Creating a perfect piecrust is as much as science as it is an art. With a little practice, getting it right really will become as easy as pie. Use this troubleshooting guide to help navigate you through the pastry learning process.
Common Pastry Problems and Causes
Tough or Gummy – A tough pastry can have a few causes, such as over mixing or kneading, not enough fat, too much flour, or too much liquid. Over mixing allows gluten in the flour to develop into elastic strands, which creates a gummy texture. Fat inhibits these gluten strands from forming, so not including enough fat increases the likelihood of gluten formation. Likewise, using too much flour changes the flour to fat ratio, leading to the same problem. Using too much liquid in the pie dough can allow the flour to gelatinize and become gummy.
Crumbly or Too Tender – This problem has the exact opposite causes as a tough or gummy pastry. Under mixing, using too much fat, or too little liquid does not allow the ingredients to bind together and virtually no gluten is formed, providing no structure.
Doughy or Wet Texture – Using too much liquid causes too much gelatinization of the flour and leads to a doughy texture. Under baking will also produce this effect because liquid evaporates off during the baking process.
Dry or Mealy Texture – Likewise, using too little liquid will not allow enough gelatinization of the flour and there won’t be enough “glue” to hold the dough together. A mealy texture can also be the result of the fat being “over cut” or broken down into pieces that are too small. Having small clumps or chunks of fat in a pastry dough creates a nice, flakey texture. If the fat pieces become too small, the texture will become sandy or mealy, rather than flakey.
Burned or Over Browned – A pastry that is too dark is most likely due to over baking. If your pastry has baked for the recommended time and temperature and is much darker than expected, the dough may have been rolled too thin. Thinner dough will cook much faster than thick dough. It is always best to keep an eye on your pastries as every oven operates differently.
Pale or Dull Color – Pale pastries are usually undercooked. Undercooking can be a result of rolling the dough too thick or setting the oven temperature too low. Not using enough fat in the dough will also create a pale color as fat aids in the browning process.
Soggy Pie Crust – A soggy pie bottom can be caused by a number of factors such as too much moisture or trapped moisture. If the oven temperature is too low, the steam will not evaporate quickly enough and the moisture will build up and gelatinize the flour. If the pie filling is too moist, the crust will suffer the same effect. Not pricking the bottom of the pie crust before baking will sometimes cause steam to become trapped between the pie plate and pie crust, which will then gelatinize the flour and create sogginess.