Friday, September 17, 2010
Sometimes you get lucky. Like I did the day Veronica and several other wonderful women decided to induct me into their foodie friend group on MySpace, long before any of us had blogs. Or in my case, before I knew what a blog was. I didn’t realize it then, but quickly learned I was part of a friend group for life. One with strong bonds and big loyalties. A sisterhood.
Our bond is and always has been food. We encourage, celebrate and admire qualities in each other we often wish we had in ourselves. For me, I’ve always admired Veronica’s ability to make pie dough. She’s been my inspiration for years on the subject, and I thought, who better to come and share her secrets and knowledge?
Veronica writes the blog Recipe Rhapsody, a perfect name for a lady who loves to sing, entertain, cook and bake. I am fortunate to call her friend. Even if she does make fun of my store bought pie dough!
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Don’t give up too easily; persistence pays off in the end.
This proverb can be applied to many areas of life, and making piecrust is no exception. Perhaps you have already mastered the art of making pie crust, but many fear pie dough the same way I used to fear yeast breads. This fear is one that can be easily put to rest with some knowledge, understanding, and practice.
I’ve only been making pies a few years, but I make them pretty frequently and while I’m not an expert or professional by any means, I have become fairly comfortable working with pie dough and creating attractive pies.
What I’ve learned along the way:
~Temperature is important when making & working with pie dough. The key to a flaky crust is keeping every element of the dough as cold as possible. Cold fats are essential because they stay in small balls, separate from the flour, which creates pockets of fat that melt and create flakiness as the crust cooks. That is also why ice cold water is used—to keep the fat cold and separate from the flour.
~To prevent sticking and tearing while rolling the dough out, start with a heavily floured surface and flour the dough itself, reapplying as necessary.
~Beaten egg white can be used to create a barrier between the crust and filling, making it less prone to sogginess. Brush some on the crust before filling and baking, or brush it on a prebaked crust a few minutes after removing it from the oven. The residual heat will cook it and help seal it off from excess moisture from your cream filling.
~To create a golden shine, brush the top crust with beaten egg before baking.
~Steam vents are essential in two-crust pies. A small hole in the middle of your pie will do, or you can cut a design or slits, whatever you fancy. Provide a place for the steam to escape or it will create it’s own and it’s not going to be pretty.
~Extra pie dough can be used to fix tears or cracks, and to make fun things like homemade pop tarts or pie dough “cinnamon rolls.” My recipe uses mostly butter and I’ve made some pretty good shortbread with the leftover by adding powdered sugar to it!
As far as pie crust recipes are concerned, I’ve used all-shortening recipes, all-butter recipes, recipes with vinegar and without, recipes with sugar and without, and have come to favor a rich all-purpose pastry recipe that I now use most often. The fat to flour ratio in this recipe is very high, which makes a tender crust. The butter enhances the flavor while the shortening gives it the flakiness that we desire in a perfect pie crust.
So try this recipe and if you don’t succeed, try, try again. Over and over again. Once you get the hang of pie crust, you will be glad you didn’t give up! Homemade pie is very much worth the effort of a homemade crust. Despite Laura and Dishboy Scott’s reassurances to the contrary (sorry, guys!), in my humble opinion there is quite a difference between a pie made with store-bought crust and the real deal.
Just do it. Persistence pays off in the end. Amen.
Perfect Pie Crust Printable Recipe
Makes enough for two pies or one double-crust pie
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter, cold and cut into 16 pieces
1/4 cup shortening, chilled in freezer
6-10 tablespoons ice-cold water (I use a scant 1/3 cup every time)
1 beaten egg, for brushing (optional)
Mix flour and salt. Cut the butter and shortening in with a pastry blender or food processor until pieces are the size of small peas. Add ice water and mix until it starts to form a ball. Divide dough in half, gather in your hands and gently shape each into a ball, flatten them into discs, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. If they get too hard, leave them on the counter until pliable enough to roll out.
When ready to make your pie, roll out one disk and fit into a pie plate, trimming off the excess. Fill, cover with the top crust, pinch and flute the edges. If desired, brush beaten egg over the top crust for a golden shine, then cut a few vents holes and bake according to your pie recipe directions. If you are making a one-crust pie, you can either halve the recipe or freeze the second disc, wrapped well with plastic wrap and placed in a Ziploc bag, for later use.
To prebake your crust for a cream pie, line the plate with your crust and flute the edges, then refrigerate until firm. Line crust with a square of parchment paper large enough to cover the entire inside. Fill with dried beans and bake at 350 for twenty minutes.
Remove the crust from the oven; pull the corners of parchment toward the middle and lift out. Poke the crust all over with a fork and return to the oven for ten minutes. As soon as you take it out of the oven, brush a beaten egg white over the bottom and sides to seal. The residual heat will cook the egg white and turn it opaque.
Allow the crust to cool before filling.
Pictures and video by Veronica from Recipe Rhapsody. Recipe from "The Dessert Lover's Cookbook" by Marlene Sorosky.