Friday, July 15, 2011

Pie crust

want to be the girl who brings pie to every get-together with friends. Or cookies. Or cake. But walking into a room with a warm pie is just so dreamy. I want to be dreamy. Who doesn't? Pie is dreamy. And kind of essential.

So this is going to be an "essential" post. Pies are pretty versatile. So, it's good to have a flaky pie crust recipe to make a pie at any time of the year. Apple pie, sweet potato pie, berry pie, cherry pie, pecan pie, or pumpkin pie. I made peach pie today. Because I live in Georgia. Yes, I know that Georgia isn't number one when it comes to peach harvesting (California is; if my research is correct). Peaches are still a great summer food and a good way to use a flaky pie crust. Pie crusts are not nearly as intimidating to me as Angel Food Cake.  

It takes a while to find a good pie crust. I think the ones without eggs are best. I tried one recipe with vodka  a while ago and it was pretty good, too. But I settled for the egg- and vodka-less one.

I think no one should ever have to buy a pie crust. It's not that hard. It really isn't. Trust me. I know this. Because I already tried two pieces of this pie. Just to make sure the crust isn't like cardboard. I might have to try a third piece. But I'm pretty sure the crust is flaky and yummy. I've never bought a ready-made pie crust, but I'm pretty sure they are more expensive, too. Just saying...

Oh, an the best part about homemade pie crusts is that you can brag about how your whole pie is homemade. Not just the filling. The whole darn thing. I know. It's pretty cool.
So, here we go. Get excited!
Not that much is needed for a good pie crust.

A large and wide bowl.
Ice water (meaning about 5 to six ice cubes in a measuring cup, covered in water to the 1 cup mark.)
Butter (Everything is better with butter - and pie crust is flakier with lots of butter.)
When you have gathered everything, measure the flour, sugar, and salt. Put everything in a sieve and sift the dry ingredients into the large wide bowl.
Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the flour mix.
Incorporate the butter into the flour mix. There are different ways to do this. If you happen to have a pastry cutter, use it. If you want to utilize your food processor (and clean it up) go ahead and do that. But be careful not to overwork the dough.

Personally I prefer to use my hands. That's right. I like kneading the dough. (Well, I also don't have a pastry cutter or a food processor and saying I like preparing the dough with my hands, makes me feel better.)

Seriously, though, don't be afraid to just knead the dough. It's a lot harder to overwork the dough if you use your hands. Because with pie we want lots of butter pieces and if you use a food processor the butter gets chopped up so much so quickly that it's hard to still find butter pieces when you roll out the dough.
So, yea. Just use your fingers, palms or knuckles to mix up butter and flour mix.
Wrinkly hands - don't look at them. I swear, I'm not as old as my hands look.
Serious rubbing-butter-between-thumb-and-index-finger-action.

Or one could also use knuckles and sort of push the putter through the flour towards the bottom of the bowl. 
When the dough is kind of coming together, but still crumbly, it's time to add the ice water. Here is what it should approximately look like before you add the ice water.
Add about 1/4 of the water to the dough and keep kneading until the dough comes together. Usually a quarter cup is enough. You don't want the dough too sticky, so add the water slowly in order to just get the dough to hold together.

Preferably you still want butter pieces to be visible. The butter pieces are what will make the dough flaky and airy.
Divide the dough into two parts if you intend to have a to and bottom crust. If your pie only calls for a bottom crust, feel free to put one of the parts in a ziplock bag and freeze it. 
If you intend to use a top and bottom crust, wrap both dough balls in plastic wrap and put them in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Better is two hours. Or if you need to speed up that whole process, you can flatten out the dough a little in the plastic wrap and put it in the freezer for 15 minutes and in the refrigerator for another 20 to 30 minutes.
 While the dough chills (see what I did there) in the fridge, you can prepare your filling. I prepared peaches and nectarines. I'll write about how I prepared them in the near future. I promise.

When your pie crust is cold and has been in the fridge for a while, prepare your work area. Dust some flour, get out a rolling pin and light a candle. This is romantic. If you want it to be. Pie is very gentle. And it wants you to be gentle. So, if a candle will make you be gentle, light one. It worked for me. 
Now, get one of the pie doughs, unwrap it and put it in the middle of your work area. Use the flour dusted rolling pin to roll out the dough into a large circle-ish shape. It doesn't have to be perfect. You are going to cut off the edges anyways. 

Try to loosen up the dough with a large knife or spatula when it's all rolled out. Fold it in half and then fold it over again so that you have a quarter. This will make for easier transport. Lift up the dough with the spatula or knife and set into the pie pan. Unfold the dough and push onto the edges of the pan. Cut of the overhanging dough parts. Ta-daaa! Pie crust! Even better, homemade pie crust.
You can try and go fancy on the edges, but that obviously didn't work out too well for me. Maybe you have more patience and luck! I wish you all the best!

At this point you pour in your filing. 

And then for the top crust. You can just roll out the second dough and lay it on top of the filling, cut some slits into the top crust and pop it in the oven. Or, you can make a fancy lattice crust. I can't make fancy lattice crusts. So here is what I did to avoid fancy latice crust work, but still create a nice looking top crust. I rolled out the dough just as I did with the bottom crust and then I used a cookie cutter to cut out shapes to put on top of the pie filling. 
Kind of pretty, right? That little bowl in the picture has egg wash in it. One egg + milk = egg wash. I brushed the pie with egg wash and then sprinkled sugar on top.
This is going to make your pie crust better than all the store bought pie crusts and all the store bought pies, as a matter of fact... And then you put the pie in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 45 minutes. 

Depending on the filling the baking time/temperature can vary, but generally that's a save way to bake with this crust. It's a pretty good tasting crust. 

And as usual, it can be enjoyed with ice cream. The boyfriend and I shared a piece on the balcony by candle light (be jealous) and he suggested ice cream. We didn't have any. So milk had to do it. But, seriously, it doesn't get much better. A glass of cold milk and a piece of warm pie. Delicious. Well, maybe Ice cream could have made it better. But not much better. This pie is pretty good all by itself.
Guten Appetit!

Pie Crust

- 2 1/2 cups of flour

- 1 teaspoon of salt

- 1 tablespoon of sugar

- 8 oz (sticks) of very cold butter

- 1/2 cup of ice water (ice cubes and water)

In a wide bowl sift together flour, sugar and salt. Dice the butter into small pieces and add to the flour mix.

Begin working the butter pieces into the flour mix with a pastry blender or your hands. 

When all the butter pieces are broken up or "smushed" into flatter pieces that are covered with the flour mix, stop mixing!

Start adding some ice water. Do this very slowly as you don't want the dough to get too sticky. Generally though you'll need about 1/2 a cup. 

Form the dough into a ball and divide said ball into two separate dough balls. 

Wrap each of those in plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Role out the cooled dough and transfer into your pie pan by folding the dough in half and then into a quarter of the original rolled out dough. 

Unfold the dough and trim the edges. 

Fix any broken parts by "glueing" trimmings from the edges over the broken parts with water. 

Fill pie with the filling of your choice and cover with the rolled out dough or cookie cutter pieces of the second dough ball. 

Bake in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes until golden brown.

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