Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Making Pie Work for You

When we first moved to Bulgaria, I had a lot of free time. We didn't know anyone, didn't know how to get anywhere, didn't have to go to work yet. So I decided I would learn how to make pie. The first one was pretty good, probably because I lavished about 5 hours on it. The second one stuck to the table like bubble gum to your shoe, and I was turned off pie for a bit.

This year I tried a new recipe, one that involves massaging the butter into the pie with your fingertips. A bit gross at first, but then the crust actually sticks together, and doesn't shellack itself to the table. Totally worth it. So far I've used the crust to make apple pie, raspberry tarts and blueberry lemon hand pies. It worked well for every single recipe.

Simplest Pie Crust


2 1/4 cups flour

1 TBSP sugar

1 tsp salt

3/4 cup chilled butter, cut into chunks

2/3 cup ice water (or less)

1. Whisk flour, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl. If you have time, it doesn’t hurt to throw all this in the fridge for a bit so everything is as cold as possible when you add the butter.

2. Massage in the butter with your hands until relatively evenly distributed. Your hands WILL get messy. Do not attempt to do your hair in the middle.

3. Using a fork, stir in the water in three or four installments until the dough almost comes together into a ball. Use less than 2/3 cup if you can.

4. Divide dough in half – press into two balls. Wrap in plastic wrap or foil and put in the fridge for at least 1/2 hour, up to 1 day.

5. Flour your rolling surface well. Put flour on your rolling pin. Drop one ball onto the table and flatten it a little. Then lift it up, flip it, and put more flour underneath. Roll a couple of times, then lift it up, put flour underneath, and flip it again. Then roll out into a large circle. Insert a thin spatula around the edges to loosen, then loosely roll the crust sheet onto your rolling pin. Put the crust in your pie pan as the base.

6. Now, depending on your recipe, you can either do this twice in two different pans and pre-bake the crusts (for pies like pumpkin) or put in your filling and then repeat and put the second dough circle on top, cutting slits for steam to release. Either way, be sure to SCRAPE away any stuck dough before re-flouring your surface to roll out round two.

Fluting the edge of a double crust pie: Cut off most of the overlap, leaving about a 1/2 inch around your pie. Fold this under so it is sitting lumpily on the edge of the pan. Then push your left index finger from the inside rim between your right thumb and index finger from the outside rim, creating a ) indentation. Repeat around the edge of the pie.

Egg wash for a golden crust: beat together one egg yolk and 2 TBSP of milk. Brush on top of a single crust rim or a double crust top for a golden color.

For an apple pie: sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on top of the egg wash

With leftover crust dough: roll out again and cut out small shapes with cookie cutters or a knife. Brush with egg wash and put around the edges or middle of the pie as decorations.

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