Thursday, November 15, 2018

Memories of Pie Crust

Do you know what happens when a cake person grows up in a family where the Dad prefers pie? You learn to make good pies.

That's what happened to me. I do enjoy eating pie, especially cherry, apricot, coconut cream, and at Thanksgiving time, pumpkin and pecan. I also enjoy the process of making pie because it combines creativity with attention to detail and following the proportions and methods that lead to a good crust.

I was probably 10 or 11 years old when my Mom presented me with her copy of the Settlement House Cookbook and told me to read the four or five pages of instructions on making pie crust. Then we talked about what I had read so that she knew that I understood what it said before I ever set foot into the kitchen or got out the flour and pastry blender.

Don't know what a pastry blender is? Well, it is a most useful tool, a set of thin dull blades or wires, gathered to each side of a handle. The alternate (prior to food processors) was to hold two knives parallel and fairly close together and use them to cut the fat into the flour. The pastry blender is much easier to use.

One of the things I read all those years ago is to have a light hand with the mixing of pie dough. I usually fluff up the flour mixture a bit with the pastry blender before I add the fat. Then I work the fat in with gentle strokes and with as few as possible, while still getting the flour coated pat pieces that are no larger than a dried split pea. Having some very small pieces and some that size helps with getting a flaky crust. Finally, when you stir in the ice water...yes the water should have ice cubes floating in it because pie dough does best when everything associated with it is should use a dinner fork and lightly stir as you add water a tablespoon at a time. As the dough clumps, gently push the clumps to one side so that you are adding water to dry flour mix. Once the dough is damp enough...mostly can turn it out on a floured surface and very gently gather the clumps together into a cohesive dough. That gets gingerly shaped into a ball and flattened just a bit, then the flattened ball gets wrapped in plastic wrap (although we used to use wax paper and it worked just fine) to chill. This allows the flour particles to absorb some of the moisture and for the dough to relax. That will make it easier to roll out. Use your rolling pin to both roll out the dough and transfer the round to the pie pan by draping the rolled out dough over the rolling pin.

A few years ago I tried a recipe from Martha Stewart where you use a food processor to make the dough and, if you follow the instructions fully, you will have a great pie dough.

Don't look askance at Pillsbury ReadyCrust pie dough circles, either. They are ready to use once warmed up a bit and I get compliments all the time on pies made with them.

So do consider making your own pie this holiday season. A pumpkin pie is the the U.S. the recipe is on the can of Libby's solid pack pumpkin...just be sure to use solid pack, not pumpkin pie mix. With a ReadyCrust circle, it goes together in about 10 minutes and bakes in another 30 or so and you will be a star when you present your home made pie which will taste worlds better than anything you can buy. If you want more of a challenge, you can roast halved Sugar Pie pumpkins, then puree the cooked pumpkin in your food processor after making that great food processor pie dough. If you are careful there will be scraps of dough to use to decorate the top.

For a Pumpkin Pie Spectacular pie, try the recipe HERE. You will be a dessert hero!

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