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Monday, June 29, 2009

A Pie Crust Promise

Or, in the words of Mary Poppins: "No Pie Crust Promises. Easily Made, Easily Broken."
Pies have always been one of those things in a category all of their own. Brownies and cookies are practically a no brainer and a couple of tried and true cake recipes will cover just about any special occasion, but pie?

Now you're talking intimidation!

Actually, its not the whole pie....its the crust to be very precise. A cookie crust or one made of graham crackers isn't bad but a really good homemade crust just seems to be on some pinnacle of possibility only achieved by Martha Stewart or someone else of her ilk. Crusts, to be truly good, have to be handled delicately. There aren't many ingredients either, making each one more important in the load it has to share in making the ultimate flaky melt in your mouth perfection worthy of the filling it holds.

We are at the zenith of blackberry season and there just aren't that many ideas for blackberries...these sweet/sour bits of purple perfection need to be a pie...

Inspired by the fun of making a cobbler, I felt emboldened to think that perhaps just possibly, I might give pie making a try.

Not that I haven't tried before but after a kitchen coated in flour and a resulting crust that wasn't even as good as the kind you can buy in the little foil pans at the grocery store, I have spent the last ten (yes count em TEN) years buying crusts, or sticking to recipes calling for graham cracker crusts only.

I had some wild hope that somehow my ten year leave of absence had changed something in the relationship between pie crusts and me. Maybe through osmosis or something equally unknown, I had mysteriously developed the pie making knack. Armed with that optimistic hope I began to look at recipes.

There are more recipes for how to make a really good pie crust than one can imagine. With egg and without. Secret ingredients like vinegar and even vodka!

I couldn't help but think about the women who settled the west baking a pie in their cabin over a wood fire. Surely she would now waste a precious egg on making a pie crust and as for vodka....

did she have any vodka?

I don't know the answer to that. It just never got covered back in Jr High in American history class I guess.

Still, in keeping with the spirit of pie crust being a common and ancient culinary item, I decided to forgo the exotic ingredients and just go the blackberries themselves.

A pie crust must have 4 things. Flour being the main one. Also some kind of fat the work with the flour. Salt to boost the flavor and some liquid to bind the other ingredients together.

I had flour -check.

Next I needed fat. I have heard good things about lard but I don't keep that in my kitchen so I decided to go with butter. Most early settlers had a family cow and therefore butter, so butter is basic, right? Have you ever known anyone to go wrong with butter?

I haven't!

So here we go

Cold is our friend so use iced water I stuck mine in the freezer for a few minutes...

combine all of the above ingredients (there is supposed to be butter there but I had already chopped it in itty bitty pieces and popped it in the fridge to chill so it didn't get its picture taken....yet

ah... here is our reclusive butter all diced up in bits for easy mixing...

mix the 2 1/2 cups of flour, 1 tsp of salt, and 1 cup (2 sticks) of butter with a pastry cutter (or you can use a fork) until you see lumps the size of peas beginning to form.

You want the majority of your dough to look like "peas" but don't worry about integrating the butter too much as you will want little pieces of butter to be visible in your dough when you roll it out. Those little butter pieces full of moisture and fat will explode in the hot oven creating the much desired "flakiness" we want our pie to have!

now we can add that iced water. Start with 1/2 cup, to which I added 1 TBSP of lemon juice ( the science on that it is keeps the gluten formation down -making for a more tender crust. Work the chilled lemon water into the dough till it all begins to stick together. You can add up to 1/4 cup more of the cold water - just do it a tablespoon at a time so the dough doesn't get anymore water than it really needs so it doesnt get too sticky and hard to handle.

Divide the dough in to two pieces place the dough on plastic wrap,

cover and press into a basic circle the size of a sandwich can fold the irregular edges inwards and press so you have a nicer looking circle which will give you more even edges when you roll it out.

Pop your two circles of wonderfulness into the fridge to chill OR if you're in a big hurry like me, put them in the freezer for 5-10 minutes just so the dough can get nice and chilled.


  1. That is one thing I havent tried my hand at yet. Pie crust!

  2. Its a lot of work Jas!

    Probably wouldnt be if I did it more often...