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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Easy As Pie Crust

Pie Pastry – Pies & Pastries, Pg. 194 – Ada L. Tanner (Mrs. G.P.)

Lately we’ve had our eye on the pie! The Holiday season is upon us – what better time to explore some of the many pie recipes that can be found in the Dutch Oven Cookbook. As we began our adventures in pie making we quickly discovered – behind every great pie is a great crust!

The pastry recipe in the Dutch Oven is a pretty standard one – all the basic essentials you’d expect to find in a pie pastry recipe – just a little light on some of them which is expected considering the time in which this cookbook was published. The recipe will make enough pastry dough for a 9 inch pastry pan; if you’re making anything larger you may want to consider doubling the recipe. We recently used this recipe while making some pumpkin pies and while this pie pastry recipe had a nice enough flavor, we felt it just didn’t hold up to some others we’ve tried – literally – it started to crumble while baking, never mind when trying to cut it.

Instead we have a couple of other recommendations. The first is a simple, light and flaky recipe from a recent pie making class we took, derived from the Matriarch of all things cooking – no – not Martha – but Julia. This recipe yields enough dough for a 9 inch double pie crust.

Classic Pie Dough:

2 ½ Cups Cake and Pastry Flour
1 Tsp Salt
½ Cold Unsalted Butter
¾ Cup Solid Vegetable Shortening
½ Ice Water

Mix flour and salt together. Freeze butter and shortening and grate into flour mixture – lightly coat butter and shortening with flour mixture. Gradually add ice water and mix lightly until ingredients are just combined (may still be a little crumbly). Turn out onto work surface and fold over onto itself, gently, several times. Divide dough if making two crusts. Wrap dough with plastic wrap, form into disk, and chill for 30 minutes to an hour, or overnight. It is key not to overwork your dough, you should be able to see streaks of butter and shortening in your dough – this is what creates a light, flakey texture.

Another great pie crust we recently tried while making apple pies is “Foolproof Pie Dough” (made with vodka) from the masterminds of America’s Test Kitchen. I know right…finally a pie that will really get the parTAY started at your next family dinner!!! Well before you get too excited – the vodka actually evaporates during the baking process. So the added vodka allows for a pie dough that is very workable during the dough stage, and leaves you with an incredibly tender flaky crust that imparts no alcohol flavor.

Foolproof Vodka Pie Crust:

2-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons (1-1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup cold water

Process 1½ cups flour, salt and sugar in food processor until combined, about two 1-second pulses. Add butter and shortening, and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds, and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into a 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days. Makes double crust for 1 9 inch pie.

When you roll the dough out, you’ll need to use more flour than normal as this is a very moist pastry dough; don’t be startled like we were – it is a very wet dough. Allow your dough to sit for 10 minutes at room temperature before rolling.

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