Sunday, January 13, 2008

Pate Brisee - Pie Crust

When making a pie, the most important thing you have to get right is the crust. Now I'm not saying that that's the only thing you need to get right, but it's really crucial.  But in my world, if you have a good crust and then you put something like a boxed pudding mix into it, then you are still a bit behind.  This recipe makes either two or three crusts, depending on what you are doing.

2 cups flour
1 tbl sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks butter, cut into small pieces, cold
3 tbls shortening
1/4 cup iced water

Put the flour and salt into a medium sized sturdy bowl and stir up.  Add the butter and shortening and using a party blender, or your fingers and a fork mix until it looks like cornmeal. You can also use a food processor using short bursts.  It should look like coarse cornmeal when you are done.

Drizzle the ice water over the mixture and stir together with a fork or a few short bursts with the processor. Don’t over mix at this point. If you were using the processor, dump out the crumbly looking mixture into a mixing bowl. Then, using the palms of your hands and fingers, compress the mixture into a nice smooth consistency. Resist the urge to add more water. It will mix right up.

Divide in half, and wrap each half in a piece of plastic wrap, and flatten into nice compact discs, about six inches across. Chill for about 15 to 30 minutes before rolling out. If it’s too cold when you finally get to it, let it warm up a bit so you can roll it. Sometimes I divide the mixture into three discs, which produces thinner crusts.

To roll out the crusts, get the chilled disc completely well dusted in flour. Then place onto a piece of waxed paper for rolling. I use a french rolling pin. Roll the dough starting at the center and then rotating around. Then roll gently at the edges to smooth it all out. Turn the crust using the waxed paper. If a hole develops gently coax it closed, even maybe use your fingers.

To transfer the rolled out crust to the pie plate place your hand under the waxed paper with the crust on it, lift up and turn it over onto the plate and gently coax the dough into the pie plate. Then with quick gentle tugs, pull the paper loose. At this point, if there is going to be a top crust, as in an apple pie, I add the filling, then roll out the top crust and place it on top, and then I crimp it and trim it.
I always roll out the crusts as thin as is reasonable. I don’t like a thick crust. Also, I never use a metal pie plate because it really lacks class at the table and I am not convinced it cooks as nicely.

The reason I use the shortening in the crust is to ensure that it doesn’t shrink oddly on me, but it is also just fine to use all butter, either omitting the shortening and adding more butter or not.

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