HOW TO MAKE THE PERFECT PIE CRUST

HOW TO MAKE THE PERFECT PIE CRUST

Cold ingredients and limited handling are the key to preparing a wonderful pie crust.

FATS: Fat and vegetable shortening must be chilled prior to use. If it is too warm, the flour will absorb too much of the fat and produce a tough crust. If using butter or margarine, cut into small pieces prior to adding to the flour.

LIQUIDS: Liquids should be well chilled (actually liquids should be ice cold). The mixing after water is added is critical in making a pie dough - water should be added gradually to the dry ingredients and not all at once. Mix by hand with your fingers or a pastry blender Use a minimum amount of liquid and handle the dough as little as possible. Overworking the dough will make it tough. NOTE: If too much water is added, the dough will have to be mixed with more flour thus becoming overworked and tough. If too little water is added, it will cause a dry crumbly dough with poor handling qualities.

HINTS & TIPS: If you roll out the dough on wax paper or parchment paper, it makes cleanup easier. To keep wax paper from slipping, sprinkle a few drops of water on the countertop before arranging the paper.

* Use a glass pie plate or a dull metal pie plate for making pies. The shiny metal pans keep the crust from browning properly. If using a glass pie plate, reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees. Do not oil or grease pie plates.

  Always make deep slits in the top crust of fruit pie. If you do not do this, the filling will be soft and soggy. To prevent the crust from getting too dark, you can cover it with a strip of aluminum foil or a pie shield. You also have the option of reducing the oven temperature if you notice things getting too dark.

* To prevent sliding, first line the dough with aluminum foil. Take a piece of foil long enough so that when folded in half, it covers the pie plate. Fold it in half, then shape it on the counter by pressing your hand down in the middle and pulling up on the sides (making sort of a bowl shape.) Now put the foil in your pie shell and gently press it so that it evenly covers the bottom and sides of the pie dough. Now put your pie weights in - you can use beans, rice, rock salt -- virtually any small, heat-proof items to weigh the crust down so that it neither puffs up nor slides down. Bake it in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes. Take out the foil and pie weights, and continue baking until lightly browned. Alternately, if you are using metal pie plates, you can line one pan with dough, lightly dust the dough with flour, then place a second pie plate on top of the dough. Invert the pans and bake upside-down for about 10 minutes. Carefully flip the pans over, and remove the top pie plate, then continue baking until lightly browned.

* Cool baked pies on a wire rack set on the counter. The rack allows air to circulate under the pie, preventing it from becoming soggy from the steam remaining it in.

HIGH-ALTITUDE BAKING: When making pies at high altitudes, pie crusts are not greatly affected. A slight increase in liquid may help keep them from becoming dry. Use as little flour as possible when rolling out the dough.

MORE ON PERFECT PIES -

Use a pastry blender to cut shortening into flour. If you don’t have one, pull two table knives through flour and shortening in opposite directions.

Mix only until flour is worked in. If you overwork pastry dough, it will become tough.

For easier rolling, after you’ve made the pastry dough and shaped into a flattened round, wrap it tightly and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes or overnight.

NON-STICK ROLLING

Anchor a pastry cloth or kitchen towel (not terry cloth) around a large cutting board (at leas 12 X 12-inches) with masking tape, and use a cloth cover (stockinet) for your rolling pin. Rub flour into both cloths (this will prevent sticking and won’t work flour into the pastry.) If you don’t have a rolling pin cover or pastry cloth, rub flour on rolling pin and the countertop or large cutting board.

Place pastry dough on a flat surface and start rolling from the center out. lifting and turning pastry occasionally to keep it fom sticking. If the pastry begins to stick, rub more flour, a little at a time, on the flat surface and rolling pin.

PLACING THE PASTRY

Fold pastry in fourths, and place it in the middle of the pie plate with the point in the center of the plate. Unfold and ease into plate, being careful not to stretch pastry, which causes it to shrink when baked.

Instead of folding pastry, you can roll pastry loosely around rolling pin and transfer to pie plate. Unroll pastry and ease into plate.

FINISHING TOUCH

FORK EDGE - Flatten pastry evenly on rim of pie plate. Firmly press tines of fork aound edge. To prevent sticking occasionally dip fork into flour.

PINCH EDGE - Place index finger on inside of pastry rim and thumb and index finger (or knuckles) on outside. Pinch pastry into V-shape alond edge. Pinch again to sharpen points.

ROPE EDGE - Place inside of thumb on pastry rim at an angle. Pinch pastry by pressing the knuckle of your index finger down into pastry toward thumb

If your pastry is pale in color - it may have been baked in a shiny pan or it is underbaked.

If your pastry looks smooth - it was handled too much.

If your bottom crust is soggy - it may have been baked in a shiny pan or your oven temperature was too low.

If our pastry is tough - too much water, too much flour or the pastry was mixed and handled too much.

If your pastry is too tender and falls apart - too little water or too much shortening.

If your pastry is dry and mealy, not flaky - your shortening was cut too finely or too little water.