Sunday, February 21, 2010

Easy as pie!

I've wanted to make pie crust from scratch for a long time I did! I had some moral support from here: and my mother, who was visiting, so I went to town. (She was the photographer for most of this too, after I got flour all over my camera... And she helped with everything else, too!) As the above blog will tell you, it seems to help to have everything really cold. Particularly if you don't have a food processor and pastry blender because it makes everything take that much longer-- I periodically stuck the whole bowl in the freezer for a few minutes to help the butter firm back up. Nor do I have a rolling pin (!) so I used a cylindrical stainless water bottle, which worked great. Despite all that, it was quite easy! The recipe is for two crusts-- if your pie/quiche only takes one crust you can wrap the second well in plastic wrap and a bag and freeze it. I didn't have enough AP flour for rolling out the crust so I used WW pastry flour, which was fine. I wrote a lot of notes on how to combine the dough, but it's really not terribly complicated, I promise!

All-butter pie crust:
2 sticks unsalted butter, very cold
2.5 c. AP flour, plus more for rolling
1 T. sugar
1 t. salt
1 c. ice water

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Place in freezer while you dice the butter into small cubes. Retrieve the very cold dry ingredients and sprinkle the butter lumps over it. Combine with a pastry blender or food processor or knifes or your hands until the butter lumps are the size of large lentils or small peas (in the picture I'm about halfway to that stage). In a food processor err on the larger side. The lumps will be uneven, but that's okay. If you're combining with a processor or other tool it will go quicker than you expect, or so I'm told. If you're combining by hand you'll need to stop periodically and put the whole bowl into the freezer for a few minutes while you rest your hands.

You don't want to butter to melt. Once you have the proper sized butter bits, pour in about 1/2 c. water and combine with a spatula. Add more water, 1 T. at a time, until the dough is in a few large lumps with minimal dry flour at the bottom. Stop and combine the rest of the way with your hands-- you want a lump that sticks together but you should still see the butter bits distributed through it.
Split dough into two halves (should be about 12 oz each) and refrigerate them in a plastic wrap for 1 hour or longer. (If your refrigerator is odiferous you might want to put them in a baggie too.) Go start dinner.
When you're ready to roll out the dough, generously flour a nice clean counter or silicon mat. Also generously flour your rolling implement and hands. Plop one cold dough lump in the middle of your surface and slowly start to roll it out, taking care to roll from the center out towards all directions evenly.
Re-flour the top of the dough and your rolling implement as needed so it doesn't stick. Stop when your dough is approximately circular with a diameter of 12 inches for a standard pie tin. In the picture I was almost done-- the second-to-outer circle is 12 inches.
Then you have a few options for transferring the crust to the pie tin. If you have a flexible mat you can put the tin upside down on top and flip the whole business over, otherwise you can roll the crust over your rolling pin and then unroll it into the tin or carefully fold the crust into quarters and unfold it into the tin. You may need extra flour to coax the crust off the counter/mat; be patient with it so it doesn't tear. If needed, trim the edges that hang over the tin, and crimp the edges as desired. Set the crust in the freezer while you prepare the pie filling. That's it! You've done it!
Just in case you need a filling idea, here's an easy one. I like the apple peels in my pie, but many people don't...

Apple pie filling (adapted from Betty Crocker):
4-6 apples, (peeled?) cored and sliced (try Braeburn, McIntosh and Cameo apples)
2 dashes cinnamon (or more...)
dash nutmeg
dash cardamom
1/4 c. AP flour
1/3 c. brown sugar

Preheat oven to 425 F.
Combine all ingredients and pile into your pie crust. It should mound up pretty high-- don't forget that the apples cook down and shrink in the oven. Top with crumb topping.

Crumb Topping:
1/3 c. butter
1/2 c. AP or WW pastry flour
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. rolled oats
1/3 c. chopped pecans (or almonds, or walnuts)

Combine first three ingredients with a pastry blender or hands until butter is the size of lentils/oats. Then add oats and nuts.

Sprinkle generously and lovingly over the apples.

Bake for 40-50 minutes. Check after 30 minutes-- if the top is browning cover the pie loosely with aluminum foil so it doesn't burn. When done the pie filling should be bubbling in the middle and the top should be browned. Enjoy!

Two N.B.s: Yes, I lack both a pastry blender AND a rolling pin. Shameful, I know. Also, sorry about the picture quality-- my camera is REALLY on its last leg and has decided that its new trick is to put horizontal lines through every image...maybe it was a television in a past life. That makes three things for my wish list!

1 comment:

  1. For a physicist's perspective on apple pie: