So I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve been pretty much lollygagging my way through the month of November. The weather’s been beautiful (hello, double digits!), and there isn’t (as much) new house crap to get done, and well, potty training takes pretty much takes all of the energy I can muster up these days. (TMI, I know, I know, but hey, you asked. Okay actually you didn’t, but I promise it’ll be worth it if you stick around.)
Then all of a sudden, you look at the calendar, and HOLY EFFING CACA there is way less than one week left until Thanksgiving. And you are apparently hosting this year. And despite all of your normal party planning ahead skillz, you ain’t got shit done yet.
No worries, my friend, I am here for you. With pie! Okay, maybe not pie, but pastry crust, which for some, instills panic in hearts that rivals Parker when someone in the room is chewing bubble gum. (My son’s a wuss, okay? Don’t judge.) But don’ t fret. The following is the only way I make pastry now, and I promise you it will work.
“But Meleyna,” you say “Why on God’s Green Earth should I listen to you, you nobody? There are plenty of other REAL cookers and bakers out there who actually know what they’re doing.” Well, my little doubters, that’s exactly why. My pies last Thanksgiving? The crusts were absolute crap. Yet less than a year later, my pastry is beautiful. I’m a nobody, just like you (I mean that in the nicest way possible), and I can make pie crust. The pie I baked with the following crust? I could not get over how beautifully browned and flaky and just downright delectable it looked. I promise you, if you do it like this, you will no longer have anything to fear. (And if it doesn’t turn out, hey, don’t blame me, it’s not like I’m a professional or anything…)
Get ready, kids, photo montage!
There are a couple of ways to do pie crust–in a food processor, or in a bowl with a fork or a pastry cutter. Either way will work, but obviously the food pro is a bit easier.
Measure out three cups of all-purpose flour. Dump into either your food processor bowl (with the steel blade already fitted inside) or regular one. Add three tablespoons of granulated sugar and one teaspoon of salt. Either pulse a few times in the food processor, or stir to combine. Now, stick everything in the freezer. (That’s right, bowl, flour mixture, with the pastry cutter and/or fork if using.) While it’s in the freezer, take a stick and a half (12 tablespoons) of cold butter, and dice it up. I slice mine lengthwise, make a quarter turn, slice it lengthwise again, and then cut these four long sticks into half inch sized mini-cubes. (That didn’t make much sense, so you should probably refer to the photos if need be.) Add the butter to the bowl with the flour, and stick back into the freezer. (You also probably shouldn’t judge me by my frozen pizzas, but by the homemade bread in the freezer. I’m just saying…) Now, do the same thing with 1/3 a cup of COLD shortening. (I keep mine in the fridge, because this is the only thing I use shortening for. I think pie crust really just needs it for the flakiness factor.) If you have a can of shortening rather than the sticks, just scoop it out by the teaspoonful. (It’ll be 16 teaspoons. You’re welcome.) Stick everything back in the freezer, and while it chills, clean up your mess. (I know, I know, I’m bossy. I’m a mom, a teacher, AND the first born–I can’t help it.)
When you kitchen is sparkly clean, measure out 2/3 a cup of cold water, and toss an ice cube or two in it. Remove your bowl from the freezer. If using a food processor, pulse your flour and butter together about ten times, or until you have pieces of butter the size of peas dispersed throughout the flour. If using a fork or pastry blender, push the butter down into the flour, simultaneously mixing things together. (This is not too difficult with a pastry blender, but can require a bit more muscle with just a fork.) At this point, add about half of the water into your bowl, pulsing/blending things together. Things can vary at this point, so pay attention to what you’re doing. What you’re looking for is for the dough to start to clump together–you may only need half of the water, you may need all of it. Typically, I use the full 2/3 cup, but I live in Arizona, and if you haven’t heard, “it’s a dry heat.” Meaning, there’s absoultely no moisture in the air at any given point, and therefore my dough will be a lot drier than if I lived in say, Houston in July. If you’re unsure, just try and pinch some of your mixture together–it should stick together without being sticky. Dump the mixture onto a piece of plastic wrap, quickly form into in a ball, wrap it up, and put it in the fridge. Let the dough rest for a half hour or so.
When you are ready to roll out, first rinse your hands in cold water and dry very well. (This cools yours hands so that you don’t warm the dough.) On a lightly floured surface, unwrap your dough. Cut it in half, re-wrap one half, and stick it back in the fridge. Push the remaining dough out into a rough circle with your hands. Using a lightly floured rolling pin (or empty wine bottle, or whatever’s handy), roll out the dough into a 10-inch circle, turning every so often, and running your hands underneath every so often to make sure it doesn’t stick. To make sure it’s big enough, flip your pie plate upside down onto your pastry, and you should have about a one inch border all around. When you’ve reached the correct size, place your rolling pin at the base of the circle, and pull the bottom edge up onto the rolling pin. Carefully, roll the round of pastry up around your rolling pin. Transfer the pin and pastry to your pie plate, and unravel it into your dish. Center it, push it down, and crimp. (I didn’t get a photo of this step simply because that would’ve been a three-handed job. And as you can see in the picture, if I had a third hand, it would be for pushing Hot Wheels out of the way, not taking pictures.) If you’re doing this in advance, you can stick this preformed, lovely piece of dough in the freezer and forget about it pretty much until you need it. (Stick the other half in the freezer as well.) If you’re using it immediately, then well, use it immediately. If you need to roll out the other piece of dough for the top crust, make sure you return the bottom crust to the refrigerator while your deal with the top. If not, just use it for another pie. (I would say “save it for another time,” but I should hope that you are planning more than one pie for your holiday. It’s not exactly the season of restraint.)