Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Intervention [aka: Pie Crust]

We need to have a talk. 

You might want to sit down.

Ok, here goes.  I know about those store-bought pie crusts you've got lurking in your refrigerator. 

Don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about.  The ones in the--ahem--red box with the chubby little dough-boy?  The ones that are so "easy" that you can just fit into a pie plate and fill with whatever your little heart desires? 

I don't understand the drama that surrounds pie crust.  Store-bought,while only about $3, is still more expensive than making it from the pantry staples that you already have.  Homemade pastry crust has about 7 [or less] ingredients, depending on your method, whereas store-bought has about a bagillion ingredients---most of which are unrecognizable. 

Making your own pie crust is actually really easy.  And I'm going to teach you to conquer this pastry dragon. Save the drama for something serious, like boning a duck.

I should tell you that there are many different pie crust recipes.  They all start with flour, a little sugar and salt, and a fat.  The fat may be butter, shortening, or a combination of both.  Some call for ice water and others for milk and/or an egg.  The important thing to remember is that the fat needs to be cold.  Having cold fat results in the fat being evenly distributed, creating a flaky crust. 

I don't always use the same pie crust recipe.  It just depends on what I need the crust for.  For instance, last night I was making homemade pop tarts, so I went with an all butter recipe because I find that using all shortening yields a more delicate crust.  I like the durability and flavor of an all butter crust, more often than not. 

[from King Arthur Flour]
Yes, that is a lot of butter.  Eight ounces or 2 sticks, same difference.  It needs to be cubed and very cold.  You should cut it up into half inch or so cubes and then place them in the freezer to get really chilly.  Remember, cold fat is key to a great crust!

You can do this all by hand, but I recommend using your food processor.  If you don't have a food processor, don't stop reading!  Use a pastry blender, a fork, or even your hands.  I've done that plenty of times and it works just fine.  Whirl together 2 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 Tbsp sugar, and 1 tsp of salt.

Then you'll add in the butter and pluse until it starts to look kind of like clumpy sand.  If it holds together in your hands, you know it's ready. 
Seperately, whisk together 2 Tbsp of cream or milk, and one egg.

Add the egg/milk mixture into the food processor and turn it on low.  It will quickly turn into a ball and that's when it's ready!

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and just need it until it comes together.  Don't over work it; you'll be able to feel the smoothness and know that it's ready.

Split the dough in half, and wrap in plastic.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.  You can even leave them in the refrigerator even for a couple days, or freeze it.  From start to finish, the whole process takes less than 10 minutes.  SCORE!

How hard was that?  Let's review.
2 cups All Purpose flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tsp salt
*Pulse in food processor
8 oz. cubed, very cold butter.
*Add in flour mixture
Whisk together 2 Tbsp cream/milk and 1 egg.
*Add in flour mixture and pulse until it turns into a ball.  Turn it onto a lightly floured surface and knead until it just comes together and is smooth.  Divide in half, refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using.

I hope I have given you hope that it's not too late to make homemade pastry crust for your Thanksgiving pies.  If you've already bought the kind in a box, save it for a rainy day.  It makes a great item for kids to play with, just make sure they don't eat [too much of] it.  You're creative, you'll think of a way to use it up.  And please, if you're making pecan pie, please refrain from using all that corn syrup.  Agave syrup, honey, maple syrup, or any combination of the 3 make a great and natural substitute.  But my thoughts on corn syrup are a subject for another intervention...

Here are a few links that you may find helpful:
Homemade Pumpkin Pie Pop Tarts
Pumpkin Cream Pie [This one doesn't actually use a pastry crust, but you should look into it anyway.  You could even go crustless if you have wheat/gluten allergies!]
How to make a double crusted pie [video!]
Easy NO ROLL pie crust
Pumpkin/CreamCheese/Streusel Pie[This is what I'm making for Thanksgiving!]

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change..."  James 1:17

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