Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Hands On - Pie Crust

Why do you think we have the expression "easy as pie"?  Do you think it is because making pie is easy?  YES!  It is.  It is like anything else - you need the right tools and a little experience.  Once I get out the flour, salt, lard, ice water and equipment I can throw together a single crust in less than 5 minutes.  Really.  Add clean up and it is a 10 minute job from beginning to end.  And MUCH better - and cheaper - than storebought crust.

So today we are going to make a pie crust. This is enough for a one crust pie.  Can be doubled.
I recommend good lard (I render my own but I don't really expect you to do that) for a crust.  You can also use butter or shortening - the same amount should work fine, but you might want to try adding an extra T. of fat if you are not using lard.  I like lard for the flavor and also because it is so easy to work with.  In moderation, lard is a good fat.  Real food.

I am giving you a quick and simple approach to pie crust in this post.  I am trying to avoid the intimidation factor.  I don't want you to think this is any more complicated than it really is.

However -- if you promise not to be intimidated and if you are in the mood for a longer discussion of the finer points of butter v. lard v. leaf lard -- then you might want to look at this 2006 article from the New York Times.   It pretty much covers all the pie crust bases.

mixing bowl
measuring cups - 1 cup, 1/3 cup
measuring spoons
rolling pin
good surface for rolling - wood, marble or a clean countertop will all work
optional - pastry cutter
pie or tart pan or just a cookie sheet if you are making a galette (put pastry on a baking sheet, place some fruit or other filling in the middle - leaving a border of about 4 inches.  Gently fold up the edges all around, pleating a bit if necessary.  Bake in hot oven until crust is browned and filling is done.  Quite impressive result for little work.)

1 cup flour plus extra for rolling
1/2 t. salt
1/3 cup lard, cold  (or 1/3 cup butter or a mixture of butter and lard)
2-3 T. ice water

Here is a video demonstration Frank and I made this morning:

In words, not pictures:
Add salt to flour in mixing bowl.  Add lard and, working quickly with fingertips or a pastry cutter, incorporate the lard into the flour.  Don't overwork the dough.  Add 2 T. ice water and mix with fork until dough sticks together.  Add more water if dough seems too dry.  Gather into a ball and knead a few times - shape into a smooth disk.  Refrigerate about half an hour.  Roll on a clean smooth surface - sprinkle surface, dough and rolling pin with flour to avoid sticking.
Use dough as directed in whatever pie or tart recipe you are making.

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