Friday, September 17, 2010

Perfect Pie Crust

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 CrustPrintable 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.


The Southern Cookbook said...

Oh Laura! This post is just awesome! I love it. Veronica is sooo sweet and knows so much about baking. Her video is just perfect. I knew that putting egg wash over pie crust for the perfect color but, I had no idea that you can also brush it on the bottom before adding the filling to prevent soggy dough. Great post, you learn something new everyday ;)

isabel said...

This video is so helpful...I want to see more of this kind of videos...

Veronica said...

Tee-hee! I saw Cheryl's comment about the egg white and I wondered if you knew, Laura, that I learned that from you? You told me to do that with a pumpkin pie when I asked for advice on keeping the crust from getting soggy. So you're more an expert than you though--he he! The trick about putting it on a prebaked crust while it's still hot I learned from Rose Levy Beranbaum. Anyway, I feel so honored that you asked me to do a guest post for you-- thank you and thank you for editing the pics--you made them really pop!

Veronica said...

I got sidetracked by Cheryl's comment and forgot to tell you that I really enjoyed your lovely introduction. You inspire me as well because you are so creative with your cooking and baking--you are always astounding me with your new spins and concepts. But, maybe ironically, you inspire me most with your pies. They are glorious works of fantasy! I know, because I've made at least three of your recipes and they always astound me.

The Cooking Photographer said...

I'm so glad you did this. Thank-you for everything V! I was so excited when I saw all the pictures you sent and the video too. You are amazing.

I owe you one.


Monet said...

Great post Laura. This is something I'm going to bookmark and use for future reference. I need to do one of these posts on my blog, but I'm too lazy :-). Thanks for sharing it...we all appreciate it! And your crusts look stunning!

Cyndy said...

Beautiful pies. Veronica IS a sweet lady. What better way to bond with people than thru good food and blogging. Thanks for explaining the need for cold dough.
You couldn't find a nicer friend Laura. Thank you both~

Jodi said...

Thanks for this great post - and I know what I will be baking today!

Kelly said...

Excellent tips! Thank you. You roll a beautiful crust.

Michelle said...

what a GORGEOUS pie dough, i can never seem to get mine to look right!!

Joanne said...

I never realized how big a part of my life blogging would become when I started one...or how close I would become with some of the people I've met along the way. It's a crazy world!

I am seriously one of those people who is so scared of making my own pie crust! You do it beautifully...I think I need to suck it up and give it a go!

Xiaolu @ 6 Bittersweets said...

I definitely am still learning to work with pie pastry and often find anything temperature-sensitive tricky. Thanks for this, Laura and Veronica!

Tiffiny Felix said...

All I can say is "Yay for pie!" What a great post! Thanks to Laura and Veronica, both :)

Anonymous said...

i agree, there is nothing like a homemade pie crust!!! thanks for the great tips.

Scott aka "Dishboy" said...

You make it sound so easy. I am still reeling from my first homemade pie crust attempt (actually twice in the last week...once to see if I could do it and then once again for my "county fair pie"). You are one of the people responsible that shamed me into trying after my last blog post. I'm not sure yet if I should thank you or be mad at you (grin). I can't quite say that it was a fun experience! Thanks for the gentle nudge though...that's always good.

Oh, and to clarify: Yes, I know that a good homemade crust is superior to question. However, I'm still not sure it is better *enough* to motivate me to go through all that again any time soon!


Faith said...

Wow, you are skilled Veronica! Great guest post, I really need to give your recipe a try!

JodieMo said...

I will absolutely be giving this pie crust a try! I have yet to find one that works well for me, but maybe this will be it! Great Post!

Veronica said...

Scott, you make me laugh! I can see why you and Laura are friends. Like I said, it can take some practice but once you get the hang of pie dough, it becomes *almost* as easy as going to the store to buy it. I think it's worth the effort to master, but I promise I won't gripe if I see "1 Pillsbury Pie crust" in any future recipes from you or Laura. I know you guys make incredible fillings and those are really the star anyway!

Patricia @ ButterYum said...

So,what kind of pies did you make?

Very nice post. I love to make my pie dough in the food processor, but I hate to mess so I don't make it very often.


Cristie said...

What a fabulous post! I'm going to have to link up to yours when I do a pie post. Great information.

BumbleVee said...

when you talk about sticks of butter... how much is that in cups? Are they 1/4 of a cup each or something?

The Cooking Photographer said...

Hi There,

Yes, each stick is 1/4 cup of butter. Hope this helps.


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