How do I stop my pastry from shrinking? The Never Cook Naked Guys help a reader who suffers the disappointment of rolling out a gorgeous pie crust only to have it shrink in the oven. Let their advice guide you to your own pert and perky pie crusts.
Pert Pastry Tarts
Dear Never Cook Naked Guys: How can I get my fluted piecrusts and pastry for tarts to maintain their pert shape during baking?—Shrinking Violet
Dear Shrinking: We hear your pain. We, too, have seen that water can shrivel the best of intentions. A dip in the pool after dinner and the night’s ruined. Once we were at this jazzy little hotel when….
Oh, wait, we’re talking about piecrusts. Well, the same thing, really. The problem is still water—too much of it makes things shrink. Here’s how to fix this little problem. Add as small an amount of water (or other liquid) to the dough as possible. Most pie crust recipes involve a rather inexact measurement of liquid—for example, between 3 and 5 tablespoons cold water. Start with the minimum of 3. Not even 3 1/2. See if the dough will adhere. If not, add more water in teaspoon increments until your dough holds together. You don’t want glue. You want just enough moisture to hold the gluten together. A corollary to this solution is to recognize that adding butter to a piecrust is essentially adding water, given that butter is about 20 percent H2O, whereas vegetable shortening and lard contain no additional water. So be even more judicious in adding water to all-butter crusts, since there’s already moisture in the mix, or use a combo of butter and shortening or lard to minimize moisture.
While you’re at it, use cold water when building a crust, as you’re also trying to slow the melting of the fat as the crust sets in the oven. Too much melting can also create slouchy crusts.
As to that other problem with water, just book a room in a hotel without a pool. And don’t eat too much pie. That can kill the mood, too.
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Originally published November 18, 2021