Monday, November 21, 2011

Pie Crust Tricks

It's time.

Pie Time!!

I love, love, love to make pie, especially the crusts. And, all humility aside, my pie crusts rock. They are buttery, flakey, and oh-so-tasty. They stand up to freezing for later use and they don't get gooey when uneaten pie (or quiche) sits in the fridge.

I have assembled a couple of tricks that make pie crust a breeze in our house, and for a Thanksgiving present, I thought I would share them with you.

Trick One: Put the butter in the freezer while you get ready. This drops the tempeture of the butter so your crust will get less sticky and maintain a better butter/flour crumb.

Trick One-A: I have a food processer, but before I got it I always froze the butter, and then grated it with a cheese grater. (You might have to put it back in the freezer briefly to get it to re-solidify.) Then it is relatively easy to combine it with the flour to get the right consistency. No hacking large hunks of butter down to the right consistency.

Trick Two: Use half water and half vodka to moisten the flour. Add ice cubes to drop the tempeture some more. I don't remember where we learned this, but my husband started this years ago and we've never looked back. The vodka moistens and binds the flour, but doesn't develop the gluten and evaporates away when baked. This is a secret of the super flakey.

Trick Three: Leave enough time to refrigerate twice! Once your dough is mixed, break it into individual crust amounts, wrap in plastic, and put it in the fridge for about 30 mintues to allow the butter to re-solidify. After you roll it out and it's in your pie dish, pop it back into the fridge for at least another 20 minutes before it hits the oven.

Trick Four: ALWAYS par-bake, even if the recipe doesn't call for it! This allows the bottom crust to get a little crispy so it soaks up less pie juice. 5-10 minutes in a 400-degree oven will do it.

Trick Five: This is my favorite. While we are on the subject of par-baking, ditch your pie weights or beans or rice. Poke holes in the crust with a fork to release excess air, then line your pie crust with parchement paper and use pennies as weights! I have a bottle of pennies on my baking shelf that are specifically for pies. Why? The metal heats up in the oven, causing the crust to get crisped bottom and top. Pennies work better than mixed change.

The last thing I have to say about pie crusts...

People think they are tricky. And it's true that they can be. A good crust must be mixed exactly enough and not too much. But I've heard a lot of worry about mixing and pie crust and tricks of the trade. I believe that it is just as easy to over-think a pie crust as it is to over-mix it. Relax. Enjoy. It's magical alchemy and it won't work if you worry about it too much. Just let it flow.

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