Thursday, August 16, 2012

Pie Crust - by Summer

I know that many people have a fear of making pie crust. I was fortunate to have my mother-in-law teach me how to make her recipe when I was first married. It took some practice. I remember making it by myself for the first time and it turned out so tough that I couldn't roll it out!  I literally threw it away and started over. But as time went by, I figured it out.

Then as a present for my 30th birthday, I was signed up for a class in pie-making (thanks to Lisa!)  It was a lot of fun and I learned a ton in 3 hours!  I also came away with a new pie-crust recipe.  I have a couple of other ones that I pull out from time to time, but the one from the class is my main, go-to one.  One of the biggest reasons is that it makes a lot, and I always have leftovers, which is way better than barely having enough to crimp the edge of the crust.

Since this is something that I don't fear, I thought I would share the recipe and some tips.  Just try it.  Homemade pie crust is so much better than store bought!  And if you ask my dad, he'll tell you that with pies - it's all about the crust!!!

Let's begin!  First you start with flour, a little bit of sugar and salt. Mix them together with a fork.
That's my little guy's job
Next you add the butter and shortening cut up in smaller pieces.
I like to use butter-flavor shortening.
Use your pastry blended (or two knives I guess work too) and mix up the butter and shortening with the flour mixture.

When you have pea-size pieces, then you can add the cold water.  I start slowly and then use the tips of my fingers to mix it together into a dough.

Don't over-mix at this point or the dough will become tough.  The dough should hold together without being sticky or crumbly. There have been times when I have added slightly more water at this point, but be very careful.  This dough won't be overly smooth - which is good. Once it's fairly together, I divide it into two pieces - try to get them as equal as possible, but I never bother getting a scale out or anything - I just eye-ball it.  Then wrap in plastic wrap and put into the fridge for at least 30 minutes.  You can leave in the fridge for a few days.

I like using a Silpat when rolling out pie dough.  First generously flour the surface and your rolling pin.  I learned to turn the silpat after each roll to get a nice circle shape (sometimes it works better than others.) When the dough is rolled out enough, I fold it in fourths and then place it into the pie plate.

 Once you have it in the pie plate, you can trim the edges. I've seen some people cut it with scissors, but usually just tear it off with my hands.
Next you can add your filling.  If you are going to prepare your filling, I recommend sticking the pie plate into the fridge.  For fruit pie fillings it is recommended to add butter on top.  This is to create a fill on top of the fruit filling.
For this particular fruit pie, I like to make a lattice topping. I've seen and heard different ways about doing this, like weaving the lattice and freezing it, but I haven't had the great luck with that.  What I have found is that even if the lattice isn't super even or if it breaks while weaving (which it did for me this time), it doesn't really matter. People are usually impressed that you took the time to do it! And once it bakes, it usually is fine.  If you do not use a lattice crust, you'll need to remember to cut some slits on the tops crust of the pie.

All that's left is seal the edges by dipping your finger in water and place it on the other side of the lattice on the edge and press together.  I am the worst at fluting the edges of a pie.  Sometimes I just use a fork, but I was rushed today and just used my finger.  Then you bake it and you end up with this:
The fruit filling bubbled over a little to the top, but that's ok!  This pie is great served with ice cream or whipping cream, but we just ate it plain and it was super yummy just the same!

I really encourage everyone to try making pie crust from scratch.  There are a ton of different recipes out there to choose, but they are all very similar.

Razzle Dazzle Berry Pie from John Michael Lerma
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher or Hawaiian salt (I just use regular)
1/2 cup cold shortening, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cold water

  1. All ingredients should be cold. Combine all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add shortening and butter. Using a pastry blender, cut in shortening and butter until the mixture resembles course meal.
  2. Drop by drop, add the cold water. Mix in with the finger tips not hands as the palms will warm the dough. Continue mixing water until the dough begins to hold together without being sticky but not crumbly.
  3. Divide dough into two pieces and place each in plastic wrap. Fold over plastic wrap and press down to form a disk. This will make rolling out easier after chilling. Place in fridge for at least an hour.
  4. Lightly spray a 9-inch pie plate with cooking spray. Roll out dough and place in pie plate. Return to fridge until filling is ready. Roll out top crust or use a pastry cutter to cut strips for a lattice crust.
1 cup sugar
Dash of salt
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1 cup blueberries
1 1/2 cup strawberries
1 cup blackberries
1 cup red raspberries
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, about 1/2 a large lemon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Note - You can use a different combination of berries - I omitted the blackberries and added more raspberries this time because that is what I had on hand. 
  1. In a heavy bottom saucepan, combine sugar, salt, cornstarch, and cinnamon. Stir in berries. Add water and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat just to the boiling point. Stir filling gently to shift the mixture to prevent scorching.
  2. Pour into chilled pie shell. Dot with butter and top with crust. You can apply egg wash and sprinkle with vanilla sugar. Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes or until the crust is golden.
There are some good tips about pie making here.

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