Friday, November 29, 2013

Try This Crust

I know that I do a lot of baking, most of it from scratch, but for a number of years when it came time to do a pie, I used the ReadyMade Crusts from Pillsbury. For a long time they were almost as good as homemade and a whole lot easier. Recently I've not been happy with the crust of my pies, so have been on the lookout for a new pie crust recipe.

As a young girl I learned how to make really good pie crust from scratch. My Mom sat me down with the Settlement House Cookbook and had me read four or five pages of instructions before I could even try making pie crust on my own. They emphasized that the ingredients be cold, that the water be iced and that a light hand be used in mixing everything together, tossing tablespoons of ice water with the dry ingredients, then gently gathering the clumps together into a dough. A lot of work, but the results were a delicious, flaky pie crust.

Recently I came across a Martha Stewart recipe for pie crust made in a food processor. It came with almost as many instructions as that first crust I made, but I found that encouraging since my first encounter with a Martha Stewart recipe was the infamous Chocolate Crepe Cake. In that instance the recipe was more crap than crepe, so I was a bit leery of this one, too.

For Thanksgiving our near neighbors invited us to come join their holiday family dinner. I offered to bring a couple of pecan pies and decided that I would try Martha's recipe for the crust. I know, I know, it is stupid to try a new recipe for a dinner where you will be meeting a bunch of new people, especially when they have been touted as excellent cooks and bakers. Well, I guess I've always been willing to try a new recipe when failure will be a real problem. Fortunately, this time the recipe was a good one.

I made the crust, our daughter made the fillings, baked them in the new stove, chilled 'em while we went to the Community Church and helped out with the free Thanksgiving dinner serving and cleanup, then whipped up some cream to go with them once we got home. After a really excellent meal that included local duck, mixed wild mushroom stuffing, roasted veggies with balsamic and pomegranate arils and more, we served up the desserts, including the pecan pies.

They were a hit! The crust was excellent, the filling a bit goopy and great, the pecans nice and toasted. So next time you need a nice, buttery, flaky delicious crust, try this recipe:

Food Processor Pie Crust from Martha Stewart Test Kitchen
makes 2 disks

2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces, divided
2 1/2 cups all-purpouse flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup ice water

Freeze 3/4 of the butter pieces in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet until hard, at least 30 minutes. Refrigerate the other 1/4 of the pieces. The frozen pieces stay chunky after being pulsed, creating steam pockets when baked (the key to flakiness) and the refrigerated bits get worked into the pastry, giving it a tender texture.

Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor work bowl. Add refrigerated butter (the smaller amount of the butter bits). Pulse to combine, about 10 times. Add frozen butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with some blueberry-sized clumps.

With the processor off, add the ice water. Immediately pulse until water is just incorporated, about 10 times. Squeeze a small amount of dough to make sure it holds together. Pulse a few times more if needed. When you squeeze the dough it should remain crumbly, but come together. Don't pulse it so long that it forms a ball. Adding water while the processor is running  and over-pulsing are bad ideas... could lead to tough dough.
Lay out 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Empty half the dough onto each piece. Bring edges of wrap together to gather dough and form a round mass. Press the dough this way to form a rough round mass, and press on top of the wrap to form a disk. The processed dough should resemble uneven crumbs. When you empty the mixture from the processor bowl out onto the plastic wrap, some pieces will be tiny, others will be in clumps. That is perfect! The gathered plastic wrap method of forming the disk simultaneously has you gathering the crumbs into a cohesive dough and shaping it.

Roll out disks, still wrapped in plastic, to 1/2 inch thick rounds, about 8 inches in diameter. Rounds this size will chill more quickly that hockey-puck sized ones and will soften more uniformly when removed from the refrigerator.

Refrigerate at least 45 minutes and up to 2 days. Dough can be frozen up to 1 month. 

For the pecan pies themselves, use the recipe on the Karo Dark syrup bottle...or e-mail me.


  1. Now that sounds encouraging! I have a little trouble believing Martha ..... will remember this one. ( wish pecans werent that difficult to find an ridiculously expensive here)

  2. Oh Pat all of this sounds so grand. A fun memory with your mom. Even the crap cake, which I loved by the way, for some reason it worked for me. I have had good results with food processor pie crust.
    Pecan pie is my very favorite.
    Your Thanksgiving sounds just grand.