Heat is the enemy of pie dough, which makes the summer pie an especially challenging task. Even if your home is climate controlled, the oven’s resonating heat and the warmth from your hands can soften the fat in the dough to the point of no return–too melted to handle. But don’t crumple the limp disk into a ball and commit a heinous pastry crime (re-rolling flaky dough is a sin). There is a way to save this pie crust. Just grab a couple bags of frozen vegetables.
Usually, if your butter-based dough is getting too soft to hold and manipulate, you can slide it onto a cutting board and pop it in the fridge for a few minutes to chill. When you take it out, the saturated fats, whether butter or shortening, will have solidified again, and you can pick it up, continue rolling, or transfer it to the pie plate, provided you catch it in time.
When the weather is hot, and the kitchen is hotter, this moment can sneak up on you. Walk away from rolling your pie dough for just a few minutes and suddenly the dough is so thin and soft that it rips or squishes when you try to lift the edge off of the counter. Even a bench scraper can’t help you at this stage. Forget transferring it to the pie dish, it’s not going anywhere in one piece.
The problem is that the dough is now riddled with softened, or liquified, fats. You need to chill them down back into their solid state, or get as close as possible. Since you can’t put the dough in the freezer, bring the freezer to the dough. Take two or three bags of small frozen foods, like peas, edamame, or corn, and lay them on top of the pie crust’s surface. If you think that’s gross, you can put a sheet of plastic wrap over the dough first. (Eventually it’s going to bake at 350°F or 400°F, so I think you’ll be fine.) Leave it like this for five to ten minutes. Pick up a bag and test the dough to see how it’s coming along. If you can feel the temperature of the pastry is cold, you’re probably in good shape to move forward.
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Use as many bags as you need to cover every inch of the dough’s surface, so you don’t have to worry about moving the bags around, or part of the dough being soft while the rest is firm. Any frozen stuff will do, but I like bagged items because the shape doesn’t have sharp edges to puncture the pastry. Bags of small fruits and veggies are ideal because more of the frozen bits can sit against the pie dough with fewer air pockets in between. I recently used a couple bags of frozen blueberries with great results, but ice packs will do the trick.
Once your dough has chilled, go ahead and try to move it around. Toss some new flour under the dough, since the melted fats may have absorbed a fair amount, and immediately finish working with the dough. Roll it, transfer the dough to a pie plate, and fit it snuggly into the pie dish. Now you’re in a safety zone. You can put the whole plate in the fridge and let the pastry chill while you leisurely prepare the pie filling with peace of mind.