A Note About Pie Crust (and why I don't make it at home)

A Note About Pie Crust (and why I don't make it at home)

I have been obsessed with this recipe for rhubarb custard tarts. The photos are so elegant, with perfect little crusts around mounds of puffed custard. Against my better judgement, I tried to make the cardamom-scented crusts at home. Without a measuring cup.

I was actually in my friend’s home – hence the lack of measuring cup – and I was probably doomed from the start. Not just because I was almost certain to screw up the proportions, but because there are just so many things that can go wrong with pie and tart crusts.

These days, I have joyfully resigned myself to using pre-baked crusts from the freezer aisle at Whole Foods. They always cook evenly, don’t fall apart randomly, and are much faster. Since I am usually a huge proponent of making basic things like this at home (I even made mayonnaise from scratch the other night – delicious!), I want to explain the main reasons for leaving the crust making to the professionals.

Time Consuming

Now that I have the ultimate quiche recipe and make it at home a lot, the amount of prep time really matters. Quiche can take an hour and twenty minutes to cook, so it needs to be the first thing in the oven when preparing for guests. If I made the crust from scratch, I would have to start preparing for dinner at 3 in the afternoon!

When you make a pie or tart crust from scratch, it is time consuming in so many ways:

  • Kneading the dough to the correct consistency. If you are new at crusts, this can easily take you 20 minutes!
  • Refrigerating the dough. Most doughs require that you refrigerate them for at least 30 minutes and sometimes even a whole hour before you roll them or use them.
  • Pre-baking the crust. When you make a crust from scratch, you have to pre-bake it before you add any filling, which can be another 20-40 minutes depending on the crust.

Whew! That can be two hours before you can even put your tart, quiche, or pie in, and then *that* has to bake for 40 minutes to an hour and a half. Not my idea of an after work project.

High Failure Rate

There are almost an infinite number of ways that you can mess up a pie crust. Some are ruinous (too much flour and not enough binding, like I did this week) and some are fixable (tears in the crust while rolling can be patched).

When you use a pre-baked crust you don’t have to worry about these common issue:

  • Burnt edges. Almost every pie I have ever made has burnt edges, and they have started to come out with fancy silicone contraptions to prevent this eventuality. But you could just use a pre-baked crust and not have to think about foil or silicone covers in the first place.
  • Wrong consistency. This is a huge one. No one likes to slave over a homemade pie with fresh fruit only to end up with a tough crust that makes the pie no fun to eat!
  • Uneven dough rolling. If you are not adept with a rolling pin, this can be the most painful part of the pie making process, resulting in crusts that are too thick, don’t cover the whole pie mold, and don’t bake through completely.

So, as sinful as my crust laziness may be to all the real “chefs” out there, those are my reasons. If you have any more good reasons to avoid crust, or any tips that might make me try again, let me know!

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