Pie class started early. As luck would have it, the store was giving away free caffeine. Attention could be paid.
The chef (whom we will now call Chef) used an all butter crust. She recommended Kerrygold butter. Start looking through the Googles, and your eyes start to goggle with the dozens of flaky opinions that turn up.
Kerrygold has 82% butterfat. Land 'O Lakes has 80+%. An independent analysis of many brands in 2000 showed the variability possible in butterfat, water, and milk solids content. How useful are these numbers?
Pie class is like spinning class. What you are told depends on who the teacher is and how she was taught. Each spinner and baker has her favorite dogma.
Does more butterfat mean more layers of gluten can form, and make the pastry flakier? Or does more water in the butter mean that more steam can form, and make the pastry flakier? Do small variations in percentages make a difference?
How many pulses used to blend the flour, water, and butter matters. Ice water makes the dough workable without melting the butter before it gets to the oven. How the baker brings the dough together will change the gluten formation, and the amount of butter available to create the flakiness.
Rollling the dough can change the gluten structure. If you roll in one direction only, the gluten won't form interlocking strands. That will toughen the crust if the strands don't make friends with each other. No matter what happens with those friendships, too much of anything, including gluten, will make the crust tough.
The vodka camp, possibly pioneered by America's Test Kitchen (Cook's Illustrated) changes the liquid content in order to change the gluten that develops.
The major secret is the ratio method, simply described as 1, 2, 3. One part liquid, two parts fat, three parts flour. Allrecipes describes that here. Michael Ruhlman wrote about the ratio in his cookbook, Ratio. He blogs about it here. Julia describes perfect pie dough here.
Tis a wonder anyone ever makes a great piecrust. The obvious secret is to try different crusts until one makes the crust that makes your baker's heart sing.
1. I will try Kerrygold.
2. I will work the dough in a minimalist fashion. Few pulses, gentle manipulation to bring it together.
3. I will turn the dough often as I roll it out.
4. All failures will be considered conciliatory burnt offerings to the Goddess of Pie.
5. I will lower my standards so that good enough will be good enough.
6. I will recognize that people who are expert in what they do, often cannot articulate everything they do that makes it all work. That is just how it is.
I really liked the class. At the end, we were fed pumpkin pie.