‘Prince’ says making pastry perfect for pie isn’t scary
The prince of pastry and baron of buttercream came to Baton Rouge recently to share baking tips and tricks with local home bakers.
The “prince-baron,” actually Frank Tegethoff, part of a team putting on King Arthur Flour’s free Traveling Baking Demos, offered plenty of advice during two free demonstrations — Perfect Pies & Savory Scones, and Baking With Yeast & Whole Grains.
Asked about his title, the affable Tegethoff said, “After five years with the company, you get knighted.” A pastry chef by training, he has worked at employee-owned King Arthur Flour, America’s oldest flour company, for 10 years. He became part of the traveling team three years ago.
“We haven’t been to Louisiana for demonstrations since 2004, and this is our first time in south Louisiana,” said Julie Christopher, the company’s national outreach program manager. “Our company is really about baking and educating … building a baking community.”
The team travels in September and October before the holiday baking season begins and then again in January and February just after the peak baking season. They travel to three to four regions of the country, hitting three to four venues in each region. Their latest trip has taken them from Louisiana and Mississippi to Kentucky, Tennessee and New England.
Tegethoff noted that “everyone at King Arthur is a baker. … We work on the baker’s hotline and work in the test kitchen.”
In opening the Perfect Pies & Savory Scones demonstration, Tegethoff told the approximately 100 attendees, “Calling it perfect is taking a big bite out of the apple.”
But there is no reason to have a phobia about preparing a pie crust by hand, he said. “For a tender, flaky pie crust, you have to do some things to make it tender and other things for flakiness. … You must have a mixing bowl big and wide enough for your hands. … To measure flour, fluff up the flour and then sprinkle it into the measuring cup and level off. Flour compacts if you dip the cup in and you will end up with 20 percent more flour” than needed.
Use cold, firm, unsalted butter. “Butter melts at 89 degrees so handle it as little as possible,” he cautioned.
Dice the butter into 1/4-inch cubes, about the size of peas, by cutting the stick into four lengthwise slices one way, flipping onto its side, cutting four slices the other way, then cutting across the strips into small pats.
Use a fork or pastry cutter to cut (combine) half the butter into the flour and salt mixture until the butter pieces are the size of lentils. “That’s pretty small … it will start to coat the flour,” Tegethoff said as he demonstrated each step. “If we coat flour well and finely with butter, it will absorb less water. Too much liquid will turn the dough to crackers.”
That, he said, explains the tender part of making a pie crust. “Now for flakiness. Cut in the remaining butter. You can either work with your hands or a tool.” He used a pastry cutter a few times and then began using the tips of his fingers to make butter flakes by flattening them to about the size of a nickel.
Next, he gradually added ice water, gathered the dough together and squeezed gently. “If you squeeze it and it still falls apart and is dusty, that means it is too dry. Add more water.”
He turned out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. “Divide the ball of dough in half or 60/40 for a two-crust pie.” He patted the dough into flat disks about an inch thick, rolled the edges to smooth them, put them in plastic wrap and refrigerated for at least 30 minutes.
“Pie dough can be frozen for three months,” Tregethoff said. Armed with a rolling pin, Tregethoff used it to quickly flatten the disks. Don’t whack the dough, just lightly pound it, he said. “To roll the pie dough, go out from the center. Do quarter turns as you go.”
He prefers to use metal pie plates because they conduct heat better. “Glass is an insulator so you have to bake at a lower temperature and longer.” He also likes to use a nonstick vegetable spray on the pie pan.
After rolling out the dough, fold the bottom crust into quarters, roll it around the rolling pin or use a giant spatula to put it into the pie pan, he said.
He used the dough to make an apple pie. Its filling was simple: Three pounds of apples, sliced and coated with lemon juice, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/4 cup of flour and 1/4 teaspoon of Saigon cinnamon.
The apple filling seemed too much for the 9-inch pie pan, but Tregethoff mounded it into the middle of the crust until it looked like a little mountain sitting above the crust. A generous filling prevents having a “cavern” under the top crust.
Next Tegethoff showed how to make sure the crust was well-sealed and how to flute the edges. He made a few slits in the top crust so there would be a place for steam to escape. His apple pie was ready for the oven, and he was ready to demonstrate how to make Cheddar, Bacon and Scallion Scones.
“A scone is like a biscuit but without all the family drama,” he joked. “You just have to remember not to work the dough too much.”
After mixing together unbleached all-purpose flour, salt, baking powder, butter, some cheese, green onion tops and crumbled bacon with milk, Tegethoff gathered the dough into an 8-inch wide circle about 1-inch tall and cut it into eight triangles. “Separate the triangles to make them crisper,” he said. The scones are baked in a hot oven for about 20 minutes and are served with a soup or salad.
For the second demonstration, which attracted 55 attendees, the King Arthur Flour team discussed how to bake with yeast and whole grains and demonstrated how to make Walter Sands’ Basic White Bread.
Tegethoff discussed how yeast works and how to add whole-wheat flour to recipes using all-purpose flour. Store yeast in an airtight container in the back of the freezer, which is the driest place in the kitchen, he said. “Once you break the vacuum, you have a 9- to 12-month window to use. Always observe the expiration date on the package.”
He also pointed out “instant yeast is designed to taste neutral. If you like a yeasty flavor, use active dry yeast.” An enzyme in whole milk “isn’t friendly to the yeast, but if you scald the milk, it neutralizes that enzyme,” he said.
Because flour takes on moisture from outside, the amount of flour used in bread depends on the humidity, he said. “Start kneading dough by folding over and pushing away.
“Dough needs to be handled gently. It should become elastic, smooth and tacky. It is better to err on the tacky side than too dry. If kneading by hand, the process should take about 10 minutes.”
Another tip Tegethoff shared was to put dough to rise in a bucket with straight sides. “It’s easy to tell if it has doubled.”
Each demo also included free recipes and coupons, and most audience members won baking-related door prizes. Here are some recipes from the baking team.