So, remember my last-minute dinner party, that featured paprika-cayenne roast chicken? Back when I was just planning on bringing something to someone else’s dinner party, I had big plans for this pie — strawberry-rhubarb, just when rhubarb was coming into stores. I have been meaning to post about it since then, but I wanted to make it an extra-special post…a slideshow!
This is not a slideshow about making pie, exactly. It’s much more a slideshow about making pie crust, which seems to have attained mythical stature among even the most talented and ambitious cooks I know. Most people, after baking long enough, have one recipe for pie crust that is their go-to pie crust recipe, with just the right amount of flakiness and flavor. I don’t (though I would welcome suggestions, commenters). I actually think, unless the recipe really screws you, that the success of a pie crust depends a lot more on technique and, therefore, on practice. Here are a few really important things to keep in mind when making a pie crust:
1. You should use a mix of fats — both shortening (Crisco or lard, I use Crisco) and butter. Butter will give flavor, shortening makes things lighter and flakier.
2. The fats need to be cold. Keep them in the fridge just until you are going to use them.
3. You can use a food processor to make the dough, but at least the first couple times I really think you should use your hands. You will get greasy. You will also get a good feel for what the texture of the dough needs to be.
4. Be careful when adding the ice water (and make sure it is ice water). Throw a few tablespoons in at first, but then add tablespoon by tablespoon.
5. Don’t cheat on chilling in the fridge, but don’t overdo it either. Rolling dough out still kind of flummoxes me, so I can’t really hold forth on that. I mean, come on, I’m using a wine bottle.
Here, in its full clickable glory, the pie crust slideshow (full recipe for pie crust and filling, and better explanation of technique, after the jump):
This recipe is originally from Bon Appétit, slightly adapted to explain a little better how to do this for your first time, and without a food processor.
3 c. all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
2/3 c. chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
1/2 c. plus 2 tbsp. (1 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
10 tbsp. (about) ice water
1. Combine flour, sugar and salt in large mixing bowl.
2. Plop butter and shortening cubes into bowl. Making a snapping motion with your hands between your thumb and the rest of your fingers, work the fats together with the flour mix to make a coarse meal (some remaining pea-sized clumps are okay). See slide 2 for the right texture.
3. Adding the water is the trickiest part, I think. To add the ice water this is what I do (not necessarily what a cookbook would recommend): Add about five tablespoons of ice water (and I mean from a glass of water with actual ice cubes in it) off the bat. Work that in (yes, with your hands). You don’t want to work dough too much or it will get tough, so do your best with it, but when it seems like you’ve gotten as far as you’re going to get, it’s time to start adding more water. One tablespoon at a time, work in more water until moist clumps form. The amount of water you add will depend a lot on the climate — if it’s humid, you might not need to add so much water. You don’t want to add so much water that the dough gets tacky and sticky, only enough so that you can get everything to just hold together.
4. Form dough into a ball and divide in two. Make each half into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and put in the fridge for at least one hour. (You can chill dough overnight, just thaw it at room temperature a bit before rolling out.)
3 1/2 c. 1/2-inch-thick slices trimmed rhubarb (1 1/2 pounds untrimmed)
1 16-oz. container strawberries, tops trimmed off and sliced in half, lengthwise
1/2 c. (packed) golden brown sugar
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. cornstarch
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1 large egg yolk beaten to blend with 1 tsp. water (for glaze)
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Make filling: Combine first 7 ingredients in large bowl and stir, gently, so it’s all blended.
3. Roll out one disk of dough. Best way to do this: Put two sheets of either parchment paper or wax paper down on a kitchen table or counter, overlapping. Sprinkle flour over paper. Plunk dough down, squash down a little with hands, and sprinkle that with flour. Using a rolling pin (or a bottle substitute), also sprinkled with flour, roll out to a round about 13 inches in diameter. I actually measured my rolled out pie crusts the first few times I made them, however many years ago. A little anal, but it trained me well…
4. Get rolled out disk into pie pan. Turn pie pan over onto flattened dough. Picking up the whole shebang (paper included), flip the whole thing over, peel paper off, and settle dough into pan. It should have about 3/4 inch of overhang — rip some dough off the parts that have more and attach it to the parts that have less, or parts that just need some repairing.
5. Fill with rhubarb filling.
6. Roll out second disk, following same instructions as in step 4. If you want, you can just attach that over the filled pie as a top crust, with some ventilation holes cut in. Nicer, though, and harder (but more fun!) is the lattice-top crust. I still can’t super-successfully make a lattice, but it seems to be going more and more okay. What you want to do is basically create a basket weave over your pie. To do that, you need to cut the disk into strips (to weave with). The recipe says to cut into fourteen strips; I could only get ten out of it, and to be honest, I’m not sure I’d want to deal with more than that anyway. Lay five of the strips evenly spaced out and going one direction over the pie. Now comes the hard part. You don’t just want to lay the other five strips over the first five going the other way. Tempting, but it will look bad when it’s done. You want to weave them in and out of the strips that are already on the filling. This is going to take some practice, and some patience, and some repairs. But it will be beautiful, really! See slide 6 for a close-up of the lattice and to get a better idea of what I’m talking about.
7. Finish crust: Press ends of strips into the pie crust overhang along the rim of the pie plate to seal them in. Fold the overhang over the ends of the strips to seal the whole thing. Then…crimp! Squish a little bit of the crust between your thumbs to make a little ridge. Repeat over and over again all the way around the pie plate. See slide 7 for close-up.
8. Optional: Glaze crust with beaten egg, using a pastry brush. I have no ideas how to do this without a brush, and luckily one came with my kitchen set from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Maybe you could dip a clean paper towel in the glaze and run it over the crust?
9. Cut strips of foil and scrunch them around the edges of the crust (so it doesn’t bake too fast). Put pie on baking sheet (in case the filling spills over). Pop in oven. Bake 20 minutes, and reduce temperature to 350 degrees F. Bake for another 40 minutes or so, until things are starting to look cooked and the middle is looking less raw. Remove foil. Bake for another 20-40 minutes, until everything is golden brown and looking scrumptious.
The pie, by the way, really should cool for at least an hour or so, if you can contain yourself. Cooling will help the filling solidify.