Tuesday, January 14, 2014

PERFECT PIE CRUST 101, a blue ribbon~award winning crust.

I really wanted to start off by saying...it's so easy, you can do this...which can be really annoying if you've had bad luck with pie dough in the past.
The truth is, you can make a fabulous pie crust (yes, you really can, and I will show you how).  Just knowing a few simple techniques can make all the difference. If this is your first attempt--or your 100th, with a few points in the right direction, you will be able to make your very own award winning pies.
My first place apple pie from October 2013

Pie crust... simple ingredients, and..simple to make too.

  Perfect Pie Crust a How-To guide:   

Everything here has a reason for being invited to the pie crust party...  I always use King Arthur flour-- there are additional varieties of KA flour for making different kinds of baked goods.  For a traditional crust, all purpose flour is perfect.  King Arthur flour is a quality product and it always gives me consistent and top notch results.  They have a fantastic website, if you have never been and you enjoy baking, it's fun to visit. 
King Arthur Website
Salt- table salt is fine, I use kosher salt sometimes too.

Sugar- I use Domino sugar... I have found store brands to be roughly milled and sometimes foreign bits are in the mix, so I stick to the tried and true.

Shortening-  I use Crisco- butter flavored will give the crust more color--either are great choices.

Butter-  I use Land of Lakes UNSALTED,  I use store brands for other baking and cooking, but for pie crusts I always trust Land of Lakes.

Pastry blender-I do my crusts by hand usually, however when making a few pies at a time the food processor is a great help. 

Water- chilled tap water...add ice if it's not cold enough.

Vodka-  I use Absolute.  Vodka helps to lighten the dough and all the alcohol bakes off in the hot oven.  If you do not want to include vodka, simply use all water for the liquid portion of this recipe.

Tip: I keep a small 50 % vodka, 50% water bottle in the freezer--so I've always have really cold liquid on hand.

PIE CRUST RECIPE: (adapted from America's Test Kitchen)
2   cups flour
1   teaspoon salt
2   tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening cut into small bits
1   stick of cold butter cut into small bits
1/4 cup ice water + 1/4 cup chilled vodka

  • Keep things cold. 
The butter, the shortening and the dough...if these get too warm the crust will be an oily, soggy mess.  The best way to keep things cold...keep the shortening in the freezer and the butter too, it keeps longer if frozen too (added bonus).  Just before making the crust bring these ingredients out and get to work.
When rolling out the dough, make sure the dough is cool.  Again, if the dough gets too warm, it is almost impossible to work with.  If its a hot day, work quickly, re-chilling as you go to firm up the dough.
Just before baking a pie--make sure the dough is cold by letting it set up in the freezer or refrigerator for a few minutes.
  • Relax. 
Make the crust a day ahead if there is time.  Flour likes to rest after it's been worked up, so resting it in the refrigerator helps the dough (and you) become more relaxed.  I know, sometimes a pie must be made--on the spot-- but, if planning ahead...having the crust waiting and ready is a HUGE help.
Pie crust can be frozen... wrap the rounds of unrolled dough in a freezer bag they can stay in the freezer for up to 3 months.  Just let the dough thaw (without getting too warm) before rolling.
  • Bake Low and Slow
I ALWAYS bake pies and pie crust on the lowest rack in the oven.  Pies like to get bubbly and set, so let them.  Baking on the lowest rack helps the crust get done on the bottom. 
Add foil or a crust protector to the top of the pie if it's getting too brown.  I usually add a cover to the crust edges after the first 15-20 minutes, once the crust has set--to protect the edges from over browning.
If you are worried about your pie leaking, place a rimmed and foil covered baking sheet in the oven while the oven is preheating.  That way, when the pie is placed in the oven, it will be placed on a hot cookie sheet, helping to get the bottom crust done. 
I have a FAVORITE new product I picked up last year from Sur La Table... it helps the pie crust cook through on the bottom AND it protects my oven... it really is a great help if you make pies even twice a year--so worth it!!
No-Drip Pie Shield- Chicago Metallic  Click here for product info.

Mix together the flour, salt and sugar.
Cut in the cold butter and cold shortening, adding additional handful of pieces as it becomes incorporated by the flour. 

Add in the water vodka mixture, adding just a few tablespoons at first.  Add more water until dough forms a ball.  All the water/vodka mixture may not be needed to get dough into a ball.

Wrap dough into two equal sized flat circles and chill for at least 1 hour,
(longer is better, 3-4 hours or overnight)  up to 2 days.

Remove chilled dough from refrigerator.  Let rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.  If you try to roll out the dough while it is too firm-- well, it just won't roll.

Roll dough out onto a lightly floured piece of parchment or waxed paper. (this makes for easy clean up)  Lightly flour your rolling pin as well.
1/4 inch thickness is good.
Fold dough in half, using the waxed paper to help guide the dough.
Lift into a pie plate.
(If the dough is too warm at this point of any point, place it back inside the refrigerator for 7 minutes to  firm up.)

Fit dough into the plate, trim excess from edges.  Crimp (there are some BEAUTIFUL pie crust designs, here are a few  I thought were fabulous:  pie crust edging ideas click here

The prepared pie crust goes back into the refrigerator to chill until ready to assemble the rest of your pie.  If  you blind bake the crust for a cooked filling -- keep the crust chilled until just before baking.

For the top crust (if using), roll out the dough in the same manner as the bottom crust.

BEFORE you bake---CHILL that pie.  You can pop the whole finished uncooked pie in the freezer or refrigerator for 10-20 minutes.  The cold air will help solidify the shortening and the butter-- when the chilled pie hits the hot oven air, beautiful things will happen to your crust, making it tender and light.  If you put warm pie dough into a hot oven, very unsightly things can happen (trust me, I know).

the art of baking off a crust, intended to be the vessel for a typically cooked or gel pie filling.

Take your chilled, ready to go pie crust from the freezer. Dock it with a fork, making holes in the bottom and sides to help the hot air escape.

Lay a piece of parchment or foil into the bottom of the pie.  Add pie weights (ceramic beads made to weigh down the crust, or uncooked dried beans will do the trick too)  The weight of the beads or beans help the pie bake, without the crust lifting up away from the pie plate.

Bake 20 minutes at 400 degrees-on the lowest oven rack.  After 20 minutes, remove crust from the oven, remove the hot weights by carefully lifting the weights and foil or parchment from the pie shell.  Return the crust to the oven to finish.  Remove crust once lightly golden, about 10-15 minutes more.

There is almost nothing better than a homemade pie.

Need some inspiration?? A great pie is the Chocolate Cream Pie...
This is an easy pie with WOW- AMAZING, Over-the-top RESULTS every time!  It's worth a try!
Click the link below for a step-by-step guide to chocolate-y goodness...you'll be glad you did.

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