Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Pie Crust Rehab

Okay, the planets have aligned. Time for my long overdue post about getting over your fear of pie crust. Yes, you too can make your own pie crust. You don't have to order pie from Zingerman's Bakehouse (the pecan pie cost $50) or Grand Traverse Pie Company (cherry pie is $25), and last time I checked, Jefferson Market didn't make pies, just cakes. Goodness gracious! You can do this yourself. I am here to talk you through it.

A couple blog posts ago, I talked about making pasties as a way to get through your pie crust phobia. It's still a good thing to try. But Thanksgiving is next week, so maybe you don't want to take a day out of your life to make pasties. I get that....so, let's apply the pasty "lessons learned" right to a pie crust.

First, let us start with the recipe. It is the same recipe I used in 1978 in Hartsig Junior High Home Economics class, taught by Mrs. Ensley in Warren, Michigan. It is from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook and I don't think it has changed since then. It's what I call "Old Reliable" Pie Crust.

Old Reliable Pie Crust
Double crust

2 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
2/3 c. Crisco, cut up into pats. Buy it in stick form and keep it in the fridge
Cold water - maybe about 1/2 cup

Mix the flour and salt and then add Crisco, and mix it up with a fork, smashing the blobs of Crisco into the flour until the blobs are pea sized. Add some of the water and mix it in with the fork, and keep adding water until you can get the flour to hold together well. Don't be afraid to add too much water, despite what my 8th grade home ec teacher said. It's just as bad not to add enough. Form two balls that don't have a ton of cracks in them. If they have fissures in them, you need more water.

To roll it out, put a liberal amount of flour on the counter top. and flour your rolling pin. Smash the ball into a hockey puck shape, working it with your hands to avoid creating any cracks in it. If you can't get it into a puck, this is a sign that you haven't yet added enough water. Work some more in.

Gently roll it out. After every couple rolls with the pin, flip the crust over, adding a little flour if it is needed. If you have trouble flipping it over because it sticks, you're adding too much water during the mixing of the dough. On the other hand, if it is cracking up a great deal, you still haven't added enough water. A couple cracks are okay - just put some water on the fissure and gently put it back together and re-roll. However, more than a couple cracks, or if it is sticking a ton, no matter how much flour you've sprinkled, just scrap it and start over. Rerolling pie crusts makes them tough. If you were making pasties, I'd let it slide but pie is different. Shortening and flour are cheap. You can afford to make mistakes. Do you know how many pie crusts you could have made for the $50 you spent at Zingerman's for one pecan pie? Probably 100!

The perfect crust will just be on the verge of cracking, but won't actually crack if you handle it gently. That is the key to good pie crust....to just be on the verge of cracking. I roll out my crust right on my stone countertop, with lots of flour on the counter and sprinkled on top the puck to start. As soon as you've rolled out the crust, fold it in half and bring your pie pan next to the folded side; pick it up quick and put it in the pie plate and unfold. Voila!

Fill it, and similarly roll out the top and put it on; if your pie has a top. Hope this helps...if it doesn't, I'll be around on email this weekend. Give it a shot!


Anonymous said...

Just a note that Jefferson Market does make pies and is taking orders for Thanksgiving, they are $12 I think depending on the filling.
Also you might consider substituting up to half of the crisco with butter for better flavor.

Cynthia said...

Thank for the comment...I've tried butter based crusts before, and they are, at best, inconsistent. There's water in butter, and I think that's why they don't come out as well. But if you've had good luck with them, that's great!