Thursday, August 2, 2012

Basic Buttery Pie Crust

Pie crust has been something I was never able to make ever since I moved to 100 Mile House.  When I lived in Vancouver, it was never a problem.  Years later, I finally had my "A-ha!" moment and realized that humidity was a big factor.  In 100 Mile, the humidity is much drier than Vancouver, so the flour's moisture content plays a big role.   

My problem was that my dough always came out very tough and rock hard!  The culprit was too much water, hence a hard, tough crust.  Normally, I dumped some of the water to the flour, mixed it around for a few seconds and kept adding water til it stuck together. 

For some reason, I realized that I had to be more patient when incorporating water in the crust. What worked for me is to add 4Tbsp cold water first and mix with a fork for at least 15-20 seconds to make sure the flour absorbs the water properly.  Then add cold water 1 Tbsp at a time, tossing the mixture around for at least 10-15 seconds before adding the next tablespoon water until shaggy bits of dough formed.  If the shaggy dough bits stick together when you squeeze it with your fingers then the dough has enough water.  I never did that before and ended up adding considerably more water than the recipe called for, which led to a tough, hard crust. 

I figured that basic pie crust recipe from the Crisco shortening box was a good start.  There are good crust recipes out there that use egg ,vinegar, more fat and flour.  I didn't want to waste any more ingredients if my crust turned out to be another disaster!  I like to use a combination of both butter and shortening.  It is personal preference and taste.  I love the taste of butter in pie crusts and the texture of shortening in the crust.  I think you could interchange your favourite pie fat in this recipe.  I'll try coconut oil when I run out of shortening.

Basic Buttery Pie Crust
- Adapted from the recipe on the Crisco shortening box
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
3 Tbsp sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup shortening
4-8 tablespoon ice cold water (I needed 8 Tbsp)

Blend flour, sugar and salt in medium bowl. Cut in shortening (and butter) using pastry blender (or 2 knives) until all flour is blended in to form coarse crumbs with pea-size chunks. 

Sprinkle with 4 Tbsp (60mL) ice cold water over flour mixture.  Using a fork, stir and draw flour from bottom of bowl to the top; press chunks down to bottom of bowl with fork.  Add more water by the tablespoon, mixing until dough holds together.  This is when the shaggy bits of dough holds together when you squeeze it.  

Divide dough in half, one ball slightly larger than the other.  Flatten ball into 1/2 inch (1.5cm) thick disks, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes or up to 2 days. (or throw it in the freezer for later use).

Place larger disk of dough on lightly floured work surface.  With floured rolling pin, roll dough outward from centre into circle 1 inch wider than pie plate.  Transfer dough into pie plate without stretching and trim evening around plate.  Fill unbaked pie crust according to recipe.  

Roll top pie crust; lift onto filled pie.   Trim dough to 3/4-inch overhang; fold top crust under bottom dough edge.  Press edges together and flute.  Cut slits in top crust.  Bake according to recipe directions.  

YUM!  I like the sides of my crust thick. With the butter, the thick part has a shortbread-like crunch that is addictive.  I didn't realize that pie making is so subjective! 

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