Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My Favorite Pie Crust

Oh, friends. How have we come this far and I haven’t shared my favorite pie crust recipe with you? This is vital information and I’m sorry I’ve held out on you. It’s not okay. Because this pie crust is really something.

Now, I know practically everyone has a favorite pie crust recipe, each one with a little secret, a tweak on the basics that is supposed to guarantee a perfect pie crust experience. In fact, I love hearing about people’s pie crust recipes and their little tricks, and have been known to ask such probing questions as party conversation. Pretend you didn’t just hear that.

And in the food blogosphere, well, there seems to be as many reinventions of the pie crust wheel as there are metatarsal-stabbing wooden puzzle pieces on my living room carpet right now, which is to say a temple massage-inducing number. Many are awesome and reliable in their own ways--Deb has one, Joy has one that you don’t even have to roll out, and the great Lebovitz has one that's all Frenched out. And now I’m adding to the madness with one more variation for you, the pie crust recipe that has my heart forever and ever.

My favorite pie crust is a formula that comes from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book, but I throw the whole thing together in the food processor. It’s an irresistibly golden, crisp, flaky, all-butter, melt-in-your-mouth crust with a genius hit of baking powder that really makes it foolproof. It comes together in minutes. It’s a crust that you don’t have to be so precious with; even if you give a few too many pulses with the processor or handle it a wee bit too much (cardinal sins of pie crust making), that tiny bit of baking powder will give enough lift to correct all that. Pastry insurance, if you will. It’s a beautiful thing.

With Spring finally springing for so many of us and sweet little fruity specimens just starting to peek out at the markets, there’s no better time to figure out what your favorite pie crust is, guys. I hope you’ll try this one and it makes this Pie Season extra awesome for you. Yeah, I said pie season. I just invented it. And I think I’m in love with the idea.

So do tell, darling readers...what's your favorite pie crust recipe?

My Favorite Pie Crust
Adapted from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book

This recipes makes two crusts, enough for a double-crust pie. If you need just one pie shell, halve the amounts. I make this in a food processor, but you could also do it by hand with a pastry cutter and grating frozen sticks of butter with the large holes of a box grater right into the dries. Put your flour in the freezer for 30 minutes, keep the butter in the fridge until right before you use it and use ice water--cold ingredients are key here. For a savory crust, I include the smaller amount of sugar as listed here--it's great for flavor and browning. For sweet pies, you can add more as you like, up to 2 tablespoons.

Makes enough dough for 1 double-crusted pie or 2 single, 10-inch crusts

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon to 2 tablespoons sugar (see note)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/4 teaspoon table salt)
1 cup (2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
6 to 8 tablespoons ice water

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Pulse a few times to blend. Sprinkle the butter pieces over the dry ingredients. Pulse until the butter is the size of large peas.

Add 6 tablespoons of the water and pulse until the dough just begins to form a ball (you may need to add up to 2 tablespoons more of the ice water). Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gather it into a ball. Divide the dough in half, and gently pat each half into a disc. Wrap each disc tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling.

After you roll out the crust and place it in the desired pan, let it chill for 15-30 minutes in the refrigerator before baking to prevent shrinking.

To prebake or blind bake this crust, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the pie shell with parchment or aluminum foil and fill with pie weights. Bake for 25-30 minutes covered, then remove the pie weights and liner and bake until lightly golden, about 10 to 15 minutes more. Cool completely on a wire rack before filling.

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