Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Daily Lesson in Pie Crusts

I have never been crazy about the looks of my
pie crusts, particularly the fluting around the edge.
I have always insisted on making my own pie crusts and I have
not bought one of those ready boxed pie crusts in many years.
However, my making sporadic pies apparently have not 
sharpened the looks of my crusts.  As a trained chef, I know the
importance of repetition. Whether I am wanting to do
things at a faster pace or wanting perfection in whatever
I am making, it just takes repetition and perseverance
As my first challenge in the New Year, while the rest of the world
was deciding which diet to go on, I decided I would make
a pie a day until I got my pie crusts looking like what I thought to
be professional looking. I was prepared to go the whole 31 days
of January if necessary.  A whole month of pies!

Day 1, January 1st, I began by making a single pie crust,
blind-baking it, then turning it into a quiche.
 I made a crab quiche with half Gruyere cheese, half Monterey
Jack cheese and threw in some green onions for added flavor.
As you can see, my pie crust looks pretty bad. Ugly and
on the thick side. I used all butter in this crust.
Better luck the next day. 
The next day I made a lemon meringue pie.  I am lucky to have
a Meyer lemon tree in my backyard, so lemons are my free
ingredient when cooking, or in this case, baking.  I used a recipe
from Martha Stewart's New Pies and Tarts cookbook. I didn't
care for the recipe because the lemon filling took way too long
to set.  I also used her Mile-High Meringue from the book
which used 8 egg whites.  As you can see, it looks impressive
and pretty, but I'm not crazy about eating 4 inches of 
meringue and 1 1/2 inch of filling on top of the crust. (Now if it
were 4 inches of whipped cream that would be a different story!)
If you are wondering if I will be eating all these pies, the answer
is no.  I actually gave this pie to my sister and niece to enjoy.
On Day 3, I made a chocolate pie.  Chocolate pie was always my
favorite and made for me by my grandmother.  Virtually every
time I would stop by my grandmother's house, she had one for me.
No kidding!  She did this for years.
For this crust, I switched to half butter and half Crisco shortening.
I really do like the added flakiness and tenderness Crisco lends to the
dough and the flavor of the butter.  As you can see, I got a tad better with
 the looks but I was still rolling it out too thick for my liking. This time, I went
with a 5 egg-white meringue which is what my grandmother always used.  I was 
happy with it - though still not my end goal - and it was very delicious.
 On Day 4, I made another Lemon Meringue. I used
a modified recipe variation by using Martha Stewart's Lemon
Meringue I made on Day 2 and the Lemon Meringue recipe
that I think I had cut out of a side on a box of cornstarch many
years ago.  My crust has improved but I still wasn't there.

For the next 3 days, Days 5-8, I concentrated solely on the
pie crusts.  Made one each morning, rolled it out,
blind-baked it, then tossed it.  I know, wasteful :(, but
I did not want the expense of making pie fillings,
nor was I or other members of my family wanting the calories!
By Day 9, I was FINALLY getting the crust which I was happy and
content with.  Looking great and the perfect thickness.
You can see my progress from the Day 4 crust on the
 above left compared to my Day 9 crust on the right.
Yes, I was pleased!
Day 9's crust went into making this (again!) Lemon Meringue Pie,
same variation recipe plus I used some milk in the liquid to achieve
the pretty yellow color.  If using all water for the liquid, the lemon
filling would have been a more translucent yellow.  I think it gives
it a more creamier-looking color using the milk.  I then piped around
the inside edges with whipped cream instead of the egg-white
meringue. I was so happy that I decided my goal was achieved
and Day 9 happened to be my last day of pie crust making!
It was a success and I can now make pie crusts in my sleep.
Just after 9 days.

Here is the pie crust recipe that I am happy with:

Blind-Baked Pie Crust
Adapted from Martha Stewart's recipe for Pate Brisee
2 1/2 cups cold All-Purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1/8 t. sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter
1/2 cup cold shortening
1/2 cup ice cold water
Combine flour with salt and sugar. Cut in the butter and shortening until slightly larger than pea sizes.  Slowly add 1/2 cup very cold water as you stir the mixture.  Using hands, massage the dough until it comes together when squeezed.  Wrap in plastic or waxed paper and put in refrigerator for 1 hour.  Take out pie dough, roll out to desired size and thickness, and place into baking pie pan being careful not to stretch.  Prick with fork around the bottom and sides. Put back into refrigerator for 1/2 hour.  Take out and place a larger square of parchment paper inside and fill it with pie weights or beans.  Bake for 375 degrees for apx. 18 minutes - until the side edges just begin to brown.  Take out of oven and carefully remove the parchment paper holding the hot pie weights.  Put the empty pie crust back into the oven for another apx. 12 minutes until nicely browned. (It takes about 30 minutes total time for the crust to evenly brown, but this depends on your oven.)  Take out of oven and rest the pie crust plate on a cooling rack to cool.  At this point you can use it for a pie or place into a 2 1/2 gallon ziploc (plate and all) and place in freezer for use later.
I truly like the feeling of knowing I can make a pretty good pie crust,
If I say so myself!
Thank you for visiting me!
This week I will joining Rattlebridge Farm's Foodie Friday 
where there are weekly recipes and ideas for food linked up every Friday.

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