Sunday, November 22, 2009

Don't Be Afraid of Pie Crust

Are you afraid of making pie crust? Most people are but you don't want to be one of those people who picks up a pie at Walmart and takes it to Thanksgiving dinner do you? If you do, please don't bring it to my house. I promise you it will be left to grow mold on the counter.

I don't know why most people cringe at the thought of making their own crusts. Perhaps you've had a bad experience. That's perfectly normal, you know. Pie dough is like a horse - it senses your fear and throws you off just to prove it's bigger than you are. Just as the knight takes control of his horse, you have to take control of your dough.

Artist's Rendering of You and Your Pie Dough

There are two images I want you to remember when making pie dough:


For the flakiest, most delicious pie crust, begin with very cold ingredients. In fact, if you've got the time, freeze your flour and butter. Make some lovely ice water. Keep your hands cold.

And why do you need to work fast? Because you are going to perform the marriage of butter and flour and as in most marriages, friction causes heat.


My favorite pie dough is made with butter because I love the flavor. But you can use Crisco or half butter, half Crisco if you prefer flakiness to taste. Don't use butter-flavored Crisco because it's just evil. You can also use cream cheese for a dough that's really, really easy to handle. Just make sure that, whatever you use, it's very COLD.

The ingredients:

2 C. all-purpose flour
2 sticks (8 oz.) unsalted butter
2 TBSP sugar
1 tsp. salt
3-4 TBSP (more or less) icy cold water

Now, you can use a food processor which is preferable because even though it causes a lot of friction, it accomplishes it's task very quickly.

OR, you can use a stand mixer.

OR, you can use your extremely cold fingers.

Your choice. But here's the basic idea.

Cut the butter into small cubes - about 1/2". You will notice that as you cube the butter, the heat from your hands will soften it. BAD! Take your cubes and put them in the freezer for about 15 minutes.

Measure the flour and put it in the freezer to keep the butter company. You now have 15 minutes to kill. Clean the top of your refrigerator. It needs it.

Now, put your cold flour into the food processor, stand mixer bowl or large mixing bowl if you are going the finger route. Add the sugar and the salt. We are now going to perform the butter/flour marriage. Whether you do it in the processor, mixer, or bowl, the goal is the same: to get the butter cubes to the size of small peas. Pulse in the processor, turn the mixer on low or use your fingertips to work the butter into the dough. Don't go nuts. You want small slivers of butter to be visible in the final dough. This is what makes it flaky.

When you have gotten to the pea stage, add a little bit of ice water and continue to mix. Add a tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together and looks like...well, pie dough. If you are using machines, they will let you know when the dough is ready by making a slapping noise.

Squeeze a little bit of the dough between your fingers. If it sticks together, it's ready.

Remove the dough from the machine and knead it ever so briefly to make sure it's fully mixed. Divide dough in half, form into discs and wrap in plastic wrap. It should feel soft and squishy and wonderful. You will see flakes of butter. Yum!

Your dough is now exhausted and needs to rest. So do you. Put the wrapped dough in the fridge for about 15 minutes. During this time, make some tea. You've earned it! Sit in the big comfy chair, sip your tea, pet the cat and....WAKE UP!

t's time to roll out the crust!

Lightly flour the rolling-out surface. Put your dough disc on the flour. Don't get nervous now. Flour your rolling pin and roll forward and backward lightly one time. Turn the dough about 1 inch to the right (or left, I don't care). Roll forward and backward again. Turn. Roll. Turn. Roll. As the dough gets thinner you want to periodically pick it up with a bench scraper or cake lifter so the dough will not stick. If you feel it getting sticky, pick up the edges of the dough and toss some flour underneath.

Because you have turned your dough ever so slightly with every roll, you should now have a wonderful circle.

There are several ways to get the crust into the pie pan, but this is what I do: Fold the dough in half. If you have a cake lifter, slide it under the dough and place the fold in the center of the pie pan. Unfold and it should be perfect. If you don't have a cake lifter just do it with your hands.

If you are making a one crust pie, go ahead and crimp the edges. A two-crust pie can be filled at this time. Repeat the rolling out, folding method and place on top. Trim the crust with scissors and crimp the edges together.

There are all kinds of pie edges but this is what I do because it's fast and always looks great: First turn the edge of the crust under just a little so you have a smooth edge. Once it has been turned all the way around, begin crimping. Stick your finger under the edge and, with your other hand, pinch over your finger. Refer to the picture at the beginning of this post.

Is this as easy as I've made it sound? Not really. Sometimes you just have to pick up that dough and roll it out again. Sometimes the crimping looks raggedy but guess what? You can do it again. And the more you practice with pie dough, the better you'll get at it and your self-esteem will increase proportionately. You will become famous for your pies! I promise!

Now go get cracking on those Thanksgiving pies! And let me know how you do!

1 comment:

頭髮 said...