Pastry crust is considered one of the hardest things to cook as it is so easy to overwork it and have a tough leathery shell for your filling. I’ve tried several different recipes for making crust and have found that the faster you work in less careful you are the better your crust turns out. Your ingredients should be as cold as possible but still easy to work with. I’ve tried using frozen butter for example but it’s too hard and ends up requiring too much working. I have often overworked the crust and found that what I got in the end was more of dough than a flaky shell.
3 cups of flour some people will tell you to sift this but I find it makes no difference.
One sticks of butter a quarter pound as cold as possible.
A quarter teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar optional only use if you’re making a dessert pie
1 cup of ice cold water I actually drop ice cubes in this occasionally.
1 tablespoon of lemon juice optional I find that this gives the crust an interesting flavor.
Two eggs optional I found this once in a turnover recipe and found that it did make a nice crust. Please note that if you want to try using eggs in the crust it should be 5 cups of flour and two sticks of butter instead.
In a large bowl mix the flour sugar and salt stirring quickly with your fingers. You want to make sure that the sugar and salt are evenly distributed throughout the flour.
Cut the butter into small pats and mix into the flour with a fork or pastry blender. You want to press the fork or blender into the butter pats to break them apart to coat them with flour. This is the part I often get wrong I sometimes work the dough too much at this point forgetting that I do want large pieces of butter throughout the mix. I just find it so soothing to mix the butter throughout the flour. I get carried away. You should end up with fairly small pieces of butter in your bowl.
Now add the ice cold liquid. If you are using eggs this is also the time to put them in. Mix this quickly to not allow it to warm up. All you’re trying to do in this step is make sure that all the flour is moistened and will have a chance to incorporate properly on its own. The longer the dough sits in the refrigerator the more evenly the moisture moves throughout the dough. Place in a Ziploc bag or airtight container.
Place in the refrigerator until cold about two hours overnight preferred.
Once the dough is chilled break it apart into even portions leaving all but one in the refrigerator while you work. On a large flat surface preferably marble sprinkled generous portions of flour. And roll your piece of dough into this. Now take a rolling pin and begin to flatten out the piece of dough. There are two kinds of rolling pins a French rolling pin is fatter in the middle and tapers out to the ends. And a normal rolling pin is a flat surface with two narrow handles at either end. I tend to like the flat rolling pin for thicker heavier dough than pie. I like the French rolling pin for pie crust because it doesn’t leave you with thinner edges than the center. I always find that as you roll dough the edges always become thinner because they seem to get more attention. With the French rolling pin this does not seem to happen as much. A rolling pin should always be used in opposite directions every other stroke. So you should go up and down up-and-down then left to right left or right than from 1 o’clock to 7 o’clock and 11 o’clock to 5 o’clock and start over again. This will help your dough not become elongated and misshapen from the shape of the pan. Once you’ve completed the directions of rolling twice flip the dough over. Being sure to coat the upper surface with flour before flipping. The more flour you use the less likely your dough will be to stick to the surface. You can have too much flour so just make sure that your only coating the surface and not leaving lairs of flour on it. It’s also a good idea to make sure your rolling pin is coated with flour as well.
Keep your pie pan on hand this whole time to measure how large your circle of dough should be. When you place the pan on top of the dough a good 2 inches should overlap from all edges. Even more if it’s a deeper pie crust. Once your crust reaches the correct size flip the crust into the pan doing your best to center it. If you have a second pie pan you can press that lightly over top of the crust to push your crust into the pan properly. Otherwise use the heel of your hand in the flats of your fingers press the crust into the pan. Starting at the center of the pan lightly push the crust down until it touches the surface of the pan working your way out in a circle until you reach the outer edge. If you use a second pan you can quickly trim the edges with a paring knife making sure to leave just a little bit hanging outside between the two pans. If you’ve used your fingers to pat the crust down into the pan it’s best to pinch away the crust from the edges. Roll up all the trimmings with one of the other balls in the refrigerator and let it cool again. Repeat this process with all the crust until you are done you’re always going to have some trimmings that you throw out. However if you’re a person who hates to throw things away the trimmings can be coded lightly with sugar and cinnamon and baked for 10 to 15 minutes and then eaten as cinnamon sticks.
This base recipe should make 3 to 4 shells depending on the size of your pan. If the pie you are making requires a top and a bottom you do not need to roll out the top as large as the bottom but just to the size of the pan itself. However it is best to make it slightly larger so you can put more ingredients inside your pie. Once your pies filled flip the top onto your filled pan. I do make my tops and bottoms the same size because I like my pies quite large and filled to capacity. Taking a fork press down on the edges of the crust deep enough to leave ripple marks all the way around the outer surface. This helps the pie crust seal a little as well as giving the wonderful scalloped look a professional pies. Now take the same fork and poke holes all over the top surface making sure to break through the crust in several spots all over the pie. If you don’t do this the steam build up while the pie bakes will push liquids out the edges and make a mess in your oven. For some pies you may just want to lay strips of crust across the top surface overlapping each other and leaving the fruit exposed underneath. Pie Topps are allowed to break and have holes in them unlike bottoms.
Apple Pie filling
Peel and slice six large apples. If you’re lucky enough to have an apple peeler that cores and slices while you go your set. This is a wonderful old piece of kitchen equipment that saves a lot of effort and time. This device looks like some form of ancient crank device. There is a rubber circular base that has a crank allowing you to suction it to a counter. Then there are two bars going up from either edge of the base. One bar contains a blade that ends in a circular hole that is also a blade. The other bar holds the crank mechanism. The crank itself is a long bar with a handle sticking out of it at a right angle. The handle is at one end and the other end is three prongs in a triangle. The bar is ridged with a line that swirls around it from end to end. As you turn the handle on the bar the crank moves forward pushing the prongs towards the blade and eventually completely through the hole. If an apple is placed on the prongs the apple is also push towards the blade beginning the process of cutting circular spirals of Apple off of the fruit. There is also a tiny arm with an adjustable blade that scratches the surface of the Apple as it passes by removing a long strip of peel as it goes. The circular whole cuts away the core of the Apple as the Apple is pushed through by its own motion. I have found it simplest to put an apple on the prongs by sticking one finger through the whole of the blade and on one of the ends of the core of the Apple guiding the other end of the whole as straight as possible onto the prongs. Pushing is very hard as you can to get the Apple onto the prongs firmly begins the process of removing the core. You may need to still check your Apple for bits of core because as straight as you go apples don’t grow their cores the same size. It’s much easier than having to peel and core an Apple yourself by hand.
Add 1 cup of sugar and a half a cup of flour with the teaspoon of cinnamon. Mix thoroughly in place in the pie shell
Note that you can use any fruit this way. My favorite is strawberries and rhubarb. If you used canned fruits such as peaches or pairs be sure to drain the liquid from the can and not added to the filling. Having too much liquid in the pie shell will make a mess and not make the pie very tasty. If you are using canned fruit do not add additional sugar as many canned fruits are already over sugared.
Pumpkin pie filling
This recipe comes from Mike’s grandmother. I have had many different pumpkin pies in my time and find this one to be the tastiest of all. It’s moister than most and quite fluffy. Start with 2 cups of puréed pumpkin either canned or you can steam your own. If you’re interested in using fresh pumpkin you should peel the pumpkin first then take chunks and boil them until soft and drain them thoroughly. That’s it that’s all it takes. Note peeling a pumpkin though is very hard I find it’s easier to chunk it up into small pieces and then just cut away the outer quarter inch or so from the chunks than trying to peel the pumpkin hole. Be sure to remove as much of the seeds and pulp from the pumpkin as this tends to taste awful and not so flavorful. Sugar pie pumpkins are best but many a jack-o’-lantern has ended up in a pie in this house.
Now mix in 1 ½ cups of sugar and 1 ½ cups of milk and three quarters teaspoon nutmeg. Note I great my own nutmeg but you can use pre ground.
Three quarters teaspoon cinnamon finishes this off.
You can buy premixed pumpkin pie spice if you’d like but why bother.
Now separate three eggs and mix the yolks in with everything else. Beat the whites separately until they are thick and frothy. Now fold them in with the rest of the mixture. Then gently pour the mixture into the pie shells. Place the pies in a 350° oven and bake for about 45 minutes or until the center of the pie has become firmer and the crust is dark. Note I take the pies out of the oven at 45 minutes and use my fingers to lightly touch the top if my fingers find the surface tacky and some of the mixture sticking to them I stick them back in for 5 to 10 minutes. Unlike a cake you can take them in and out of the oven without wrecking them. This makes it easier for a blind person to know when the pies done.
If I do decide to use fresh pumpkin I freeze all the remaining pumpkin and use it in the next recipe. Cooked pumpkin freezes well and can be used from six months to a year later. I hope you enjoy this pie recipe and tell me what fruit you’ve added when you make your pies.