Chilling Techniques...With Warnings Attached

Here's the Secret to Perfectly Flaky
(Not Soggy)
Pie or Tart Crusts...
Really and Truly.

Monet's Apple Tarts

Several weeks ago, my friend Clarice, from Storybook Woods tagged me for a
"25 Random Things About Me" challenge on Facebook
(where I have two friends total...Clarice and Dana...
Hi Clarice and Dana!). I recently got to it and this is what happened.
One of the random things I listed was the secret/ability to make a perfectly flaky pie crust. I offered to share it if anyone was interested and Clarice expressed a desire to know...

So...Shusshhhh...Here's the Secret.

Any pie crust recipe will do...I just use a basic recipe.
The trick is not in the crust ingredients, believe it or not. I have used basic all-purpose flour, expensive/fancy pastry flour and many flour grades in well as butter/lard/shortening/ margarine/oil and multiple combinations of the above, all with great success.
The secret is in understanding the chemistry behind the process.
(Now...don't get discouraged by the word "chemistry" as it's just a technical term for "trick" :)
What happens is...
a chemical reaction occurs between the COLD butter/shortening
, the flour, and the high heat of the oven.
Thus... the secret is to keep the butter/shortening cold as possible...
and ensure that your oven is pre-heated to at least 400 degrees when you first place your pie in the oven to be baked.
That's why everyone tells you not to overwork the dough.

Here's How I Keep Things Hot and Cold.

First. Roll out your dough and put it into the pie pan--then pop it, pan and all, into the freezer for at least 7 to 10 minutes. HINT: I often prepare several crusts and store them in the freezer (I nestle the dough-lined pans together, with wax paper in between). I store them in plastic bags (the gallon Zip Lock bags work well) they will keep nicely for about a year.
These make super quick and convenient pie crusts for future use...also...they allow you to give a home-made pie as a gift with minimal effort, time, and money, But I digress.
You cannot get the crust too cold.

Second. While you're rolling out the dough, or waiting for it to get super cold,
pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.
This is very important.
Make sure it's at least 400 degrees before putting in your pie.

Third. Quickly fill your pie crust. If I'm using a dense filler like fruit and the like (as opposed to pumpkin etc.) I will fill the cold pie crust and then pop it into the freezer, filling and all, for a quick 5 to 10 minutes, just for insurance. After putting the chilled, filled pie into the pre-heated 400 degree oven I set the timer for 10 minutes. After the first ten minutes I then turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees (this is important as a consistent high heat may cause the pie to burn if you leave it on longer than ten or 15 minutes) then continue baking as the recipe suggests. The first ten minutes are crucial. The high heat causes the fat molecules in the butter/shortening to fuse with the wheat molecules in the flour...thus creating a flaky crust. Yes.'s true and quite amazing. NOTE: This chilling technique also works well when making shortbread cookies or any sort of butter cookie.

Words of Warning: Beware!! Once you learn this trick you will want to bake pies all the time...and eat your own baking. This can be dangerous to your waistline. I am speaking from experience. I gained a LOT of weight after learning this trick because I was baking (and EATING) pies almost daily. In fact everything became a pie-filling to me! Because the crusts were so light and flaky, I just kept eating. The delicious taste & texture, along with the wonder and magic of turning ordinary butter/shortening and flour into this delicious new treat kept me going back for more! I now bake much less often. When I do bake, I serve it specifically as a dessert...and then quickly box the extras to give away. (Mike takes them to work for everyone to enjoy, or I share them with the neighbors). I'm still working at whittling my waistline down to a semblance of its former (smaller) size. Hind-sight is twenty-twenty, and I've learned it is a lot easier to abstain from eating than to lose the extra inches once they've arrived! Exercise helps. :) But then, you probably know this already!


All Warnings Aside...
This is a Lovely Skill To Possess.

Please see below...

Here's how...

Throughout the year, I collect all manner of inexpensive pie plates and tart pans from flea markets, thrift shops and yard sales--then they are stored in my Gift Pantry(tm). I use these for giving home-made pies and or tarts as gifts. This process is simplified by pre making my crusts (as mentioned above in the FIRST step) and keeping them in the freezer. To present them, I purchase inexpensive, cardboard pie boxes (the type the bakeries use) and have them on hand . These are reasonably priced and can be bought in bulk from paper suppliers, or buy a few at a time from your local bakery. I have found that people truly appreciate a tasty, home-made pie or Tart any time of the year...of course, they are especially appreciated during the holidays.


The Taste of Memories (tm): Swedish Butter Cookies

The Taste of Memories
"Their memories will be encrusted over with sublime and pleasing thoughts."
--Henry David Thoreau

Did you know that memory making is done every moment of our lives: Some memories are happy and vivid, while others we prefer to forget. What most people don't realize is that we often have a choice between making them happy or unhappy. It's for this reason that I try to cultivate the habit of making pleasant memories from small events. An example of this is when my daughter Rosie and I bake together. We call it tasting memories...and when we use a recipe for Swedish butter cookies handed down from my Grandmother (and her mother before her) we link the past with the present...and the present with the future.

Swedish Butter Cookies

3. Dust with powdered sugar. Share and enjoy.

2. I always make extra to store in the freezer for future use.

1. Mix your ingredients then roll dough into cylinder shapes and wrap in waxed paper.

Corrected Post with ALL ingredients included.

Recipe: Grandmother Carlson's Swedish Butter cookies.

You will need:

1-1/3 cups butter, softened (Hint: I don't recommend margarine in this recipe. You may substitute half of the butter with shortening for a lighter cookie, but less of a butter flavor.)

3/4 cup powdered sugar (Hint: You may also use granulated sugar but the texture will not be as light as if you used powdered sugar.)

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
(Thanks Rhonda for noticing this omission in my first posting of this recipe.)

1 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract (we prefer almond flavoring).

Note: This is an ideal recipe to use in a food processor, but it is not necessary for good results.

To Make:
Mix all ingredients and work until smooth. Roll dough into long tube-shapes and wrap in waxed paper (see photos above). Chill in the freezer for about 5 minutes, or 15 -30 minutes in the refrigerator (this will make slicing easier). Slice the tube-shaped dough into 1/4 inch rounds. Place these on an un-greased cookie sheet, about 2" apart. Put the cookie sheet with unbaked cookies in the freezer for 3 to 4 minutes to chill slightly. Bake in a preheated, 400 degree oven for 4 - 6 minutes (check after 4 minutes--you'll know they're finished when you see that the edges are slightly golden and the cookies slightly puffed). Dust with powdered sugar and serve with tea or coffee, or box and give as gifts to special kindred spirits. They melt in your mouth.
This recipe originally was published in our Frugal Luxuries newsletter in 2001
Copyright 2001. All rights reserved.