I’m going to preface this recipe with a little story about pie crust, to start. I’ve long had pie crust anxiety. It was only made worse when last year when I went home to San Antonio for a visit. Before I’d even begun packing, I’d asked my Nan if she would teach me , really teach me , how to make pie crust. “It’s been a while”¯, she said. But she agreed that we would make an apple pie together.
Knowing my own history with my flaky dough nemesis, I didn’t even pull the apples out of the pantry before the crust was made. It turned out to be a good choice. Nan and I set out to make our crust, and she had me pull out all the ingredients. She said for 72 of her 75 years, she’s made pie crust , always with shortening and water. Five minutes in, I could tell it wasn’t going well. The litany of curses erupting from my sweet grandmother’s mouth was the first indication. More shortening, more water. The damn thing would never come together. Nan’s final words on the subject were, “This has never happened to me in my life!”¯
From that moment on, I’ve been certain I had a pie crust curse. But last week when I visited King Arthur Flour, I knew if anyone could cure me, it was these guys.
I have to apologize for not taking any photos of the process. As Susan Miller began to speak on Tuesday morning, I realized if I was really going to cure this affliction, I had to put down the camera and listen to every nuance, and watch every tiny step of her hands. I’m glad I did, because I made my very first successful pie crust, with my bare hands and a pastry cutter (sorry, Robyn!).
Susan explained to us that there are two things you want from a pie crust: flakiness and tenderness. However, those two things can be at war with one another, because one depends on lots of moisture, and the other depends on not having moisture! So you have to strike a balance between the two. I’ll get to how King Arthur achieves that balance in a second.
First, I want to talk about the quality of their flour, and why you should use it in your baking. For a start, King Arthur Flour never bleaches their flour. This chemical process is meant to turn the flour white quickly and easily. It’s not necessary , it happens over time on its own without the use of chemical bleach or bromides. You don’t really want to bake with bleach, do you?
King Arthur is also very selective about where their flour comes from, and are exacting in their requirements on gluten protein. Their flour comes from U.S. growers only, and none is allowed to deviate more than one-tenth of a percent in either direction on protein content. What does this mean for you and me, the home bakers of the world? It means that we get consistent results every single time when we bake with King Arthur Flour.
Other brands allow their protein contents to vary as much as 10% in either direction. That means that baking with Brand XYZ flour will give you wildly varying results from bag to bag that you buy. Don’t you wonder why sometimes you get a super flat cookie when last time they were kind of chubby and solid, and nothing changed about the recipe? This is easily caused by the gluten protein content of your bag of flour!
Very simply, King Arthur is the best flour in the business because it requires itself to be.
Now back to that pie crust. Susan Miller taught us that the secret to a flakey and tender pie crust is to cut the butter into the flour twice.
With the recipe below, I want you to take half the butter, and cut it into smallish chunks , maybe 1/4″¯ cubes. Using a pastry blender, you’ll cut the butter in until the dough resembles coarse cracker meal, and the flour starts to change color from extremely white to slightly butter yellow.
Take the second half of your butter, and cut it into slightly larger chunks, maybe 1/2″¯ cubes. Cut that into the dough until it’s just combined. You’ll still have large chunks of butter running through. Follow the rest of the recipe as described, and with your own bare hands, you’re going to make pie crust!
If you look closely, you can see the larger butter chunks in the pie dough from the second cutting in.
You can see as Robyn rolls, she stops to cup the edges of dough with her rounded hand to keep the continuously round shape and also turns the dough to keep the dough at an even thickness.
After many turns and re-shapings, we’re nearly there!
Robyn folds the dough in half, then in half again to make a triangular “quarter”. This makes it easy to move into the pie pan without fear of tearing.
Robyn says to always tuck the excess dough under itself. If this pie had a top crust, she would tuck the bottom layer, then after filling, lay the top crust over, and tuck under the first layer before fluting.
A beautifully fluted pie crust, ready for yummy tomato and mozzarella filling!
A little tip from KAF Instructor Robyn about keeping a round pie crust as you roll – Roll in one direction, but pat the edges into a round and turn it often. You’ll end up with an even, and most importantly, round, pie crust in no time.
Savory Tomato Pie
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Pâte Brisee Pastry
1 cup King Arthur All Purpose Flour
3/4 cup King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, well chilled and divided
4-6 tablespoons ice water
Combine flours and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut in half the amount of butter until only pea sized pieces remain, and it begins to resemble cracker meal (crumbs), and changes color from stark white to pale butter yellow. Cut in the second half of the butter less finely, leaving fairly large chunks throughout. Add water a couple tablespoons at a time, mixing after each addition. When you can pick up some of the dough with your hand, squeeze it into a ball, and it holds together, the dough is ready.
Pat into a flat disk about 1″ thick, wrap in plastic wrap, and allow to rest for at least 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 400°F when pastry is ready to be rolled out.
Tomato Pie Filling
1/4 cup Dijon Mustard
1 pound fresh Mozzarella cheese, sliced thinly (use a ball of Mozzarella, not shreds)
1-2 large fresh tomatoes, sliced thinly
2 tablespoons garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin Olive Oil
Fresh Basil, reserved for after baking
Roll the pastry out to fit into a 9″ pie tin. Rolled out pastry should extend about 3/4″ past the pie plate when placed in the center of the pastry. When of the right size, fold pastry in half, and then half again to transfer to pie plate, placing the corner of the quartered dough into the center of the plate.
Trim excess pastry and flute the edge as desired. Spread mustard over the base of the pie, spreading thinly. Top mustard layer evenly and entirely with mozzarella slices. Top mozzarella in the same fashion with fresh tomatoes. Sprinkle with garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper. If you have a deep pie plate, feel free to double these layers.
Drizzle top of the filling with olive oil.
Bake in preheated 400°F oven for 35-40 minutes. Allow to cool slightly, then layer with fresh basil and serve immediately.
This pie also freezes well after baking, and reheats beautifully.