Copyright © 2000 Sarah Phillips Sarah Phillips, Inc. All rights reserved.
Sometimes baking pastry recipes can present problems, but we have solutions to the most commonly asked questions. If you have additional questions, please post them in our baking911.com Forum, and we will be happy to answer them.
FLAKY (PIE AND TART CRUSTS) AND SHORTCRUSTS
Crust loses shape: When going into the oven, the crust wasn't cold enough, and the oven wasn't hot enough.
Crust burned in spots: The crust's rollout wasn't even.
Crust shrinks: Gluten has developed making the dough elastic, usually because of over mixing but sometimes because of excessive rolling. If there is too little shortening, or if the ingredients are too warm or if there is too much water, shrinking will also occur. Chilling the dough after rolling it out, but before baking, will help to prevent shrinking. Roll the pastry to an even thickness and don't stretch pastry when transferring it to pie pan. Not pricked with fork prior to baking.
Edges fell over while baking: Usually the crust is too thick and falls over because of its own weight. However, too high a proportion of fat in the recipe, under mixing, or placing warm dough in the over to bake before it has been chilled will also contribute to this problem.
Crust tough: Sometimes there is not enough fat in the recipe which allows too much gluten to develop. Overworking the dough also makes it tough. When a crust is served cold it will often be tough because the fat is chilled, making the crust hard.
Pastry is crumbly and hard to roll: Measure your ingredients carefully. Too much shortening makes the pastry crumbly. Add more water, 1 teaspoon at a time.
Soggy bottom crust: Could be one of several things. Check out your pie pan. Glass, dark metal and dull-metal pans absorb heat and produce a crisp, golden-brown crust. Filling leakage could also cause a soggy crust. Unthickened filling not precooked. Patch any cracks with a pastry scrap and with a little water so it stays in place. Also make sure your oven temperature is accurate. If the temperature is too low the crust won't brown properly. After baking, cool your pie on a wire rack. Allowing the air to circulate under the pie prevents the crust from becoming soggy. You could have used too much lard, shortening, or butter in the recipe. Ingredients were not cold enough during preparation. You could have overworked the crust.. The fillings could have been a bit too runny.
Pie crust burns around the edges: To prevent overbrowning of the fluted edge of your pie, make a shield by cutting a strip of aluminum foil 2 inches wide and 3 inches longer than the diameter of your pie pan. When the crust begins to brown, place the foil over the pie, gently curving the foil to cover the fluted edge.
Tough pastry: Use a pastry blender to cut in the shortening until well mixed and the mixture resembles small peas. It's the tiny pockets of fat encased in flour that make a pie crust crisp. Use less flour when rolling out the pastry since too much flour and too much water makes pastry tough.
CHOUX (Pâte à Choux)
Fat separates when making paste: When the pot is returned to the stove, the mixture is stirred constantly and continuously flattened against the sides of the pan, drying the paste as much as possible. The whole process will take about 3 - 5 minutes of continuous beating. Immediately remove from heat or the fat will separate out. Note that the bottom of the pan will be lightly filmed with the paste which you shouldn't scrap while cooking.
Paste separates: It's very important that each egg be fully incorporated before you add the next so the paste won't separate. It can be a slow process.
Puff collapses: If they are removed from the oven too soon, the structure of the shell has not solidified, and it will collapse. To check, a wooden skewer inserted into the center should come out dry. If wet and eggy, return to the oven as necessary. Remove when done and cool on a wire rack.
Butter/margarine breaks through the dough: Problem - Butter/margarine too cold; Dough too soft; Harsh sheeting reduction. Solution - Condition butter to 57-60 degrees F; Reduce water in the dough; Gradually reduce sheeting
Butter/margarine oozes out from the dough: Problem - Butter/margarine too warm; Dough too warm; Dough too tight. Solution - Condition butter to 57-60 degrees F; Chill dough; Increase water in the dough
Butter melts: Problem - Insufficiently laminated; Room too warm. Solution - Work in a cooler room, or at a cooler time of day; Apply more folds, such as a minimum of 3 half folds
Pastry sticks: Problem - Insufficient dusting of flour on the work surface; Room temperature too warm. Solution - Use more dusting flour; Work in a cooler room, or at a cooler time of day; Chill dough
Flattened, wrinkled after baking: Problem - Baking sheet or pan knocked in the oven, or before entering the oven; Baked in too hot an oven for too short a time. Solution - Shorten rising time; Be careful when placing in the oven; Adjust baking temperature
Small in volume, heavy and dense in texture: Problem - Under proofed (rise); Lack of humidity; Oven too cold. Solution - Proof longer; Increase humidity in proofer; Increase oven temperature
Loss of sweetness, open texture and lack of crust color: Problem - Proofed too long; Excessive retarding time. Solution - Reduce proofing time; Reduce retarding time
Loss of flakiness and a bread like texture: Problem - Room too hot, causing butter to melt; Oven too cool; Over proofed. Solution - Work in a cooler room, or at a cooler time of day; Increase oven temperature; Reduce proof time
Blisters on baked product: Problem - Excessive humidty. Solution - Reduce humidity or bake on a cool, dry day
Pale, moist and heavy after baking: Problem - Underbaked in oven. Solution - Increase oven temperature.
Tough baked product: Problem - Too little layering butter; Too little dough butter; Baking temperature too low. Solution - Increase roll-in butter; Increase dough butter; Increase baking temperature
PHYLLO, FILLO OR FILO
Sheets are gummy after thawing: For best results, remove the dough, still in its package, from the freezer and place directly in the refrigerator for 24 hours; do not open the box because the sheets won't thaw properly. When removing a phyllo sheet, the key is to be gentle. If all the sheets seem stuck, then the dough may have partially defrosted at some point and the dough may be unusable. A damaged portion can usually be trimmed and discarded. You can still use the good parts.
Sheets crack: When ready to use the phyllo dough, unwrap it from its box and unfold it carefully. Take what you need and then some extra; do not separate the sheets when counting -- just estimate. Phyllo dough dries out quickly and can crack when exposed to air, which takes only a couple of minutes. Place immediately onto a large piece of plastic wrap on a smooth, clean surface. Cover right away with a large piece of plastic wrap. Place a damp kitchen towel (wet it, then wring it out) on top of the plastic. Rewrap the extra dough tightly in plastic wrap, set it aside until finished. When done, you will return it to its original box and place in the freezer or refrigerator for longer storage.
When buttering sheets, they tear: Do not overdo it, since too much butter yields greasy pastries. To apply: dip a soft pastry brush in the liquid butter or oil and brush lightly, starting with the edges first so they won't dry out and crack. Quickly move to the middle and then work back towards the edges, brushing any part of the dough that hasn't been previously buttered. Make sure you always butter in between any layer or patching piece. To prevent weak spots and further tearing, butter any cracks carefully, and try not to position tears on top of each other.
Lack of lift: Usually due to insufficient expansion of the dough layers during baking. Make sure the fat and dough are of similar consistency. Roll evenly without forcing. Check your oven temperature. Hotter temperatures will generally produce a higher puff.
Irregular and uneven lift: Too few folds.
Layers merge: a result of the breakdown of lamination and a shortening of structure caused by too many folds.
Shrinkage during baking: Caused by contraction of the dough layers. Gluten develops elasticity and toughness. To prevent this, ensure that the pastry is adequately rested (4 hours, preferably overnight) before baking. Commercially prepared pastry purchased from local supermarket may also shrink due to incorrect handling. Be sure to handle according to the package's instructions.
Cracking in pastry: is due to the dough drying out. If the top layer loses moisture, it shrinks and then cracks. To prevent cracking, keep it covered with a piece of clean plastic film before baking or when storing.
Spots on the surface of the baked pastry: too much water.
Butter Block problems: The butter and dough should be at approximately the same consistency and cooler than room temperature. Otherwise, you'll get a poor quality recipe. When making a butter block, the butter should not be so soft that it is hard to handle. Let it achieve 60 degrees F which is optimal (check with your Instant Read Thermometer placed in its middle). At this temperature, you should be able to transfer the finished block from one hand to the other without breaking it. It should not be so firm that it cracks or breaks when you press on it. If the butter block is colder than the dough, the dough package won't roll out easily and spread, the butter will break into pieces and will puncture the dough.
Dough that is softer than the butter will be forced to the sides by the firmer butter; a dough that is too firm will force the butter out the sides.
(Not discussed in detail here.)
(Not discussed in detail here.)