Saturday, November 23, 2013

Perfect Pie Pastry

Sigh.  I absolutely adore aliterations...

Where was I?

Oh, yeah, pie crusts.

For years I loathed the song "Billy Boy".  The one with infamous lyrics: "She can make a cherry pie with a twinkle in her eye..."  Where is that woman, I'd like to give her a shaking!  There is nothing sparkly about lard and flour all over your counter, floors, clothes and eye lashes.  There is no 'easy as pie' when the stupid lump of grease won't hold the flour together and it looks more like the Shroud of Turin than something you would put in your mouth.

But, I don't enjoy eating cake.  And my husband routinely requests pie for his birthday dinner.  And frozen pie crusts break my budget.

After years of frustration and endless forays into countless books, websites and little old lady counseling I finally learned something.

It doesn't take fancy ingredients.  You don't need a bowl of water with ice cubes, vinegar, boiling water or buttermilk.

It doesn't require fancy equipment.  You don't need a marble slab, french rolling pin or a Tupperware plastic pie size measurer thingie.   You don't even need an I Love Lucy apron.  But it is fun to wear...

What you need is:
2 cups regular ol' flour
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup shortening
6-7 Tbs cold (ish) water

Using a fork, mix the flour and salt together.  I use a fork instead of a pastry blender.  It works better for me.  Measure out 2/3 cup of shortening and mash in with the fork until everything is crumbly.  The more small crumbles of shortening and flour, the flakier the crust.  Evidently, the shortening melts in the oven, leaving a pocket of air, hence the coveted flakes.

HERE IS THE SECRET TO THE WHOLE THING: Turn your faucet to a slow trickle of cold water.  Start measuring into a Tablespoon, slowly pour out of spoon into crust mix while stirring with the fork.  TAKE YOUR TIME!  Mix 1 tablespoon at a time, moistening the dry parts in every corner of the bowl. (I know, round bowls don't have corners.  But you know what I mean)  By the end of 6 Tablspoons, meticulously stirred in, the consistency should be moist, but not soggy.  Rarely is the the 7th Tbs ever need.  I usually regret it if I do add #7.  Gather up all the loose but moist crumbles into a ball and let it sit for a few minutes.  This is a good time to prepare your scrumptious filling.  The sitting time lets all the parts suck in the water.  When you come back to it, it should be perfectly pliable, ready to roll out on a floured counter top with a floured rolling pin.  Bake as directed.

I have frozen lumps of pie dough in ziplock bags before.  It works, but you lose something in the texture if you thaw it in the microwave.  I have heard that you can roll it out and stack between sheets of wax paper in a brand new pizza box and freeze, but I've never had an un-used pizza box on hand to try that with.

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!