I wrote two years ago about my search for a really good pie crust recipe. I hate to say it, but the search goes on...
About once a year, I settle on a new recipe for my pie crusts. I've just started using yet another recipe. But I'm still not satisfied. I still don't feel like I've found the perfect one.
The key factor in pie crusts seems to be what sort of fat you use: butter, shortening, or lard. I've also heard good things about recipes that incorporate vodka (which, as it evaporates during cooking, produces a nice flaky texture).
I've had success with shortening recipes. They're typically easy to work with and reliable. Most just don't seem to have a really memorable flavor.
Some people swear by all-butter crusts. The difficult thing with them, though, is that you have to keep the butter and all the implements you are using very very cold. Many of the pies I bake are during the summertime (when fruits are ripe), and since we don't have air conditioning, keeping things cold is impossible.
Here's what our usually-solid coconut oil looked like today, when the temperature was in the high 80's: total liquid.
[note that it's still unopened. I've never used actually coconut oil before, but I know a lot of people love it, and it was a great price. So what should I do with it?]
My cousin shared her secret for great butter crusts: she keeps her butter in the freezer. Sounds like a smart idea. If anyone has a great all-butter crust recipe, please share it! I'll try it out when the weather cools off.
The last couple times I baked a pie, I tried out a new lard-based recipe (lard is totally not as gross as it sounds. I cook with it often, and it's very versatile) from my ever-reliable 1969 Betty Crocker's Cookbook.
8- or 9-inch Two-crust Pie
2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
2/3 c. lard
4-5 T. cold water
Mix flour and salt in bowl. Cut in lard. Sprinkle in water, and mix until dough almost cleans sides of bowl. Shape into two balls and roll out on floured surface.
Tom loves this crust, and my Dad thought highly of it as well. I will say, the texture is pleasantly crispy and flaky. But I still think it could be better!
Not matter what recipe I use, there are a few tools I've found indispensable for making a good crust: a cloth to roll the dough on, a stockinet cover for the rolling pin, and a pie crust shield for baking.
Allow me to step you through my process....
I use a clean linen dish towel as my rolling surface, floured generously. The dough does not stick at all. Try it sometime! And the rolling pin covers are really cheap. You can usually find them at gourmet-type stores (or online, of course).
As you pick up the crust, roll it over the rolling pin to transfer it to your pie pan.
And then fill the bottom crust with whatever. Today I made a beef stew pie with my leftovers from last week.
Have you ever done this? I purposely make a lot of beef stew so that we will have leftovers and I can make this pie. Beef stew always tastes better a few days later, because the flavors have had time to mingle.
A rough recipe for beef stew pie:
Scoop just the "chunks" (the beef and veggies) into the pie crust.
Reserve the sauce to heat and pour on at the table as gravy (you may have to stir in some cold water+ flour while it heats, if it's too thin).
Put the top crust on, and bake at 450° for 35-40 minutes (cover the crusts until the last 15 minutes).
After you roll out and crimp the top crust, use the leftover dough to create fun decorations (or allow an eager child to help).
I just use a fork to crimp the edge, cut a few vent-holes in the top, and let Sly place the decorations.
Then comes the ever-important pie crust shield (which I remove 15 minutes before cooking time is over) to keep the edges from burning.
And it's ready to serve! (al fresco tonight, since having the oven at 450° really warmed up the house).
Do you have any pie crust tips or secrets to share?