Sunday, October 30, 2011

Perfect-ish Pie Crust

The "ish" part is up to you!

I honestly don't know that I have ever eaten a pie and said "this crust just ruined it for me!"  Though crust is very important, it is not the horrible thing to be feared that old women make it out to be.  I've heard grandmothers tell me they just buy the pillsbury pie crusts because they are so much easier......really?  How hard is it...honestly?  I don't want to pick on pillsbury here...they make some awesome over priced flaky biscuits, but I'm cheap.  I can make about 10 crusts for what it costs to take the easy way out (I haven't actually done a cost analysis but that's a safely exaggerated guess I'm sure.)  I have to admit I have made a lot of pie crusts so I have lots of experience, and I have spent countless hours reading blogs and books on baking trying to perfect the process, so I am not a complete amateur, but really it ain't that hard.

The best way to go about it is as follows, and the only special utensil I use is a pastry blender (not a power tool, looks like a sideways whisk)

I played around with lard one time because I had some crazy idea that since that's what they originally used to make pie crusts, that's what I should use.....Bad idea! There is a reason somebody invented Crisco.  Lard makes your pie crust taste like a pig!  Maybe it was all just in my head, but I definitely tasted pig in my pie when I tried it, and it was such an amazing pie that I ruined too!  So stick with butter.  You can play around with Crisco, but I just like the way the word butter makes me feel about can't say it without cracking a little half-smile, just like Bacon....see I just smiled a little when I typed that!

3 cups of flour
1/2 lb cold butter
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar (optional/debatable)
5-8 Tbsp iced water

Combine your dry ingredients so that you don't have a super salty bite along the way somewhere.

Here's where the flaky part comes in, you have to use cold butter.  When I first started making crusts I always screwed up because I used room temperature butter so it would combine easier.  But that's not what you are going for here.  Clumpy is good.  

Take your butter and slice 1/4 inch long pieces off and throw it into the flour.  I like to stir it around so each slab of butter gets coated with flour so it doesn't just stick to the other pieces as you throw them in.  

Using your pastry blender cut the butter into the flour.  As you do this you will add a little bit of iced water, about a tablespoon at a time, to achieve the proper consistency.  To use the pastry blender just push down through the bowl, then twist it half a turn and pull out...repeat until you have something that looks like pie crust.  Make sure and don't add too much water or it will be sticky.  However if you do, you can always add more flour. 

This is what it should look like once you're done
mixing everything together.Use your
hands to work it into balls.

Remember recipes are guidelines not laws!!!!!!!!!

Divide the dough into 2 balls and put in the freezer till you're ready to use them.  If you are making a pie right away you can skip the freezer, but having the dough cold while working with it seems to help with the flakiness.  If you are going to freeze them for a while wrap with plastic wrap first.