Wednesday, August 17, 2011

How To Make A Perfect Pie Crust

Hello, hope you are staying cool on this hot, hot Wednesday.  In Oklahoma we are in the midst of a terrible heat wave and drought, I am trying to think cool thoughts but it doesn't seem to be working.
Recently I made a couple of pies - a lucious chocolate pie and a buttermilk pie (picture on the left), and I wished that I could make a perfect pie crust.  I started researching and came up with what appears to be pretty good directions for a nice, flaky pie crust.  Thought I would share it with you today, but I'm not planning on heating up my oven again any time soon to try it out!

How To Make The Perfect Pie Crust:

With a home-made pie, the crust can make it or break it.  Yes, the filling is important, but a bad or tough crust can turn a great pie bad in the blink of an eye.  Most of us know the 4 absolutely essential ingredients of pie crust - flour, some kind of fat, a liquid and salt.  The flakiness of the crust often depends upon the type and condition of the fat, and the salt serves to brown the crust nicely and also enhances the flavor a bit.
(Note:  I also use a tablespoon of sugar and a half-tablespoon of vinegar in my crusts).

Whatever fat you use (lard, butter, shortening or butter substitute), it must be chilled before you start.  You do not want the fat to disappear into the flour, so make sure it is nice and cold.  After you mix the dry ingredients together, then add the fat.  I cut mine into small pieces and pinch the fat into the mix with my hands, but you can also use a pastry cutter.  Mix or cut it until the mixture has pea-sized lumps.

The water needs to be chilled or, even better, ice water, and then add it, just a little at a time, into the dry mix. Stir it with a fork until it can form a packed ball.  Remember, the more you handle it, the less tender and flaky your crust will be, because the fat will become blended into the mix and you want to leave as many little fat balls as you can.

If you are making a one-crust pie, roll the mixture into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes, and it can be longer if you need it to be.  This is where I always fall short - I never seem to have enough time to let the dough chill for 30 minutes!  But here's why you should always do it - It goes back to that fat again - chilling the dough keeps the fat from absorbing into the flour when you roll it out, and, of course, makes your crust light and flaky.

Remove the dough from the fridge and flatten it as much as possible with your hands.  Dust it a little with flour before placing it on a clean dry surface (wax paper is good) that is also dusted with flour.  Start rolling at the center and roll outwards. For less mess, you can put a sheet of wax paper on the top of the dough, too.  It helps to have a heavy rolling pin like the kind your grandmother used.  My aunt uses a huge, antique wine bottle as her pin.  I prefer a black, non-stick pin that you cool off in the freezer before using.

Roll the dough to about 1/4 to 1/8 inches thick and at least 4 inches bigger than your pie pan.  Fold your dough in half, then in quarters.  Carefully pick it up and put it in your pan where the center of the dough is in the center of your pan, then unfold it.  Don't be afraid to patch any cracks or holes with extra dough.

Press the crust firmly into the pan.  (I use an old glass Pyrex pie pan, and I love it).  If you don't press, you risk unsightly bubbles in the finished product.  Trim the extra dough, but leave at least a half inch for fluting the edges.

There you have it - directions for the perfect pie crust!

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