Why are some flaky and tender and why were mine usually tough like cheap shoe leather? It’s not fair.
My lineage includes terrific pie crust bakers: my Grannie Raven (Mom’s mom) who made my grandpa his favorite lemon meringue on special occasions and my Grandma London (Dad’s mom) who made us her chocolate cream pie on every occasion. Unfortunately, both of them went on to pie-baking heaven before I was interested enough to sign up for a personal class.
My mom, who is wonderfully still baking pies here on planet Earth, makes a mean strawberry pie. When we’re together we seem to talk about everything – just not how to achieve crust perfection.
When a request comes in for me to make a pie, I’m paralyzed by pie crust phobia.
I’ve successfully ducked this fear by sneaking in a store-bought crust under my sour cream apple pies each autumn. The filling recipe, torn from the tattered pages of my beloved “Silver Palate” cook book is so delicious, the standard crust goes unnoticed. And also un-praised.
But, this month, when my husband Scotty asked for a lemon meringue pie – just like Grampa Raven – I was determined to make a praise-worthy crust. Scotty usually asks for Key lime – so graham cracker crusts have saved me from dough crust embarrassment. But here in Tuscany, I haven’t been able to find Key limes or graham crackers.
Without help from my mother, but with a lot of help from the internet, I found a recipe, carefully watched a couple of step-by-step videos and – eccolo, ‘here it is!’ –
Okay, so I should’ve made it a little bigger to span the extra-large Italian frittata pie tin I have, and I’m not an artistic crust-fluter yet, but, I assure you this crust was buttery, flaky, and extremely tasty!
Linked here and written out below – is the recipe I used. Unlike other attempts. this time I took the instructions seriously. I have learned that, as with other tense circumstances in life, the key word is “Chill.”
Now I’m a true believer that the butter must be chilled before it’s cut into the dry ingredients; you must continue to cut and cut until the mixture looks like cornmeal (not corn kernel) sized crumbs; you must not use too much water and finally, you must chill the dough for a few hours before you roll it out.
Amazing how easy something becomes when you actually follow the directions.
(a single 9 inch crust – so increase accordingly!)
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, first diced, then chilled for about 30 minutes before cutting in
1/4 cup of ice water – you shouldn’t use all the water!
Combine flour and salt. Cut in chilled diced butter until it resembles coarse crumbs. Really, that small. Stir in ice water a tablespoon at a time until you are able to form a ball. Don’t use all the water. Form the dough into an inch thick disc and wrap it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least four hours. Lightly flour your rolling surface and rolling pin and roll out dough to about 12 inches in diameter to have room to go up the sides of your pie dish. I gently wrapped the rolled-out dough around my rolling pin and then lifted it over the pie dish for my first successful, no break, transfer!
Press the dough evenly on the dish – since this recipe is so buttery, you don’t need to grease or flour the pan. Bake according to your pie recipe instructions.
Let me know how it goes. Or tell me other life lessons we can apply from baking!