Wednesday, March 14, 2012

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)

                    1 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 lard and other ingredients to complicate it. It's pie crust, not rocket fuel. 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. Many swear by the butters temperature being the key to the pie crust. I can't say I disagree. 

  • 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 crumbs. If you squeeze some in your hand, it should hold together and not fall apart. 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.

  • Add 3 tablespoons of the Ice Water and mix. From there, add 1 tablespoon at a time until you form a ball. Once the ball is formed, wrap it up and refrigerate it for at least 4 hours or overnight.

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.

  • When it’s ready, add a little flour to a working area and roll it out using a rolling pin

Or if you’re like me and you sadly do not own a rolling pin, 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 you have a rolling pin.

  • 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 and make sure it’s in there good.

  • 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, then 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 weight 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.

If you don’t have beans you can go without it (like I do). It’s not going to be catastrophic, but it’ll be just fine. Of course, results may vary. 

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. 

1 comment:

  1. I use a similar recipe for my pie crust, very simple, the one thing that I have found that helps make it extra flakey is to not touch it as the oils in your hands can make it more of a dense texture, I always cut the butter into the flour with butter kngives. Yeah it will take a bit longer but it is well worth it in the end