01 January 2011

A crust to count on

Every cook needs a good pie crust recipe. Even if you've never made pie before, you at least need one stored somewhere in the kitchen. Eventually, nearly every cook, no matter how skilled, gets a hankering for making a pie.

There's Thanksgiving, the king of all pie holidays. And come July, those fresh peaches will need to go somewhere. And the brunch you want to host would be amazing if you could whip up a quiche.

Done. Here it is. Any pie crust is just a combination of fat and flour plus a little water. But despite being so simple, there are bad crusts out there. You've likely had one. If you're like me, you've even made one (or several). That's because the trick to pie crust isn't in the ingredients but in the technique.

This one comes from The New Best Recipe cookbook from Cook's Illustrated. If you ever wanted to know why your cookies are flat, your brownies not crackled on top or your pie crust is tough, this is the book for you.

Basic Pie Dough from The New Best Recipe cookbook
Enough for 1 double-crust 9-inch pie

2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup vegetable shortening, chilled
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
6 to 8 tablespoons ice water

1. Process the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor until combined. Add the shortening and process until the mixture has the texture of coarse sand, about 10 seconds. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture; cut the butter into the flour until the mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse crumbs, with the butter bits no larger than small peas, about ten 1-second pulses. Turn the mixture into a medium bowl.

2. Sprinkle 6 tablespoons of the ice water over the mixture. With a rubber spatula, use a folding motion to mix. Press down on the dough with the broad side of the spatula until the dough sticks together, adding up to 2 tablespoons more ice water if the dough will not come together. Divide the dough into 2 balls and flatten each into a 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 2 days before rolling.

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