Learning As I Chop

Pie Crust, Two Ways

Posted in Baking/Cooking, Tips by R @ Learning As I Chop on November 24, 2010

Always looking for a new culinary adventure, and aiming to bake pies that are fully-from-scratch, I decided to attempt my hand at homemade crust. Any savvy hostess knows that you never serve a first-time recipe to your guests, so I tested some ideas over the weekend.

The first was from my favorite culinary encyclopedia – the J of C.  Disappointed to see that it asked for shortening (I don’t know why but shortening really scares me), but even more surprised to find some in our cabinet, I put on my bravery-cap and forged ahead. I placed the shortening in the fridge, picked-up Saran Wrap (to cover the dough disks before rolling) and got to work. But not before asking for some support from Facebook. Thanks to our friend S, who defined a pastry blender for me. And here I was thinking that my regular blender who work just as well.

I played with the shortening, and whirled the mixture together in my food processor (first time using the dough blade!), however I automatically knew something went wrong. The dough felt way too, well, slimy. Granted I had never made dough before, but when someone says that the mix should feel like sand, and you’re holding dense goop, you know something has gone awry.

(I made quite the mess.)

But I didn’t stop. I thought to myself “you’ve had doubts before and then things turn out ok, so maybe this time will be the same.” So I cleared my counter, sprayed it down (thanks to H who taught me about the importance of kitchen sanitation) and got to work. Ok, I’ll admit it, H helped too.

Above are two dough disks. Should’ve floured the surface BEFORE putting them down.

Although the table and rolling pin were nicely covered, the dough still stuck to them. And fell apart. And just plain didn’t work. Truthfully, I think the butter and shortening weren’t cold enough, which apparently is half the battle. Plus, I’ve decided that I just really don’t like shortening. It’s greasy and greasy pans are a pain when you don’t have a dishwasher.  Who wants to create extra work for herself? Not this girl.

So I scrapped the dough, mourned for a moment and decided to try again. Because there was dinner to make (a leek tart that called for a pie shell) and pizza-delivery was not an option. At least not for me. In a desperate measure, I therefore turned to google and entered “easy pie crust.” I wasn’t about to attempt any culinary awards; I just wanted to succeed. Here’s what I found:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons white sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 tablespoons milk

 Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

Place all ingredients in 9 inch pie pan. Stir together with fork. Pat mixture into bottom and up the sides of the pan. Poke holes in bottom and side of crust.

Bake for 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until light brown. Use as directed in favorite pie recipe.

No need to roll anything? √ No shortening? √ √ Let’s go.

(We tried rolling it and then abandoned that idea. Spreading it with your fingers is kind of fun and mindlessly relaxing.)

This recipe was as easy as promised, and I was happily successful. However, in a maniacal haze, I accidentally used 2 tbsp rather than 2 tsp of sugar. Not a terrible mistake, but it definitely made the crust taste “a little bit like shortbread,” according to H.

The next day, I went to work and naturally discussed my two crusts with my culinary colleagues. Here’s a rolling trick, thanks to my friend C – place the dough in between two layers of parchment paper or silpats and roll it that way. Truthfully I’m a little wary of silpats (heating silicone-based anything next to my food freaks me out) but I might buy some just for this perk.

In any case, if you need an easy crust, I definitely recommend this one. Anyone can do it. Trust me.

But regardless of what you’re eating this holiday – turkey, tofurkey, turducken – have a wonderful Thanksgiving! And enjoy!

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2 Responses

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  1. Sabina Calhoun said, on November 24, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    the first crust is what you would call “over worked.” The idea with tart pastry is that you are cutting fat into flour in the first step to cover as much of the flour with fat as possible–this prevents gluten development–which is the stringy gooey stuff that your first crust became. The time the flour and shortening spent in the cuisinart should have been seconds–quick bursts until that sandy texture was achieved.

    And if you want to roll dough, you have to chill it first, the butter needs to harden up. That is why you can’t roll the second dough–oil stays liquid even when chilled.

    The french version has eggs in it, and I found this little video which shows the sanding part–he does it with his hands completely, I begin with the pastry blender then do the last bit by hand. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKOHYIMhcYE&feature=related

    You want gluten to develop for bread baking, but not for pie crust and biscuits.

    Ok I will stop going on and on. I can’t help myself–you know I went to culinary school.

  2. R @ Learning As I Chop said, on November 24, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    And that, dear readers, is our lovely friend S described above. Thank you S!


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