Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Pie Crust, Miss American Pie Style

2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup shortening, (1/2 cup butter can be substituted for 1/2 cup of the shortening)
1/2-3/4 cup water, or slightly more, as needed

Yield: 2 pie crusts
Measure flour and salt into a large bowl; stir to combine. Using a pastry blender, cut in the shortening (and butter, if using), until the lumps are pea-sized or slightly larger. With a fork, toss the flour/shortening mixture while slowly adding the water. Continue until the flour is evenly moistened and starts to cling together. You may need to add additional water to any dry patches. Gather the dough together and press into two balls. The dough should hold together but not be sticky. Generously flour a pastry mat or counter. Flatten one of the balls onto the floured surface and then roll out with a rolling pin, using a light touch. Use the rolling pin to transfer the pastry to a 9-inch pie dish. Ease the pastry loosely into position but do not press it into the pie plate. Add desired filling.

For a one-crust pie, trim the pastry, tuck ends under and crimp the edges. For a two-crust pie, roll out the second ball in the same manner as the first. Trim to fit. Fold in half to cut slits and transfer to top of pie. Unfold it, tuck the edges under and crimp, For a lattice crust, cut the rolled-out pastry into 1/2 strips and weave across the filling. A lattice crust is especially good for a juicy filling that needs lots of venting as it bubbles. (Berry pies, for example.)

To beautify the top of the crust you can either brush it with one beaten egg plus one tablespoon of milk or water. Or brush it with milk and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

I usually bake my two-crust pies at 350 degrees, no matter what the recipe says, to prevent over-browning. Adjust the baking time a few minutes longer to compensate for a lower temperature, if necessary.

For a baked single crust (for cream pies, etc), prick crust all over with a fork and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Trouble shooting: if your dough falls apart as you're rolling it out, it's too dry and needs more water. If the finished crust is tough, you may have over-mixed it (remember to toss, not stir), or the shortening lumps weren't left large enough. (Pastry gets its flakiness when the lumps of shortening melt and create little pockets of air.)

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