Daily Archives: November 14, 2011

The Crust is All that Matters

Ok, I am going to talk about pie again.  This time, it’s all about the crust.  The only pies I ever ate growing up were grocery store pies and, very occasionally, my grandmother’s homemade apple pies.  I loved them, but definitely not for the filling.  I just loved the crust.  I would eat the crust around the pie filling until all that was left was a sad mound of sticky fruit in the aluminum pie plate.

Now that I’m grown up (sorta-still working on this one), I make my own pie crusts and I rarely make the same recipe twice.  In fact, I have really tried to repeat pie crust recipes, but it always seems to turn out differently.  I am not here to solve the mysteries of pie crust for you.  What I hope to do is just encourage you to try making your own.

There is such a cloud of doom that seems to follow homemade pie crusts.  For some reason, people don’t think they can do it right.  Is there a right way to do it?  I’m not so sure.  There are some useful techniques to know, but pie crust is one of those things that is constantly changes, depending on the humidity, temperature, type of flour, etc.   You just have to jump in, try it and be willing to try it over and over again.  If you use quality ingredients, you will always produce something that is way better than a store-bought pie crust.  I can pretty much guarantee that.

Here are a few things you can do to make your pie crust experience easier:

1.  Have all your ingredients cold, cold, cold.

2.  Use a food processor, but only in short one second bursts.  You can do it by hand, but then everything doesn’t stay as cold, so you have to be really careful.  Two butter knives or a pastry blender would be better than doing it by hand.

3.  Roll out your dough between sheets of parchment.  I actually don’t do this unless I’m making a galette, but if you are a beginner pie cruster, I recommend this way so that you will not have to worry too much about your dough sticking to the counter.  It will also make your dough easier to transfer to the pie plate.

4.  Relax and trust yourself.  If you think the dough is too dry, it probably is.  Add a little more liquid.  And if it’s really wet, don’t worry.  Just flour your parchment before you start to roll.

5.  Make sure you let the dough rest in the fridge for at least an hour.  This allows the moisture to distribute more evenly and the dough to relax.

Lately, I have been playing with the pie crusts I make and I have a recipe that I really like.  There are lots of recipes out there and the ratios of fat to flour to liquid really don’t change much.  The buttermilk makes it tangy.  You can use milk or water if you prefer.

Tangy Pie Dough

1 1/2 cups or 7.5 oz all purpose flour

1/2 cup or 2.5 oz white whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 sticks or 8 oz cold butter, cut into 1/2 tablespoon pieces

6-8 tablespoons of buttermilk, cold

  1. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl or food processor.
  2. Cut the butter into the flour using a pastry blender or two knives until the butter pieces are not bigger than small peas.  This is about 10 pulses in a food processor.
  3. Add 4 tablespoons of buttermilk and toss gently with a spatula or pulse 3 times.
  4. Now, add the buttermilk one tablespoon at a time, tossing or pulsing between additions until the dough starts to clump together.   You know when it is ready when you can take pinch the dough with your fingers and it doesn’t fall apart when you separate them.
  5. If your bowl is large enough, you can just grab about half of the dough in your hands and form a ball.   If it falls apart, even though you are pressing it together tightly, toss another tablespoon of buttermilk in until it will stay in a ball.  Wrap this in plastic wrap and flatten into a 4-5 inch disc.  With a food processor, you’ll have to dump the dough onto the counter or board and do the same.  Make two discs and put them in the fridge.  Do you see the ball on the left?  It’s got some great big cracks in it, but it mostly stayed together so I left it.
  6. At this point, the dough can also be frozen for a few months.  Just put them in a freezer bag.  This is another thing you can do way ahead of time for Thanksgiving.  If you’re not freezing the dough, let it sit in the fridge for at least an hour before you roll it out.