November 21, 2013

Euna Mae's Favorite Pie Crust

Euna Mae was famous for her fried peach hand-pies that she cooked in a cast iron skillet. Her pie pastry was so deliciously flaky with just the right amount of salt to balance the sweet! I tried 37 recipes for pie pastry before I finally called her to ask her about her crust. I had always used an all-butter crust  (pâte brisée) which had loads of flavor but was heavier.  Euna Mae told me that she would never dream of making pie pastry without using shortening in addition to butter because it made the crust so light and flaky. So since then that's what I've used: both butter and shortening! This winning combination ensures flavor, flakiness, and tenderness all in one! 
First, please let me randomly get these few thoughts off my chest before I share Euna Mae's Favorite Pie Crust recipe...

There is no substitute for homemade crust. Yes, there is a quicker option in the refrigerated section. But y'all. There's no substitute that comes anywhere near the flaky, salty, goodness that is homemade.

You. Can. Do. It. I have heard masses of you say, "Pie crust scares me." You've literally said those words to me. And I understand. I used to be afraid of anything that required yeast. But we grow and learn and become better forms of ourselves. And making your own crust will honestly make you feel womanly euphoria like natural childbirth or buying your first nice area rug.

Pie crust takes a little practice. Don't be discouraged your very first try if your pastry isn't just right. Practice makes perfect. And the silver lining is that you get to eat a lot of pie while you're trying! Win-win, y'all.

There are a some very specific details that are critical to making a good crust. So pay attention to them. Amen.

{This recipe is large and makes 4 individual pie discs. 
I figure as long as I'm aproned and have all of the ingredients out, I might as well make a bunch of dough.}

5 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 3/4 cups cold solid vegetable shortening like Crisco, cut into larger pieces than the butter
1 cup of ice water
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar (white vinegar will do)

Cut the cold butter and and cold shortening into pieces on a cutting board and place the whole cutting board in the freezer.  In a measuring cup, combine one cup of water and the vinegar; set the water/vinegar cup in the freezer along with the butter and shortening pieces. And let all of that get cold, cold, cold.

Meantime, in your largest mixing bowl, combine the flour and the salt and mix together.

Add the butter to the flour mixture and, using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. This may take a while. Then add in the shortening pieces, and continue to cut it into the flour/butter mixture. When it's cut in correctly, the mixture will look like clumps and curds.
Drizzle the cold water/vinegar (minus the cubes) all over the dough, and use a wooden spoon to incorporate the liquid, stirring carefully, and not stirring it to death. The dough will not look smooth and completely combined like a batter would. It is ready to be turned out onto a floured surface when you can grab a little handful of it, squeeze it, and it sticks together. If the dough does not stick together, stir in additional tablespoons of water at a time. It is better to add too much water than too little; but add it little bits at a time.

With two hands, gather the dough together into a slightly crumbly ball while in the bowl; then turn out onto a lightly floured surface (a cold surface like marble or granite is better than plastic or wood). Fold the dough over onto itself just a few times but do not overwork the dough. Gently kneading it just a few times will bring it together and smooth it a little more.

Shape the dough into a big fat log and cut it in half and then half again, making four individual dough sections. I pick each of them up and feel the weight in my hands to see if any of them are heavier than the others. I pinch off sections of heavier ones and pat them into lighter ones to equal them out. Or you can weigh each section on a kitchen scale if you're fancy like that.  Place each individual dough section into the middle of a quart-sized freezer-safe baggie. While the baggie is unsealed, use a rolling pin to flatten the dough to fill the baggie. Then seal the bag. Repeat this step until you have four pie dough discs. 
Chill dough in the fridge for at least an hour before rolling it. Dough may stay in the refrigerator for as long as 5 days.  Or you may freeze the discs in the baggies and defrost them overnight in the refrigerator when you need them. 

Allow refrigerated pastry dough to sit on the counter at room temperature for 5-7 minutes before cutting open the baggie, removing the disc, and rolling the crust on a floured surface for your pie or tart.
Ta-da! See, not so bad?! I'll share pie crust tips for rolling, crimping, and other pie-dough details. Then you will have everything you need to know to be able to make a homemade pumpkin pie (or any other pie!) from top to bottom for your Thanksgiving holiday! See you back here tomorrow! Hooray!