For Pie Lovers: Six steps to make an excellent crust

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Treat.”

A couple years ago I was struggling with a pie crust, when my daughter frowned over my shoulder and asked — why aren’t you using your no-fail recipe?

Wha–?

I’d given her the recipe, then forgot all about it. She dug it out, saving the day. It worked. But — does it pass muster in the real world of pie-making, or do I like it because I can manage to roll it out?

We Epicureans decided to test my no-fail version against two other crusts.

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Added the crust bake-off to our pumpkin carving party.

Here are the contenders (recipes below):

  • JBW’s “no-fail” crust
  • Bev’s Martha Stewart video-inspired recipe. According to Martha, a five-year-old could do it. We’ll see.
  • Beckie, our amazingly talented cook and baker, tried a new recipe, rather than her standard part-butter, part-Crisco version.
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Ready, set …

Two rules for pie crust:

  1. Use cold ingredients.
  2. Don’t fuss. Work quickly.

Here’s how it went:

Step one — cut up cold butter:

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Beckie’s butter
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Bev’s
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Julie’s

Step 2: add salt and flour, cut butter into flour until butter is in pea-sized bits.

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Beckie uses a food processor.

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Step 3: Add liquids. Toss with fingers or fork, just until dough holds together in a ball. Might not need all the liquid called for.

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The face of the Virgin Mary appears on my dough ball. Or maybe a zombie. A good omen, surely.

Step. 4: wrap dough in air-tight plastic or container. Refrigerate at least fifteen minutes, or put in freezer for a shorter time.

While the crust is chilling out, prepare the filling.

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Bev attached this cool apple slicer to my KitchenAid mixer.
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Another tip from Bev: use a melon baller to core.
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No gadgets for Julie. Just hack away with peeler and paring knife. None of those price stickers made it into the filling. Honest.

Step 5: Roll

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Beckie & Bev roll dough on a pastry cloth. Doesn’t need as much flour to keep from sticking. It’s good if butter bits show.
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Julie dips hands in cold water to gather the dough, uses lots of flour and rolls out on counter-top. Phew. Made it in one piece. No visible butter bits though.
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Bev prepares strips for her woven top.

Step 5: Bake

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Beckie’s pear-cranberry pie topped with walnuts and caramel sauce
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Bev’s apple pie on the left. Note how her KitchenAid-sliced apples fill the crust. Julie’s thicker-sliced apples settled, leaving the woven top suspended over the top. Like the Super Dome.

Step 6: Let cool. If pie is too hot, juices are runny.

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Cheers. On the left, sample crusts with cinnamon and sugar, ready for taste testing.

Drum roll. And the winner is …

Martha Stewart. My crust was pretty good, but — Bev’s was best, just the right amount of crispy and flaky. Beckie swears her crust was a disaster, although it actually was delicious. Nevertheless, she’s withholding the recipe, and going back to her standard.

Unknown

Notes: 1. Because our bottom crusts were soggy, Beckie advises that next time, Bev and I use a lower rack in the oven. 2. Bev didn’t like how tightly packed her KitchenAid-sliced apples were, and will hand-slice in the future. 3. Beckie’s pear and cranberry filling was out of this world. Hoping she’ll divulge the recipe in a future post. 

Recipes:

UnknownBev’s: 2 sticks (one cup) unsalted butter, 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 cold milk with 1/4 ice water.

imagesJulie’s: 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, 1 1/2 cups flour, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons milk, 1/4 teaspoon vinegar, 1/4 cup ice water, or less

Have funny pie-making stories to share? A no-fail recipe of your own? If  it’s not trademarked, leave it in the comments for us. We might have to keep experimenting, since Beckie now wants a retrial with her standard. Happy baking.

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5 thoughts on “For Pie Lovers: Six steps to make an excellent crust

    1. Couldn’t swear to this, but a certain 2011 King Estate Pinot supplied by Bev might, if it happened to appear again, be a key to the recipe lock box. I believe the adjective Beckie used to describe it was luscious.

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  1. Pingback: Visit from summer | Epicurean Eugene

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