Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Harmony's Pie Crust

Over the next few weeks (and forever after that) I will be posting pie recipes. Many pie recipes call for a baked, partially baked, or unbaked pie shell. Some call for a double pie crust. Whatever the case may be, I have created a pie crust recipe that works for me. 

In my childhood years baking with my mother was frequent and normal. I was not scared to work in the kitchen and my love of food developed through my mom asking me to work alongside her as she baked pies, breads and cookies. I helped with pancakes for breakfast, soup for lunch and casseroles for dinner. 

My mom makes such a tasty pie crust. It is flaky and light in every way. What it is not - is pretty. Not that it is particularly ugly; it just never seems to be easy to work with, which leaves creating the perfect edge out of reach. I grew up using her recipe, struggling with my crust ripping, and generally frustrated with the concept of pie crust making.

After I became a stay at home wife, I purchased a cookbook called Great Pies and Tarts by Carole Walter. Her cookbook is an excellent resource and has about 20 pie crust recipes for all different occasions. I was sure that one of her basic recipes would work for me. Five or six pie crust recipes later, the perfect crust continued to elude me. I shook my head each time I read that the crust had to be refrigerated for 30 minutes, let sit to rest, or rolled on a pastry cloth, pastry mat or marble surface.

"It should not be this difficult or complicated," I complained to my husband one evening. He listened to me rant and then quietly asked, "Why not create your own pie crust recipe?" Shaking my head I remember mumbling some comment about not being any more profound than all the pastry chef's and their recipes. If they could make their pie crust recipes turn out perfectly, it must be my inadequacy.

But the seed had been planted. I change every other recipe I come across and create recipes all the time. I cut extra steps out of Martha Stewart recipes because I secretly believe that she adds them to make her recipes seem more prestigious! I shout at cookbooks when they call for 4 tablespoons of sugar when it should just say 1/4 cup. Could I really simplify a pie crust?

I fussed for a few days in the kitchen, threw out all the rules I had read, and came up with a recipe and method that works for me. Not to say that my recipe replaces any other out there. If you have success with a pie crust recipe, then stick with it! But if you have ever been in my shoes, looking down with aggravation as your crust rips or cracks, maybe my method will work for you!

Harmony's Pie Crust
Source: original recipe 
Prep: 10 minutes   Bake: see below for options
Yield: Single pie crust (double recipe for a double crust)

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2    teaspoon salt
1/4    cup cold butter, cubed
1/4    cup Crisco shortening
3       tablespoons cold water

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt. Cut in shortening and butter with a pastry blender until fat is well blended (your mixture should look like pea-sized crumbs) Add cold water and stir with fork until mixture forms a ball (add a few drops more if it is too dry). Once it forms a loose ball, gather the dough up with your hands and transfer it to a surface covered with floured plastic wrap. Flatten the ball into a disk, and begin to roll out, rotating the plastic wrap to keep the shape circular. If it starts to stick to your rolling pin, sprinkle the crust with a little more flour or cover with plastic wrap and roll out between the two layers. 

Once you think your pie crust is a large enough circle, gently place your pie plate on top in the center and check to see if you have about 1 to 1 1/2 inch of the pie crust on all sides. If not, roll it bigger until you have an overlap on all sides. Peal off the top layer of plastic wrap (if you placed some on top) and transfer the pie crust to the pie plate by sliding your hand under the plastic wrap and turning it into the pie plate. Make sure it is centered and adjusted before you peel the plastic wrap from the crust. Press gently into the pie plate and tuck the overlap under on all sides. Form your pie edge by placing your index finger on the inside of the crust and your thumb and index finger (other hand) on the outside of the crust and squeezing gently. Repeat this method around entire crust.

If you are filling your crust (i.e. apple pie, pumpkin, peach, etc.) follow the temperature settings and bake time the recipe calls for.

If you are blind baking (empty pie shell) your crust (i.e. banana cream pie, coconut cream pie, etc.) line the crust with foil, fill with pie weights, dry beans or rice and bake at 425 degrees F for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. 

If you are partially baking your crust (some recipes call for this, I typically find it unnecessary) line the crust with foil, fill with pie weights, dry beans or rice and bake at 400 degrees F for 10- 13 minutes, until set but pale.

If you would like to make your pie crust ahead of time, wrap in plastic and refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month. Return to a cool room temperature before rolling out. You can also roll it out, form the crust and freeze for up to a month. Just be sure to cover it well while in the freezer.

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