Friday, August 26, 2016

P...p...p..pie crust

I am known in some circles because of my pie.  I am in fact, kinda well known for my pecan pie in particular.

I won my first cooking award because of pie.  I don't even remember what kind of pie it was, but it won.  It was decades ago.  I get complimented whether it's strawberry, apple, quiche or meat pie.  (Don't get me started about meat pie.  I learned it from my memere and have spent the last 30 years improving on it.)

My mom was not a great cook, unfortunately, in the 70's women were told canned vegetables and powdered mixes was the best way to do things.  She seldom made real homemade things but when she did they were often excellent.  One thing that was really amazing was her pie crust.  I am forever grateful that I got her recipe.  I'm not sure how I held on to it, but I did.  I didn't really use it until I lived in an apartment in Brighton with Pat and Lequita.  That was when I discovered how special it was.  I began, occasionally, to be asked to make communion bread, which at that time meant using pie crust dough.  That was the beginning of my tampering.

Over the past twenty years I have nudged the recipe this way and that, but never very far off of mom's recipe, biggest change?  Using a food processor.  Until five years ago.  Shall we blame it on the brain tumor?  (I'm laughing as I type this.)  I took a french baking lesson that caught me by surprise with a couple of pie crust recipes, I liked them both.  Hubby, on the other hand, not so much.  Okay, I will keep searching.  Why I felt the need to search when I had mom's recipe I can't really explain and yet I did.  I tried a few other things.  Then, by the grace of God, I found a recipe by one of my favorite blog writers.  Smitten Kitchen is a great place to go and I highly recommend you go check out her pie crust recipe and technique.  I'm not sure I will ever look again.  I believe I have found the holy grail and enjoyed the wine that has been waiting for me.  In the past year I have been making and using this recipe for all kinds of things and haven't got a single thing to complain about.  One thing I love to do I learned from mom, make plenty of dough and divide and freeze it.  A pie is much easier to make if you already have the dough!

Smitten Kitchen's Pie Crust:

2.5 cups flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, very cold and cut into small pieces.

Note:  I cut butter sticks into fourths the long way and then cut little nubs the other way.  The question really is how long do I want to mix the dough.  I prefer to do my work on the cutting board instead.

Measure one cup of water, add some ice and put it in the fridge for right now.
In a large bowl combine flour, sugar and salt.  I toss them with my hand and then add the butter, tossing it to get each piece coated with the flour mixture.  Use a pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour until you have a bowl that looks full of little white peas.  (Back when I used a food processor I always got too far along, I promise this makes this pie crust one to love when done by hand.)  Get the water out of the fridge and pour 1/4 cup of ice water into the bowl and using a wooden spoon stir, looking for it to all come together.  Add water by the Tablespoon until you've just about got it combined to one big ball of dough.  Put down the spoon, use your hands to do the final pressing together.  I typically use about half a cup of water in total, but it's dependent on silly things like temperature and humidity.  Divide the ball in half, wrap each separately and allow them to chill for at least an hour.

You now have enough dough for a two crust pie or two one crust pies, such as Quiche Lorraine.