The Pie Crust Test

So after two weeks, I am finally able to update you all on the pie crust test.  I had a bit of a programming error, and had to rebuild the site (not an easy task for the non programmer like me).

I was preparing for Thanksgiving, my first as host, and I was feeling pretty comfortable with everything, except the pies.  My family HAS to have pie on Thanksgiving, it would be unnatural in our eyes.  I had already decided on the types of pie I was going to make.  One problem though, I had NEVER made a scratch pie crust in my life.  Oh I have made lots of pies, but I usually stuck to the graham cracker crust, or used a store-bought freezer crust when I had made a fruit pie.

After all the research, and looking at countless recipes, I decided to try three different recipes.  The first was a Pate Sucree.  Its a nice, buttery sweet crust, and in my opinion should have been perfect for a Pecan Pie.  I went about making it, and baked it in a tart pan with a removable bottom.  It did come out nicely in the tart pan, all golden and pretty looking.  Then I realized I should have actually baked it with the filling.  I know, I know, Baking 101: Read the Instructions!   Actually I had read the instructions, I was just too excited to try something new, that I put it in the oven without thinking.  Only 20 minutes lated did I realize what I had done, and by then, the Pate Sucree was almost done.    So for the test batch, I made it into a Caramel Tart with a chocolate ganache.  It was tasty, and later, my brother told me it reminded him of eating Twix candy bars.  I am not sure how I feel about that…those always seemed dried out to me.

Second I tried a basic all-butter crust for an apple Pie.  I was so worried I would muck it up.  I have very warm hands, and as I was cutting the butter into small chunks, It was melting (and I had just pulled it out of the fridge!).  My solution was to put it in the freezer for about 15 minutes after I cut it, and it seemed to work for me.   My other problem was how I would mix it all up.  Hot hands = melted butter = soggy pie crust.  I decided to take the TV chef route and use my food processor.  It allowed me to cut in the butter without melting it. In fact, before I added the liquids, I stuck my finger in to check it, and it was still really cold.    After refrigerating the dough overnight (that wasn’t my intention, I got sidetracked by the dogs and realized It was late to put a pie in the oven), I rolled it out and baked it.   It came out nicely as well. Not quite as flaky as I had wanted, but I assume that will come with practice…I hope ha ha!  It could also be the liquid from the apples, which is a whole other topic which I plan to get into later on.

The last recipe I used was my grandmothers pie crust recipe, which includes both butter and shortening, as well as white vinegar in place of some of the water.  This one came out as my favorite, maybe because it brought back memories, or maybe because the texture was more what I was looking for, I am still not sure yet.  I will figure it out eventually.  I used the same method with freezing the butter for a few minutes and using the food processor to mix it up.  This one was made into a Banana Cream pie, and will most likely be the one I use in the future as a basic pie crust.

The lesson:

Overall, I learned that pie crust is not hard to make, but it IS hard to perfect.  I do believe that with practice, I can perfect the technique (as well as my waistline?).  The whole idea of Pie crust is to hold the good stuff inside, without being too flashy, but still be tasty.  The pate sucree was both, the vinegar crust was both as well.  However neither one are suited to just any kind of Pie.

I will post the recipes for my crusts with their pies in seperate posts, to make it easier to find.  Thanks for your patience 🙂

This entry was posted in Lessons.

A Crusty Tale

It’s that time of year.  The leaves are changing (if you are from somewhere other than Southern California), and those of us in the U.S. are starting to think about the upcoming holidays.  If you are like me, and I know a lot of people are, you skip the Thanksgiving turkey and go straight for the desert.  For me there are many desserts that I love, but pie has to be my favorite.  Have you ever made a pie from scratch?  I know I haven’t.  Well, not totally from scratch.  I have made several pies, but I have always used a store-bought crust.  This week I plan on starting my journey to become a pie crust maker.

Here is the problem:  What type of crust should I make?    There are so many types of crust, not to mention the myriad recipes that I have in my recipe box, much less on the internet.  Do I want a single or double crust?  or do I want a tart using Pate Sucree?  And then there is always a cookie crust or a crumb crust.  Right off the bat I know that I will not be making a pie that calls for  a crumb crust so that is out for now….I do plan on experimenting with crumb crusts in the future (think of all the add-in possibilities to even a simple graham cracker crust!), but for now I want to stick to pastry crusts.

A little history….

As I was researching, I came across a couple of articles on the history of pie and thought you might like the basics.  Most people think of Medieval-Era England when they think about where pie started, but actually, Pie has been around since the ancient Egyptians, though the first pies were made by the ancient Romans, who most likely learned it from the Greeks.  With the spread of the Roman Empire, pies made their way into Europe.  By the twelfth century, they had made it to England, where the “pyes” were made with a crust called a “coffyn”.  A coffyn was a very thick crust, which was not intended to be eaten, but to carry the filling.  The first cherry pie is credited to being made in the 1500’s either for or by Queen Elizabeth I.  Personally I can’t imagine the thought of all her ruffles actually making a pie, but who knows, maybe this maiden Queen was handy with a rolling pin.  For more on the history of Pie, there’s a lot of information at the American Pie Council (yes, pie has it’s own council!) here.

This weeks homework:

This week, I plan to start testing pie crusts, and narrowing down a recipe that works best for me.  Stay tuned for the results!