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I've have read many times that pie dough is meant to be held sparingly to avoid creating gluten, but kneading the pie dough does exactly that. So, what is the motivation?

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Recipes usually specify lightly kneading pie dough to help it hold together better (especially when fitting it into the pie dish) and to orienting the gluten and fat into flaky layers instead of crumbly crumbs. Over kneading blends the fat and flour into a mortar/paste that takes longer to cook through and is tough and cardboard-like.

  • So if you don't knead the dough you get a crumbly crust? If that's the case then why do some recipes completely ignore lightly kneading it. The science is here is pretty much unclear. Do you always knead your pie dough? – user29568 Oct 16 '17 at 15:58
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    "Gently knead dough into a solid mass.Unlike bread dough, which you work in order to develop the gluten (protein in wheat that creates the structure in a loaf of bread), when you make pie crust you want to develop as little gluten as possible. So while you want to make the dough come together as one, you want to work it only just enough to make that happen. So when you "gently knead" the pie crust dough, you're really just sort of squeezing it lightly into a ball, ideally kneading just a few times until the comes together" From: thespruce.com/how-to-make-homemade-pie-crust-2216886 – dlb Oct 16 '17 at 21:03
  • @dlb Interesting remarks. Thanks for the reference. I have made pie dough without kneading to flaky results so I have yet to see what gentle kneading does to the crust. I'll try it out next time. – user29568 Oct 16 '17 at 22:30
  • @user29568 Tossed that on as I thought it gives a good idea that "gentle kneading" in pie dough is what for things like pasta or bread would be considered not kneading at all. You are just trying to form a dough. You can apply a little pressure, just to get it to come together, but no actual working. Ma Kettles's answer is dead on, just trying to add what I find a good definition of gentle kneading to it. I myself am terrible at pie crusts, so I make cobblers. ;) – dlb Oct 17 '17 at 14:05
  • @dlb I think just using the word knead in pie recipes is confusing. A simple "work into a ball" is easier to understand. Your pie crust can't be that bad, what's going wrong? – user29568 Oct 17 '17 at 15:58

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