Monday, June 2, 2008

Homemade Pie Crust

With very little practice, homemade pie crust is simple to make and literally costs pennies on the dollar when compared to store bought. For a two crust pie, all you need is:
1 c. all-purpose flour (I use unbleached)
1 c. whole wheat flour (I always add as much whole wheat as possible - it's healthier)
1 tsp. salt (I use finely ground sea salt)
2/3 c. shortening (I use all vegetable, non-hydrogenated)
5-7 tbls. ICE water (very important - I literally add ice cubes to the water)

Combine flours and salt. Cut shortening with pastry cutter or two knives into flour and salt until mixture resembles fine crumbs, as pictured above.
Add water, one tablespoon at a time. Stir vigorously after each addition until dough begins coming together in bowl so you can form a ball. Turn the dough out onto a floured pastry cloth (the most valuable tool I have for making pies), divide dough in half to form two balls. Cover one with a damp cloth and flatten the other into a disk. Cover your rolling pin with cloth tube (an old, clean tube sock with the toe cut off works well) and begin rolling the dough to form a circle. Roll vertically, horizontally and even diagonally. If the shape isn't perfect, don't worry because you are going to trim and crimp the edges anyway.
When the dough is large enough to cover the bottom and sides of the pie plate, with a little bit of overhang, roll it up onto the rolling pin and unroll it over the pie plate. (If you are making a double crust pie, repeat the above procedures for the top crust. If not, just wrap the extra ball of dough in plastic and refrigerate for 1-2 days or freeze until you are ready to make another pie.) With your kitchen scissors, trim any excess dough to within 3/4 in. of pie plate, fold edges under and crimp. Remember to cut steam slits in the top crust if you are making a double crust pie. Follow individual pie recipe for oven temperature - usually somewhere between 350 degrees and 425 degrees.

Helpful Hint: If, while rolling dough out on pastry cloth you find it is cracking and not staying together then your dough is too dry. Simply return it to the bowl and knead in an additional 1-2 teaspoons ice water until it is pliable enough not to crack. On the other hand, if your dough is extremely sticky, then it is too wet. Again, return it to the mixing bowl and knead in 1-2 tablespoons flour until it is not sticky.

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