Frankie Says Relax
Wow, I’m really dating myself with that headline. That was a huge hit back in my high school days. I think I had the 12″ maxi-single, laser-etched. I drew the line at the obnoxious t-shirts.
But where was I? Oh yes: I wanted to make a point of reminding all you folks out there working with short crust to spare no opportunity to rest your dough. Years ago in my bakery days I remember customers asking: how do you get your pies to turn out so well? My crusts always shrink! At first I didn’t know what to say, because as far as I could tell we just made the pies and baked the pies.
It wasn’t until a few years later that I realized that the magic ingredient was time. Bakeries make many, many pies at one go. The unintended side effect is that there’s a lot of resting between steps. The dough sits while the baker portions out and weighs all the pieces, and the rolled pieces sit when he/she goes to fetch the pans. The pressed crusts sit while the filling is being prepared, and finished pies sit while they wait for an oven to become available.
The consequence? Very, very relaxed gluten which springs back only minimally during baking. Home bakers tend to rush through their pie/tart/cookie-making steps, mostly because they’re only making a single pie at a time (also the kids have soccer practice in an hour). However the more you can let your short crust sit idly between all your steps, the better for your crust.