Pie Hard: With a Vengeance

                   Mmmm… Pie Pants…

                                     ~Homer J . Simpson


Nothing is homier than a freshly baked pie.

Many believe that the Ancient Greeks originated pie pastry…

This has me wondering… They are also believed to be the discoverers of the mathematical constant π, or Pi, which coincidentally is 3.14. Why is that coincidence? Well, what do you get when you flip 3.14 around? You get 41.3, or… PIE! As you may know, π is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. What shape is a pie almost always in? Uh huh… I’m pretty sure the Greeks discovered the irrational number of Pi while digging in to some pie!

Ah, the inspiration food brings. So strong, even back then.

Anyway, a good pie crust is hard to find. For some, it’s hard to make. Everyone always wants that nice and flaky crust, but there are a few factors that just never add up.

The pie crust has got to be my favorite part of the pie. It doesn’t have any flavor compared to whatever filling it’s holding, but the crisp, flaky texture, coupled with the filling; it’s almost a perfect combination when done right:


Basic Buttery Pie Crust:
            (From here)

             ¼ cups ~ All-Purpose Flour
    ¼ teaspoon ~ Salt
               ½ cup ~ Butter, chilled and diced
2 tablespoons ~ Butter, chilled
               ¼ cup ~ Ice Water


This is a basic crust that is going to get the job done. Some recipes have you using shortening primarily with butter in the recipe mostly for flavor. While I have never used shortening for my pie crusts, I know and understand why it is used and sometimes preferred over butter. I just don’t use it because I don’t always have it on hand.

If you’re wondering, the shortening is preferred because it can withstand higher temps than butter. So when you have a pie crust with chunks of shortening instead of butter, you’re definitely going to end up with some flaky crust. That sure sounds tempting, but this recipe hasn’t let me down yet, so consider me stuck in my ways.

This recipe is going to give you enough for a 9 inch pie. If you want a pie with a top crust, double this, then cut it in half just before rolling.

And keep in mind, when I say chilled butter, I mean freaking cold. Stick it in the freezer for a few minutes before using it. Many swear by the butters temperature being the key to the pie crust. I can’t say I disagree.

Also, the water should be iced because even with extremely cold butter, every time you handle the dough you’re melting it. If you put anything else but cold water in there, you’re setting yourself up for a sad day.

You can easily do this in the food processor like many prefer to do. But you’ll miss out on the fun of using your hands.

  • In a bowl, combine the Flour and Salt. Spread out the diced Butter and work it in to the Flour until you get something that looks like bread crumbsIf you squeeze some in your hand, it should hold together and not fall apart.

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  • At this point, I like to add about 1 or 2 tablespoons extra of cold Butter, but don’t smush it completely in. Keep it in little bits and chunks so that when it bakes, the crust has this little flaky pockets of buttery goodness. If I did use shortening, this is where I would use it.

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  • Add 3 tablespoons of the Ice Water and mix. If it feels dry, you can add a tablespoon more at a time. You’re looking for this…

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  • …A moist, sticky texture. When you get here, start kneading the dough until you form a ball. Why a ball? I don’t know. Don’t like rolling dough into a ball, roll it into a log. Or a disc. Shape it in to a Unicorn, I really don’t care. Once the loggy Unicorn disc ball is formed, wrap it up and refrigerate it for at least 4 hours or overnight.

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You want to chill it for at least 4 hours because all of that kneading and Unicorn forming created gluten. So if you were to go from here straight into rolling and in the oven, you’ll not only have a hard time rolling it out, you’ll also get shrinkage when baking. And no one likes shrinkage. Ever. Another reason is because of the butter. Even though you used ice water to help keep the butter in tact, it’s still being worked by your hot hands. So if you were to throw it in the oven now, the butter would already be close to melting and won’t give you any flakiness by the time it’s done. And it’s all about the flakiness. So just give it some time to chill and relax in the fridge. Go for a walk or something. When you come back, the gluten will be calm and the butter will be cold again. This all makes for one happy Unicorn.

The dough can keep in the fridge for about 4 days, or if you want to keep it in your freezer just in case you need an emergency pie (we’ve all been there), you can store it in a freezer bag for up to 3 months.

  • After it has chilled, add a little flour to a working area and roll it out using a rolling pin.

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I don’t have nice marble or granite countertops, nor do I have a sweet butchers block. But I do have a silicone mat. And even though it’s not shiny enough to see myself in, it works pretty good for rolling dough.

If you don’t own a rolling pin like I did for most of my life, a round coffee mug will be fine. Just don’t use glass or plastic, the glass could break under the pressure of rolling and the plastic may not be as strong. Ceramic is the way to go when rolling dough. …Unless of course, you have a rolling pin.

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  • Once it’s about ¼ of an inch thick it should be ready to go in your vessel. Press it evenly around the bottom and sides, cutting off as much excess as you need to. You’re the one who knows what you’re doing with it, so cut what you have to.

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  • Fill it with your filling and bake according to the directions of the pie. If the edges start getting dark before the pie is ready, just wrap the edges with aluminum foil.

For Blind Baking, meaning baking the pie crust without a filling, which is something you do for custard or non-baked pies, place parchment paper completely over the dough, and fill it with beans. You’re covering it with the parchment paper so that it doesn’t get crisp and eventually burn before it’s baked through. And you’re filling it with beans to weigh it down, not only so it won’t rise up and bubble, but because you want it to cook evenly. Place in an oven at 425° for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove the parchment and beans and bake for an additional 12-14 minutes. Keep an eye on it though, not all ovens are created equal.

That’s it. You now have the freedom to make any pie you want! So go nuts and don’t forget to drop a slice for the homies.

 

3 Comments:

  1. Pingback: A Pie of Ice and Fire | The Man, The Chef, The Dad

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  3. Pingback: A Pie of Ice and Fire – The Man, The Chef, The Dad

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