Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Autumn Pies

It's a cool autumn day and I reached a standstill, unable to decide which way to go with my latest sewing project. Sometimes you just need to take a break and let your mind settle on other things.

So, I baked pies this afternoon. One apple, one pumpkin, and one batch of leftover crust sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, rolled up and cut into little pieces just like my grandmother made for me when I was very small.

Alright, I admit it. My pie crusts are not at all beautiful to see. 

I simply can't get the knack of forming those pretty edges. I cut little hearts for the apple pie and twisted some 1 inch strips for the pumpkin pie. Not photo worthy, but it was the best I could manage today.

On the bright side, though, no one at my house worries much about the beauty of the crusts because they are too busy savoring the flavor and texture. You see, I have this special recipe. My crusts are light and flaky and downright yummy! 

I don't believe in secret recipes. Food is meant to share and so are the recipes. So here it is. 

Two little tricks for flakiness:  
1. Keep everything super cold. I even place the bowl and the flour in the freezer for about half an hour before using them. 
2. After the pies are filled, put them back in the refrigerator while you heat the oven. The colder the crusts are, the flakier they will bake. 

Master Pie Pastry

4 cups unbleached flour
3/4 cup very cold vegetable shortening
1 cup (2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter, cut in chunks
1 egg
2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup ice water

To make by hand: Place the flour in large mixing bowl. Cut in the shortening and butter until you have a crumbly, uneven mixture of small and large lumps of flour-covered fat. Stir together the egg, sugar, salt, and lemon juice. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, stir in the egg mixture with a fork and drizzle in most of the ice water. Using a fork or your fingers, toss the mixture together to moisten the flour. Stir to make a soft mass and pat it into dough consistency. Add remaining (or additional) ice water as required to make sure the dough sticks together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead briefly into a smooth dough. Divide it into two portions, and wrap in plastic wrap or place in ziploc bags. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour if using immediately. The dough can be kept in the refrigerator up to 3 days. It can also be frozen for up to 3 months. (To defrost, leave it in refrigerator overnight, then leave it on the counter for 2 hours or until it's defrosted but still cold.)

This makes enough dough for two 9-inch double pie crusts plus one 8" or 9"single crust, or for 12 mini tart shells plus 1 double pie crust. Follow your pie or tart recipe for baking temperatures and times.


Now, I need to get back to my sewing!