200 pie crusts, more or less

Jen here!  First, a quick lesson …

Essential Gear

12. Patience

It’s a quality and not a thing, but it’s essential so we’ll include it here.  Forget perfection on the first try.  In the face of frustration, your best tool is a few deep breaths, and remembering that you can do anything once you’ve practiced two hundred times.  Seriously.

That essential wisdom is found on page 1 of The Daring Book for Girls by Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz.  This is the companion book to The Dangerous Book for Boys.  We have both books (the Girls book is mine, and the Boys book is my husband’s – the kids do get to read them, though).  I think they’re wonderful.  Great read-alouds at bedtime.  All sorts of interesting things can happen upon reading them, such as spontaneous karate demonstrations, pajamas and all.

I have a goal.  I want to make pie crust, easily and flawlessly.  I don’t have much experience with pie crusts.  I don’t even generally care for fruit pies.  But, I am learning to can fruits and preserves this year, and realize the value of variety.  Also, you can do a lot of things with pie crusts:  fruit pies, custard pies, cream pies (I realize I will never match up to my mother-in-law’s chocolate pie), chicken (or beef or turkey or fish) pot pies, quiches, turnovers, Cornish pasties (or pumpkin pasties as my Hogwarts fans have been requesting), and even (or especially) pie crust cookies.

To begin with, I had to assemble the right tools:

  • a French rolling pin (or a regular rolling pin; I, luckily, found my French pin at T.J. Maxx for about $3; more about a French pin here),
  • a pastry mat (we have tile counters and small cutting boards – I didn’t have room for 12″ circles; I would love the Tupperware one; mine’s from Bed, Bath and Beyond, and cost about $6 after using my coupon (which won’t expire in California)),
  • and pie pans (probably the easiest thing to come up with; I think I just picked mine up from Target).

Now, I’m just working my way through all of my various pie crust recipes.  I understand that a food processor makes a good pie crust, but I don’t own one right now.  So I started with the recipe that came with my KitchenAid mixer.  It’s a basic recipe, and I found I had to add almost twice as much water as it called for.  The pie is cooking right now.  We’ll see how it comes out.

I’m going to work through this book from the Prepared Pantry.  I’m enjoying having these eBooks around as reference.  I’m also going to work through various books and their suggestions, including The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook (and I know they have a baking book, but I don’t have it), and I’ll look at some of my other “fat” cookbooks, like Joy of Cooking and books by Marion Cunningham (the new “Fannie Farmer”).  I think the closer to 200 pie crusts I get, the less the recipe is going to matter.  It will be my experience that will make the better pie crusts.

I open to suggestions and will try to let you know how things go around here.  I’m going to try things like grinding my own whole wheat pastry flour using the soft white wheat I picked up over spring break.  We’ll be using butter and shortening.  I’ll try the mixer again, and the pastry blender.  Looking at the overgrown chard in my garden, I think a vegetable quiche is probably up next.

So anyway, do any of you have pie crust suggestions?  (I just thought of Mary Poppins saying, “That’s a pie crust promise; easily made and easily broken.”)

Here’s where we are today, halfway through, using Amanda’s peach pie filling from last year:

Pie crusts 1 and 2, same recipe

Pie crusts 1 and 2, same recipe

I think this is probably a good time to ramp up my family’s activity level.  Time to get the kids off the computer and outside for summer running and playing.  (And did you know that after today we’re on the downhill slide to Christmas?)

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5 thoughts on “200 pie crusts, more or less

  1. Downhill slide? I haven’t even started shopping. I have the same issues with pie crusts. Mostly because the “best” ones often use shortening and that’s weird to me, and I just don’t have the wherewithall to be patient with crusts. I’m curious about Alton Brown’s, because I’m sure he has one. The amount of liquid has a lot to do with humidity, so you’ll add more than in the south or New England, and we have to add even more. But then again, I read that most people add too much liquid because they think they need it. I have no idea, but I too am on the quest for a good pie crust, but only after the heat comes back down in the fall – because our AC isn’t ready to turn on yet. It’s covered with stuff.

  2. Well, we just ate the last of the peach pie today. It’s the first fruit pie I’ve made and definitely the first one that we ate all of that I can remember. (A couple of months ago, somebody gave us a restaurant pie in a drive-by-pie-ing, and it didn’t get finished.) We also got a box of peaches and apricots (thanks Dad and Melanie) that are slowly ripening in my living room. I’m thinking there’s another pie in my future – at least some pie filling to put on the shelves.

  3. Hi guys, I think my pie crust recipe is pretty good, and easy too (at least I think it’s easy). It uses a 2:1 flour to fat ratio. So for 1 cup of flour, you use 1/2 cup of shortening (my friend always used butter but I like good ol’ Crisco). Put in the flour , 1/2 teaspoon of salt, mix it around. Add the shortening and cut it in – I use a pastry blender but a couple of knives will work as well. Once the fat is all cut into the flour, add your water. I start sprinkling about 1/4 cup and mix it with light strokes using a fork until it starts to ball up. I do a little section at a time until I can make a ball with it. The secret I’ve learned about pie crust is don’t mess with it too much. That’s what makes it tough. Also, you need to use enough fat, that’s what makes it flaky. Have fun!

  4. I have to put in my 2 cents. Surprisingly, the Betty Crocker pie crust has always been very good and relatively easy. That’s the one my mom has used for years and years and years. Since FOREVER. I also really like the standard pie crust from Joy of Cooking. Surprisingly easy to work with. Aside from making sure you don’t have too much or too little moisture and I have to second Eileen in saying don’t mess with it too much. Handle it as little as possible. At first, that means you’ll handle it a lot, I know, I’ve been there. But the more you do it the less you’ll find you have to handle it and the flakier and more tender your pie crusts will be. Handling makes it tough and melts the fat (be it shortening or butter). You want the fat to melt in the oven so that it creates steam and hence flakiness. Good luck on your pie adventures!

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