Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Flaky Pie Crust

There’s not much more humbling (read humiliating) than picking up something you’ve written for everyone on the planet to read – in a book, say – only to find out that you were advising precisely the thing that you said you opposed! Bummer.


In the first printing of The Fat Fallacy, I was still using the freezer brand of pie crust and included that in my recipe for apple pie. It was my wife Dottie who, wincing visibly in the checkout line as she squinted along the string of chemical syllables of the ingredients list said, “You’re not going to like this.” Before even looking at it, I recognized the Christmas-Red packaging, the dough boy, and knew it was time to make my own crust.

Tricks of the Trade

What makes a flaky crust? It’s the bits of butter smeared throughout the dough. When the oven heats up, it expands the butter, creating little pockets between layers of the crust.
By spreading the dough with the heal of your hand – what the French call “fraisage”—you get nice layers of butter spread thinly through the dough that expand into a delicate flaky pie crust.
Don’t blow off the refrigeration. The dough needs to relax (don’t we all), and if it doesn’t get this time period it will shrink up when stretched or heated.

This pie crust is excellent, and simple to make. Don’t be intimidated by the length of the directions, as this is mostly just descriptions of what you’ll be doing. Once you get it, it only takes a few minutes to throw together something that blows away anything in your freezer section!

You’ll Need:
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar
  • 2 sticks cold butter
  • ~½ cup ice water
Directions:

Cube the butter by cutting it in half longways, then turn it a quarter turn and cut them longways again.
Now cut it “shortways” into cubes.
Put everything except the butter and water into a mixing bowl.
Mix around the dry ingredients well, and then add the butter.
Using your fingertips, quickly squeeze the butter cubes into the flour mixture to make it mealy.
Make sure the finer bits of flour that aren’t incorporated get pulled up from the bottom of the bowl.
Slowly work your ice water into the dough, forming a ball.
Now put it on a floured board.
Spread the butter evenly through the dough by smearing it, little by little, from the middle outward with the heel of your hand.
Wad it back into a ball, cover with wax paper, and refrigerate for at least an hour.
You can do this ahead of time because it keeps quite well — two to three days in the refrigerator or a week in the freezer.

Making the pie crust:
When you’re ready to make the pie, put the dough on a flour-dusted board.
Sprinkle a bit of flour on top of the dough, too.
With a rolling pin, roll outward from the center.
Be careful not to press too hard.
Direct your movements outward from the center at even angles so your pie crust stays mostly round.
If you find that it cracks at the edges, just pinch it back together.
You may also find that it begins to stick to your rolling pin, and so just dust with a bit more flour.
Keep at this until your crust is about 1/8 inch thin.
Make it round by pinching cracked edges and corralling the more adventurous portions.
On your last roll out from the center, take the pin to the edge of the crust.
As you roll it back toward the center, let the dough curl up with the rolling pin until it is just about on top of the dough still on the board.
Put one hand between these two layers, and the other hand beneath the main part of the crust.
Gently lift and set into your pie pan.
Mold into the edges with your fingers.

Play With Your Food! Make additions to your pie crust!
Depending on the filling, they can be flavored with a sprinkle of cocoa, some citrus zest, cinnamon, or even some very finely crushed nuts like almonds. For a meat pie, try celery seed!

If you are making a pastry like turnovers or fruit tart shell, reduce the flour to 1 cup, add in 1 tablespoon of sugar, eliminate the water altogether, and cut in 4 ½ oz cream cheese (softened of course).

Once they are all blended, gather this dough as before, and refrigerate before rolling out.

FYI!!!Pillsbury Pie Crusts Ingredients: Wheat starch, partially hydrogenated lard with BHA and BHT, bleached flour, water, sugar, rice flour, salt, xanthan gum, potassium sorbate and sodium propionate, citric acid, colored with Yellow #5 and Red #40.