Sunday, November 15, 2009

Easy, Flaky Pie Crust

As long as we're talking pie...
It's not that hard to make a good pie crust! People keep fiddling around with recipes, but the smartest thing to do, frankly, is to spend time fiddling around with your technique.

Pie crusts are 'short'. That means they don't like to be over heated or over handled. So cool it!

I learned my Mom's pie when I was a kid, and even (surprise!) won a pie contest with my blueberry pie, at the El Rancho restaurant, if anyone remembers that Flint area moment in time.

As a young wife, I over worked the task. tried variations, and even tripped myself up in the making of pie shells. For a while I'd forgotten the fact that although empty baked pie shells required pricking with a fork to keep them in shape, baked in the crust filled pies, like pumpkin for instance, do not need pricking.
And if fact, if you prick a raw crust and fill it, it will not bake properly. It was a head slapping moment when I realized my mistake after a few failures. Live and learn. Mom was "gone" by then, or I'm sure she would have helped me figure it out faster.

After 20 years or so, I taught my Mom's crust to Herb, and he'd taken it over. I rarely make a pie crust any more, but we have cut WAY back on the pie desserts, due to the cholesterol. It's nice Crisco has decided to make their shortening with non-trans fat, but a few years ago at a Slow Food workshop at Applewood (The Ruth Mott estate in Flint), the chef-owner of a Fenton restaurant, The French Laundry, shared some excellent locally sourced fruit pie, and his recipe, and it was mmmm. lovely.
His crust recipe was, by the way, a lot like mine with the emphasis on technique, only he uses half lard or butter. Can't eat that too often, but the flavor was a memory revived.

Here are the basics of Mom's piecrust:

Sift together:
2 cups flour (I like unbleached King Arthur A.P.)
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. baking powder

Cut in to crumbly crumbs:
3/4 cup cold shortening

Don't cut together too finely - that is overworking the 'short'.
Mix in a scant 1/3 cup ice cold water - don't overmix. With fingers, gather and shape dough into 2 flattened balls, put in a plastic bag and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Roll one chilled ball on a floured pastry cloth with a floured rolling pin, to 1/8". Transfer to pie plate and trim edges.

For baked pie shell: Shape ruffled edge with thumb and fingers. Prick with a fork, and bake at 475 degree for 8-10 minutes. Cool and fill.

For single crust filled pie: Shape ruffled edge, fill and bake as directed in recipe. You can also prebake this crust but I never needed to do that.

For double crust (filled of course) pie: Fill, then roll second ball and fit top crust on top of filling. Dampen edges of bottom crust, trim both crusts to fit, and press together to seal. Shape ruffled edge. Bake as directed. You can sprinkle with granulated sugar before baking, I only do that with rhubarb pie. I never glaze with milk or egg wash either.

There you have it. Practice.

1 comment:

dynochick (Jan) said...

I remember the El Rancho.

French Laundry has some very great goodies.

Love their french onion soup and their chicken salad wrap with raspberry and cream cheese. I made my own version and put it on my food blog.