…or how to make a pie

As mentioned previously, I like to do a bit of foraging in the city. While I consider myself an amateur, I think today I may have happened upon some purslane. Of course, I took a nibble, and then proceeded to take a handful to nosh on the way home. This is probably not the wisest of choices, however I’m fairly certain my ID was accurate. Take note however, as this may prove to be my second and last post!

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Moving on…

One of my most favorite things to make is pie crust. Something marvelous happens with the simplest of beginnings. Those tiny bits of butter, strewn throughout the flour which, when heated, burst into little pockets of air that buoy the dough, rendering it tender, flaky, crisp and golden. Pure heaven.

Pie crust involves a small amount of effort, however it does not require any special equipment. One can use  a food processor, a pastry cutter, or simply a fork. I find the latter extremely gratifying, especially if you like the tactile experience of working with pastry dough. I admit that most often I use a food processor, if only for expediency.

The key with pastry dough is to work the flour as little as possible; you do not want to activate the gluten. Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat and becomes elastic when worked. Fantastic for bread, terrible for pie.

Note:

  • chilling butter in the freezer will keep intact when incorporating into the flour
  • This recipe yields one pie crust. For a top crust, make two batches
  • For sweet pies, add 1 T sugar to the dough

You will need the following:

1 cup + 2 T pastry flour (OK to substitute standard unbleached flour)

1 tsp salt

1 cup (8 T) very cold unsalted butter; roughly cut into ~1/2-inch chunks*

3 T ice water (plus more, if needed)

Method (Makes One Crust)

  1. Pulse flour and salt in food processor, or sift together in large bowl
  2.  butter to flour/salt mixture and pulse for ~20-30 seconds, or cut in with pastry tool/fork. The flour should take on a sandy texture; you want small beads of butter evident throughout; no larger than a bb.
  3. Add ice water, and pulse a few times, or work in with pastry tool. This is where being conservative is key; you want to work the dough only until it comes together when pinched. It should look a bit on the dry side, but have some cohesion. Add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to achieve this. Pulse about five more times and pinch it with your finger. Does t stick?
  4. Turn onto a piece of plastic wrap or parchment; knead a few times, then press gently and quickly into a disk; this makes it easier to roll.
  5. Now – leave it alone! Place in the refrigerator and chill for at least 30 minutes
  6. Turn oven to 425* and lay out piece of parchment dusted with flour. Top with another piece of parchment and roll until it resembles a disk slightly larger than the diameter of the pie dish; ~1/4 inch thick

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  1. Loosely fold in half and drape over an 8-inch deep or 9 inch buttered pie pan
  2. Press gently into base and crimp the edges toward the dish to for a ring. You can get fancy if you like; I prefer a more rustic appearance.
  3. Prick a few times with fork and set back in the freezer for ~10 minutes
  4. Proceed with recipe, or follow blind baking technique below:

Blind Baking:

This is a key step in making any kind of pie that holds fruit that yield liquids (peaches, berries rhubarb), or for savory pies such as quiche. So termed Blind Baking, this technique of par-cooking the pastry ensures crust and bottom that is fully cooked, not soggy. Well worth the extra few minutes of effort.

There are pie weights available for purchase, however I find dried beans a more ready and reasonably inexpensive alternative; look for a larger, heavier bean, such as garbanzo or kidney beans; they may be saved for repeat use; store in a glass jar once cool.

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
  2. While pie is chilling in the freezer, pull a piece of tinfoil slightly larger than the widest diameter of  the pie plate. Butter one side.
  3. Lay buttered side down in pie dish; press lightly into dough.
  4. Fill the foil/dish with pie weights or dried beans completely.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for ~12-15 minutes, just until crust has a faint golden hue
  6. Remove from oven. Pull foil/pie weights (gently!) from crust. Proceed with recipe.

Stay tuned for…Berry Tartlets

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