The Pie Crust Conspiracy

by Laraine Newman
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perfectly-flaky-pie-crust.jpgThere are those who are intuitive cooks. They can just rustle up some ingredients from their pantry and freezer and blithely come up with a smashing meal with the effortless grace that leaves someone like me scratching their head feeling like a pair of brown shoes in a world of Tuxedos.

Sure, I can follow a recipe and that can fool some people into thinking I’m a good cook, but the thing that separates the gifted from the wannabes is baking.  One time I endeavored to create a fat-free, whole grain bar that my friend Marcia Strassman christened ‘tree bark’ after taking one bite.

 My cupcakes have come out of the oven with all the promise of a Sprinkles alternative only to cool to the dry sludgy consistency of play dough mixed with sawdust.  I don’t get it. I did everything right. What’s the secret?

I could live with these set backs, if it weren’t for the fact that what I’d really like to master is a stinkin’ Piecrust and I can’t even get that right!  My Aunt Lovey, whose stuffing recipe is in the archives, also made a sensational Piecrust.  Often I considered Piecrust a necessary evil to get to the reward of the sugared fruit interior, but not her crusts. They had a crisp, savory texture of, well, I can’t think of anything to compare them to really. I just know that I loved nothing more than to break off the edges of them and crunch on them and combine their savory flavors in my mouth along with the sweet fruit of the pie.

I’m sure you think I’m leading up to giving you her recipe. Alas, I don’t have it BUT my cousin Richard gave me his and after having a long and personal conversation with him about Piecrust, I think I can trust that he’s got the touch too.  I haven’t tried it yet because I still think in a way, I’m snakebit when it comes to crust, but maybe you guys can give it a whirl and write in and tell me the result.  Here it is:

BEST-EVER PIE CRUST
Bon Appetite, August 2007

Recipe makes 2 pie crusts for 9” pans (enough dough for 1 double-crust, 1 lattice-top or 2 single-crust pies).  I found that unless you roll the crust rather thin, there is not quite enough crust to make crimped edges when making a double crust pie.  That is why I’ve listed both “Single” & “1 1/2” Recipes.

Single Recipe

2½ cups Flour, unbleached, all purpose
1½ teaspoons Sugar
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 cup Butter, unsalted and chilled
1/2 cup Lard or Vegetable Shortening, cut into 1/2 “ cubes (Crisco recommended because it no longer has any hydrogenated oil w/trans-fats), either must be chilled like the butter.
5 tablespoons Ice Water (NOTE – depending upon the humidity, you may use  less water or more water).

One and a half Recipe

3¾ cups Flour, unbleached, all purpose
2¼ teaspoons Sugar
1½ teaspoon Salt
3/4 cup Butter, unsalted and chilled
3/4 cup Lard or Vegetable Shortening, cut into 1/2 “ cubes (Crisco recommended because it no longer has any hydrogenated oil w/trans-fats), either must be chilled like the butter.
7½ tablespoons Ice Water (NOTE – depending upon the humidity, you may use  less water or more water). 


Blend flour, sugar & salt in processor (Cuisenart type w/ steel blade).  Add butter & lard or vegetable shortening.  Using “pulse” button, blend in bursts of 1 – 2 seconds until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Add ice water one tablespoon (tbsp) at a time & use 1 burst or 2 to incorporate into “meal”.  Repeat until dough begins to clump together.  Note, if you must use more than the 5 tablespoons, begin to use teaspoons (tsp) increments.

Turn out dough onto hard surface.  Divide in half &, on a piece of plastic wrap, flatten each half into a disc & refrigerate for at least 2 hours (can be kept refrigerated for a couple of days or frozen for longer).  If necessary, soften slightly at room temperature before rolling.

Rolling tip - try using wax paper & be sure to dust w/ flour first.  This will allow for easier transfer to rolling pin & then putting into pie plate & top layer.

 

Laraine Newman is a founding member of The Groundlings Theatre Company and an original cast member of Saturday Night Live.  She lives in her hometown of Los Angeles with her husband and two daughters. 

 

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