporate the fat and thats all.
boulangere August 22, 2011
I'm going to guess that it was a shade overprocessed because it sounds like the gluten was overdeveloped. I agree, very sad.
Recommended by Food52