Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Every cook, at some time, decides to make a pie. For me, the crust is the backbone of the pie, and for most cooks, it's the hardest to achieve.Pie crust was my nemesis for many years, until I finally decided I was going to get it right if it hair-lipped the governor!

Enter, the Pie Chef.! The, in my opinion," guru" of pie crusts. She has gotten themdown to a science and I'm gonna tell ya how to do it for a no-fail experience.She taught me that the exact ingredients are the mos timportant thing,and the next most important thing is to sift the flour before and after measuring it.Doing those two things will almost gar-awn-tee you'll get a perfect product every time.

So,we'll start with the crust. The most common, and the one my grandmother always made, was one with shortening (she used lard then, but Crisco is what most people use now. I like to use a mixture of the two and it can be purchased in most grocery stores. It will say, " a mixture of vegetable and animal fats".Whichever one you want to use is fine for this crust, plain flour ( my personal choice is Martha White) and iced water. Just those three ingredients.

Here are the measurements for one crust:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup Crisco
dash salt
3 tablespoons ice water

for a double crust:
2 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup Crisco
dash salt
4 1/2 tablespoons ice water

for two crusts:
3 cups flour
1 cup Crisco
dash salt
6 tablespoons ice water

actually the "secret" to flaky crust is trapping the pieces of cold shortening between the layers of flour that have been moistened with iced water.To obtain that "flakiness" which is what we all desire, I suggest you chill the shortening before making the pie crust and use iced water..When I make pie crust I chill the shortening to get it hard enough to be cut into little pea-sized pieces, and cut it in with a food processor or a pastry cutter until the shortening is the size of peas.
Now don't laugh at this next instruction cause it works really well.( if you try it you'll see it does) I use a "sippy cup", the kind that has the little snap on lid that lets the liquid out slowly when a child drinks from it.( it works almost like a salt shaker) I measure the amount of water I'm using for ever how many crusts I'm making, and once I have the shortening cut into the flour, I sprinkle the required amount of water into that mix, tossing with a fork as I do so. Then I put it all in a ziplock bag and mash it together into a ball. Next I put it back into the fridge for about 5 minutes to make sure it's cold.( this keeps those little pea-sized pieces of shortening hard)Then I roll it out and put it in my pie pan, pop it into the freezer for 10 minutes and then bake as directed. The crust comes out flaky every time. I know this is a lot of pains to go to, but if you really want a flaky crust, it works! Try it sometime.
1. I always bake pies in the middle of my oven and I only use pyrex pie baking dishes, and the bottom crust is always nice and brown. But any pie pan will work. Pyrex just works better for me.

2. When I roll out a pie crust, I do so between two layers of plastic wrap. Then it's very easy to turn it into my pie plate and the plastic peels off easily once it's in there.

3. If, like me, you don't have kids..... try confiscating one of those "sippy cups" from a niece or nephew like I did LOL! You'll find it facilitates getting that iced water sprinkled in evenly and not having one big blob of dough that is wet and other parts that are bone dry.

4. The amount of water specified is just a guideline. The amount of humidity in the air will determine how much you really need. But the smaller the amount of water used, the flakier the crust will be.


1 13 cups flour
1 stick cold butter
dash salt
2 2/3 tablespoons ice water

for a pie with a top crust:
2 cups flour
1 1/2 sticks cold butter
dash salt
4 tablespoons ice water

I use the butter frozen and put it in a food processor for ease of mixing, but you can do this by hand too. Cut the butter into six pieces and add to flour in processor. Pulse enough times to get the butter into pea-sized pieces. Then add required amount of iced water while pulsing again to mix. DON'T OVER MIX OR CRUST WILL BE TOUGH

Another really good crust that goes great with a pumpkin pie is made using whole wheat flour. Here are the amounts for it.

for 1 crust
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup Crisco
dash salt
3 tablespoons ice water

for 2 crusts, double all ingredients

Process as with other crusts

And,finally, the meringue (or calf slobbers, as my grandpa used to call them). There are so many different ways to make meringue that I'm only going to give you the way I make mine which always stay pretty after the pie is done. First, remember to put meringue on top of a hot filling, Next, remember to seal it to all edges of the crust. And last,cook it at 350 degrees for about 20-25 minutes until brown. Here are the ingredients:

3-4 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
dash of salt
3-4 tablespoons sugar for each white
Combine all ingredients except sugar and mix until frothy peaks form when beaters are lifted out of the whites.Add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time while beating until all is incorporated. Spread on top of pie and bake.

VOILA`, a beautiful, tasty, pie! and don't cut it until it's cold so the filling will be firm

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