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In yesterday's Game of Thrones episode ("Stormborn"), Arya Stark compliments the young character Hot Pie's most recent pie. He replies

The secret is browning the butter before making the dough. Most people don't do that 'cause it takes up too much time.

For context, this is a double-crust meat pie. Game of Thrones is set in a world that is technologically similar to our European Middle Ages.

I've always heard that one of the most important elements of making a flaky pie crust is keeping the fat as cold as possible right up until the pie goes into the oven. Is there any technique for pie dough that includes browned butter that would make a great crust?


Notes: I thought at first that the browned butter must be an ingredient in the filling, but the reference to dough makes me doubt this. Also, Game of Thrones has had recipe advice in the past that sounded crazy but is actually based in real culinary practices, namely, Hot Pie's Cherry Crumble topped with ground cherry pits. Finally, in looking around for an answer, I came across this technique for making crust with a mixture of flour/fat paste + more flour, which sounds promising but doesn't mention anything about browned butter.

Added: This isn't part of the question, but I was originally interested in what makes such a technique work compared to a cold butter crust.

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    It could be browned (for flavor) and then chilled (as needed for pastry.) Would certainly take time, that way. – Ecnerwal Jul 25 '17 at 3:32
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Any kind of crust that doesn't use cold fat could be made with brown butter easily. You can make crust by melting butter (with water and oil) then adding flour, and it's flaky - though not exactly the same texture as you get with cold fat. So just do that, except brown the butter first.

Or you could brown the butter, cool it til solid, and make a crust with a more normal recipe. I don't know if I've seen a pie crust calling for that, but I've seen it in cookies. I doubt it'd be exactly the same texture as with unmodified cold butter, because you lose some of the fat crystal structure in the butter, but it'd probably still be fine, and it'd taste like brown butter, which I assume is the goal.

  • Thanks for the recipe links! Do you think this kind of crust would work for a classic double-crust meat pie? – 1006a Jul 25 '17 at 14:51
  • Yeah, seems fine to me. I think it's more a question of what kind of crust you personally like; unless you go really off the rails, any crust is going to be able to hold the filling and they'll all taste like the butter you put in them. – Cascabel Jul 25 '17 at 16:04
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    @1006a traditional British pork pies are made with a hot water crust. This involves melting lard in hot water and mixing with flour and egg to make the dough. The result is a denser crust than a normal flaky pastry, crisp but still tender. You could use browned butter instead of lard, I imagine. bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/hotwaterpastry_1279 – ElendilTheTall Jul 26 '17 at 10:49
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If savoury

I imagine the type of pastry used here would be a hot water style. Something I usually use for pork pies as it is free standing, easy to work with and compliments the meat better in my opinion.

Here's a recipe from around those time, I'd guess that Game of Thrones have take a little creative freedom here when suggesting the browning of butter, however I see no reason why it would not work.

Source [The Good Huswifes Handmaide for the Kitchen, Stuart Peachey (ed.)] To make Paste, and to raise Coffins. Take fine flower, and lay it on a boord, and take a certaine of yolkes of Egges as your quantitie of flower is, then take a certaine of Butter and water, and boil them together, but ye must take heed ye put not too many yolks of Egges, for if you doe, it will make it drie and not pleasant in eating: and yee must take heed ye put not in too much Butter for if you doe, it will make it so fine and short that you cannot raise. And this paste is good to raise all manner of Coffins: Likewise if ye bake Venison, bake it in the paste above named. (England, c. 1588) [emphasis added]

http://medievalcookery.com/notes/piecrust.html

If sweet

This one is new to me, however it certainly calls for browning the butter so could well be related. It seems as though this recipe is generally used for sweet applications rather than savoury.

You are but half an hour from a perfect tart crust—no kneading, no chilling, no rolling. All praise Paule Caillat, a Parisian cooking-school teacher who learned the technique from her husband's grandmother. It calls for heating butter and vegetable oil in a bowl in the oven, then adding flour, which froths exuberantly. Seconds later it's ready to be pressed into tins and baked.

Recipe is here; http://www.saveur.com/article/recipes/brown-butter-tart-with-blackberries

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