Thursday, December 2, 2010

Perfect Pie Crust

Pie crust can be tricky. This is a simple recipe that I think turns out pretty well. Some people swear by butter for pie crust, others swear by shortening. Butter gives you good flavor and shortening gives good texture. I've heard some people use half of each. I tried that once and had a hard time getting a consistent texture. So, my compromise is to use butter-flavored crisco. This is just as much about technique as it is about ingredients. You get a flaky pie crust when the bits of butter or shortening melt in the oven and leave a little pocket behind. Butter has a lower melting temperature, that's why it does not always work as well. It tends to be melted before it ever reaches the oven. Now that I have totally scared you, here is the pie crust recipe. I promise, it's not really that difficult. Once you get the hang of it, you will never buy pie crust again.

Pie Crust
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup butter flavored Crisco
ice water (it must be icy cold)

Stir the salt into the flour. Add the shortening and use your hands to break it into small bits between the size of a pea and a marble. Once the shortening is all broken up, add ice water a couple tablespoons at a time. To avoid over mixing, I use my hands for this as well. Gently work your hands to the bottom of the bowl and then gently turn them over until the water is incorporated. Add more water until you get a dough that sticks together. It will not be a smooth dough. It should be somewhat shaggy or you added too much water. This recipe makes enough for a double-crusted pie or 2 single-crust pies. Carefully divide in 2 and wrap each ball of dough in plastic wrap. You should be able to marbleing of the shortning throughout the dough.

Try to make it as round as possible without manipulating the dough too much. This will make it easier to roll out. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight. When you are ready to use it roll it out onto a dough mat or a floured surface. Work carefully because you only get to roll it out once. Once you have a large enough circle, carefully roll onto your rolling pin then roll into your pan or flip off your dough mat onto your pan. Finish off the edges, fill with your favorite pie filling, and bake.
For the lattice crust: After rolling out your second ball of dough use a pizza cutter to cut it into strips. Starting with 2 of the longest strips criss-cross them across the middle of the pie.
Then pick 2 more strips and layer them next to the very first strip you put down. Fold up one end of those 2 strips to put 1 more strip down going the opposite way then fold up the other side in order to put 1 more strip going the opposite way.
Continue folding up alternating strips in order to put strips underneath until you reach the edge.

Then crimp the edges and bake.
*To crimp the edges first cut off any excess that hangs more than 1/2 ince over the edge of the pan. Then Fold the dough up all around the edge to seal. Lastly, using 2 knuckles on one hand and a finger from the other crimp the edges by pushing the dough between your knuckles with your finger. (see picture)

At this point I usually brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar. Then I bake it.

It is also smart to cover the edges of the pie with foil to avoid over browning. The easiest way to do this is to fold a square of foil in fourths. Then cut a semi-circle out of the folded corner.  
Unfold (there should be a circle opening) and place on the pie.

Remove foil the last 5-10 minutes of baking.

(If you look carefully you can see the flakes in the crust. Mmm!)
*Making a lattice crust really is not difficult, but it looks very impressive. It definitely is easier to explain in person than with words and pictures. If you want a one-on-one lesson just call or email me and I will gladly walk you through it.

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