Friday, March 13, 2009

Not as easy as pie . . . crust

It's now 11:30 PM. I started making pies around 7:00 PM (probably earlier). I am exhausted but, I suspect, it was worth it.

Tomorrow is our Pi Day Pie Party (3.14 . . . get it?) and I decided to make two new pies: my mom's yummy Lemon Fluff Pie and a Pecan Pie. I also decided that I would take the extra effort and make my own pie crusts. Ha.

Michael Smith, from Chef at Home, had a recipe for "easy" pie crust. It involves shredding frozen, unsalted butter directly into the flour. You see, pastry gets it's puff when the water inside the butter turns into steam. So, the more evenly you can distribute smaller pieces of butter, the more puff you get and the more tender the pastry. (Side bar: pastry is also more tender the less you handle it, i.e. keep gluten production to a minimum.) This method avoids using a pastry blender so you'd think it would be easier, but YOU try shredding two sticks of FROZEN butter and see how easy it is . . . or rather, isn't.

After shredding the butter and gently tossing it in the flour, I tried to bind it with water. I, of course, used ice water (in keeping with the theme of keeping the bits of butter distinct and cold) but the recipe called for 1/2 cup and I swear I added more than 1 cup before it finally came together.

Anyway, long story short, I blind baked the shells and they, at least, smell great. Here's what I learned:
  • You really do need pie weights when blind-baking a pie shell to keep the bottom from puffing.
  • As a consequence of the above, the crust pulled away from the edge of the pan during baking, but I might take out extra insurance next time by letting the dough poke out over the edge a little more.
  • There are a gazillion different ways to deal with the edges of the crust. For my time, I like just trimming it and crimping the edge with fork tines. (On the second pie, I folded the lip under and crimped it with my fingers. Looks nice but took too long.)
We (the nerds) will feast on the pies tomorrow and I will report on how they taste. Unless the crust is heaven in a pie tin, I plan on continuing my search for an easier/better recipe. For now, I think I should get to sleep . . . our party begins at 1:59 PM, don't you know?

1 comment:

  1. Hi Diana,

    If you don't have pie weights/beans, put another pieplate/tin on top of the dought, turn upside down the the oven, then turn it right side up and take out the extra tin and bake for a couple more minutes. You can also dock the dough and let it relax after rolling and before baking.

    Hope those tricks help!