Monday, November 19, 2012

Five tips for making a better pie crust: Tip # 4 - Cool It

The thing about a homemade pie crust - it doesn't like a lot of manhandling.

Some things need serious processing. Homemade whipped cream comes to mind. But a pie... a pie needs only the slightest bit of handling because the ultimate goal here is avoiding melted fat.

When your butter or lard or rendered bacon fat melts, you ruin any chance of making a flaky pastry. And that's what people want to dig their fork into, golden flaky goodness - not gummy gunk in a pie plate.

So. Cold fats. I freeze my fats before I blend them with a pastry blender. And I also ice my water before I fold it in my flour/fat mixture. The icy water will help keep those fats in solid form, allowing those fats to melt into flaky little pastry pockets when baked in the oven. I also blend quickly to make sure my buttery goodness isn't melted by room temperature.

And if you want to really play up to this climate of cold, you can even toss your mixing bowl (metal or glass are better in this instance) and pastry blender in the freezer before you blend. When finished, I like to toss my ball of crust in the freezer for even more cooling.

Cold is good, folks. Cold is good.

About an hour later, I'll bring my pastry out of the freezer and roll it for baking. Before I share with you my tip for pre-oven action, I'll fill you in on another secret ingredient I like to put in my pie crust.

Butter. Flour. Water. What else could it be?

Here's a hint: You might need to head to the liquor store.

I've been baking pies from scratch for well over a decade, and my mom says I've mastered the perfect pie crust. In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, I'll share with you my five secrets for making the best pie crust around.

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