This morning I was trying to add up in my head exactly how many pie crusts I made getting ready for the pie competition. I surmised that I made somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 crusts in the month of July. Ugh. What I really want to know is where the hell did the expression “easy as pie” come from. The concept is simple of course but the execution is not easy. You do not need fancy ingredients or tools but man you have to know what you are doing. I still have some work to do in the rolling out the dough front. Luckily Mudpie’s many, many years of working with clay really paid off for our competition. We had to roll out 4 pie crusts to fit into a 14×20.5 in sheet pan. Folks, that was tricky.
I thought I would share with everyone the lessons in pie crust making that I learned this past month. Disclaimer: I am probably the only cook who didn’t know these things. Also, I am mostly putting these out there for a reference for myself in the future. Ya know, in 6 months when I decide to make pie again and forget everything that I learned.
- COLD – everything must be cold. Seriously, this is crazy but it is a must. Put your bowl in the refrigerator before mixing. After combining the flour, salt and sugar put your bowl back in the refrigerator. Butter must stay in the freezer before using. After combining the butter in the flour put back in the refrigerator. The liquid must be ice cold. I used half water and half vodka straight from the freezer. Cold, cold, cold. COLD!
- Different flour brands yield different results. Say what? Yep. The unbleached all-purpose flour from King Arthur was way dryer than the Pillsbury bleached all-purpose flour. The same recipe yielded one resulting in a pretty wet pie crust while the other was begging for more liquid. I like the idea of the unbleached but I still need to figure out how much liquid to add.
- A pastry blender works so much better than the food processor. I wish this wasn’t true but I had so much more control with the pastry blender and hey, exercise! The food processor blends the mixture too fine and heats up. See the first bullet, hint: COLD!
- Dough cloths are magical. They are basically just a piece of canvas. A fine sprinkling of flour is all it needed and the dough did not stick. The cloth also comes with a rolling pin sock. Silly but it works.
- After rolling the crust out and putting into your pan put it back into the refrigerator. This will help prevent the crust from shrinking when baking. Apparently the dough has a memory. By letting it rest in the refrigerator it will forget it was in the shape of a ball and surrender to its new shape. So dramatic that dough.
- Prick the ever-loving heck out of that crust when prebaking. It will puff up on you in a skinny minute. Promise.
- Weighing down the crust in prebaking is essential. Don’t think that a scattering of pie weights will do the trick. I found that I needed to fill the entire crust with weight. I liked using rice because it seemed heavier to me and you could still use the rice afterwards. However, it was a huge mess. We were picking out pieces of rice from the crust that seeped through the cracks of the aluminum foil. It seems as though dried beans are the best choice.
- When you are done pre-baking letting the crust cool a little and then egg wash it. Put back in oven to dry for a few minutes. This will help prevent a soggy crust.
- Butter tastes better than Crisco but Crisco makes for a flakier crust. I chose taste over flake.
The recipe that I use (makes 2 crusts or one double crust):
2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) of butter
1/2 tbs sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup ice cold water
1/4 cup ice cold vodka
Dice the butter put in freezer. Combine the dry ingredients with a whisk in a cold metal bowl. Put in refrigerator for a few minutes. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender until it looks like peas. Combine the water and vodka. Sprinkle over mixture one tablespoon at a time folding mixture over each time until combined. Split dough into two equal parts and shape into discs. I then wrap each dough disc in wax paper and the saran wrap. I store the crusts in the freezer until needed. See, it sounds easy doesn’t it. Well the making the dough is pretty easy truth be told.
What tips do you have for making your pie crust?