Sunday, January 4, 2009

Pie Crust--Homemade, Of Course

By Kathryn Washburn Breighner

We Washburns were lucky to grow up with a Mom who loved baking pies. And she has passed that love onto us. I often serve pies for desserts to guests and the pies are a surprise to many; great pies are really a wonderful dessert. There are too many bad pie crusts out there and they have given pies a bad reputation.

Everyone in Mom's family made pies including our Grandma Bond who owned a restaurant, and Mom's sister, Phyllis, who also owned a restaurant. We love good pies!

Mom's pie crust recipe is simple. This is for a two crust pie.

2 cups flour
2/3 cup Crisco shortening (Mom only used Crisco)
1 t salt
a scant 1/2 cup of ice water

Making a pie crust is really easy. Cut in the shortening to the flour and salt with a fork or pastry blender until pea size clumps of flour/shortening form. This should take about 30 seconds. Drizzle small quantities of the ice water into the mixture blending just until the mixture comes together. There will be small grains of flour mixture left in the bowl but the bulk of the mixture will be in one mass.

The trick with pie dough is always the amount of water. Too much and the pie crust is tough, too little and it is difficult to roll out. That's why instructions usually say that the dough should just come together and not be in loose pieces or be wet.

In the last year or so, I have been chilling the dough before rolling it out. I wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes and this makes the dough easier to roll out. Flaky pie dough comes from the explosion of the shortening fragments in the hot oven. So the colder these fragments, the better the explosion! I also chill the dough after I roll it out and put in a pie pan, usually 30 minutes in the refrigerator or 10-15 minutes in the freezer. Last summer, I tried chilling all the ingredients before assembling. I didn't like the result; it takes more water to make the flour come together when the flour is cold and thus, the crusts were too tough for my Washburn taste.

It takes very little time to make pie crust. I spend more time cleaning off the cutting board that I roll the dough out on then I do with making the crust. I read recipes for the perfect pie crust which may include using a food processor and include other ingredients like sugar, butter, egg, lard, vinegar, or vodka; but this one is the tried and true.

Follow specific pie recipes for baking times. For some pies like cream pies, the crust is baked without filling for a short time before adding the filling. I typically bake fruit pies for 10 minutes at 425 degrees F and then turn the heat to 350 for 40-50 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the filling begins to bubble. Baking times will vary based on individual ovens and the temperature of the filling--frozen fruit added to a pie will take longer.

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