Easy As…

Alright guys.  It’s time to cut the B.S.  If I see or hear one more person committing themselves to a life of pre-made, store-bought, nasty, preservative-filled pie crust AKA junk in a box (literally), I’m going to lose it.  Think this kind of retaliation for the next lemming who jumps off the precipitous cliff of store-bought crustdom.  Seriously people.  It’s past time to stop.  There is no God-given reason to be afraid of pie crust.  It’s pastry, for heaven’s sake.  There is a reason that the saying is “easy as pie.”  So, without further ado, suck it up, don’t be whiny, and let’s make some pastries.
Yes, you can make this.
These, too!

Rule 1:  The Freezer is Your Friend
I do not care whether you are living in the Sahara or Siberia.  You need to chill your stuff.  Every little piece of it, from the food processor to the flour and especially the butter.  Chilling everything will help the pie or tart dough be flaky, because it will insure that the butter stays cold and in pieces.  Flaky crusts are a result of cold pockets of butter melting in the oven, creating pockets of steam in between layers of flour, thus stratifying your crust.  Yum.

See those pieces? That’s what you want.

Rule 2:  Just Say No to Shortening
I am not of the school of thought that believes shortening contributes to a mind-blowing crust.  And you shouldn’t be, either.  Shortening is icky.  Butter is yummy.  I believe that if you can’t spread something on a piece of toast and shove it in your mouth with a squeal of delight, then it should not be in your pie.  Butter is flavorful fat; shortening is greasy flavorless fat.  All-butter, all good.

Cold butter in, good dough out.

Rule 3:  More is Not Always More

This applies to a few facets of pies and tarts; both the elements and the formation.  Firstly, more butter does not always equal a better crust: a balance must be kept between fat and flour; more fat will only overwhelm the dough and leave you with a greasy mess in the oven.  Also, and this especially goes for pie dough, you don’t need more ingredients than butter, buttermilk, flour, and a pinch of salt and sugar.  No eggs in pie dough.  Please.  Tart dough, however, is a different animal; it needs an egg.  Secondly, fillings should be simple; the essence of a good pie or tart is in its elegant or rustic simplicity: showcasing good ingredients is the goal, not showing them up with too many competing flavors.  Overly sugared fillings are unappetizing and overwhelming.  In terms of the actual making of the stuff, more rolling and more mixing are bad.  More kneading?  Same deal.  This is because of the whole butter-pocket thing again.  If you mush all the butter into invisible pieces, there will be no pockets and you will have a dense mess in the oven.  Let the dough speak for itself; don’t work it to death.  
Fresh ingredients that you would willingly eat on their own.  

Rule 4:  Less is Not Always More

Do not underfill your pie crust.  No one wants to see or experience the gaping canyon between a few layers of cooked-down fruit and your beautifully risen pie dough.  Fill ’em up nice and full, because the fruit will shrink when baking.  Do not automatically add the exact amount of liquid that your recipe calls for: you must play it by ear and eye, because a slightly sticky dough is far better than a dry, crumbly mess that you can never roll out.  Add more if it looks like it needs more.  Simple as that.  

Pressed and ready to be pricked.
Crumbly is good only for tart shells.  Not pie dough

Rule 5: Relax.

Don’t freak out. If you find yourself panicking, shut the front door and take some deep breaths. If your crimps and lattices aren’t perfect… Who cares?  Certainly not the people who are going to be indulging in your delicious, buttery, flaky, fruity pie.  Trust me on this one… They don’t care how it looks.
Everything is going to turn out just fine.
You are now fully prepared to go out and make some great looking and tasting pies.  Go forth and prosper.   And take nary a look towards the refrigerated section of your grocery store.  But really.  I’ll be watching, ready to snatch that Pepperidge Farm crap out of your hands.

Unbeatable Pie Dough
For a double crust: (halve for a single crust pie)
3 cups all-purpose flour, cold
2 sticks of unsalted butter (16 tablespoons, 8 ounces), cold or frozen, cut into pieces
1/2-1 cup ice cold buttermilk
Healthy pinch salt
1 teaspoon-1 tablespoon sugar, depending on your preference
1. Put the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and chill.  
2.  Once chilled, pulse butter in until the mixture has some butter pieces the size of peas.  
3.  Add the buttermilk in, slowly, with long pulses, until the dough forms a semi-cohesive ball.  If it is too sticky, do not worry, just sprinkle a little more flour on your clean surface when you turn the ball out, and roll it around a bit.  
4.  Divide the dough into two balls, pat into disks, wrap in plastic wrap, and put in fridge for at least 30 minutes, but for up to 3 days.  (Can be frozen for 1 month, just take it out and let it thaw when you want to use it, or, chill it in the fridge and roll it out and shape it to the pan before freezing (then you can go straight from the freezer to oven to mouth).)
5.  Roll the dough out.  When rolling dough out, don’t overdo it.  You want it to be the proper size to fit your dish (about 1 1/2 inches larger radius than the dish), but not any larger (and therefore, thinner), than that.
6.  To par-bake, put in a 350 degrees F oven (pricked with a fork)  for 10-15 minutes, or until palest golden.

Indefatigable Tart Dough
adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking, helpful tips from Smitten Kitchen
Makes enough for one 9-inch tart crust1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, cold1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar, cold1/4 teaspoon salt1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons; 4 1/2 ounces) very cold or frozen unsalted butter, cut into pieces1 large egg

1. Pulse the flour, sugar and salt together in the bowl of a food processor. 
2. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in.
3. Beat the egg gently, and pulse it into the dough.   
4. When the egg is in, process in long pulses–about 10 seconds each–until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change–heads up. 
5. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing. Chill the dough, wrapped in plastic, for about 2 hours before using.  
6. Rolling this dough can be tricky, due to its crumbly nature, so instead of doing so, simply press it, gently, with your fingers or a cup measure, into a greased tart pan.  Prick all over with a fork (gently!).
7. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.
8.  To fully or partially bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil (or use nonstick foil) and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. And here is the very best part: Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights. Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 20 to 25 minutes.9.  Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake the crust about 10 minutes longer to fully bake it, or until it is firm and golden brown, brown being the important word: a pale crust doesn’t have a lot of flavor. (To partially bake it, only an additional 5 minutes is needed.) 
10.  Transfer the pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature, and proceed with the rest of your recipe.  
(This dough can be wrapped and kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months. While the fully baked crust can be packed airtight and frozen for up to 2 months, the flavor will be fresher if you bake it directly from the freezer, already rolled out.)

Brown-Sugar Peach Pie
Here’s the beauty of working with peaches for pies:  One, they are the most absolutely delicious fruit in a pie, in my opinion, at least, and two, you don’t have to peel them! In fact, the skin only adds to the deliciousness of the peaches, so none of this nonsense about boiling and shocking them to peel ’em.  Lawd have mercy this fruit is a miracle
1 recipe Unbeatable Pie Dough (double crust)
6-8 ripe but firm peaches, depending on the size of your peaches
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
1/3 cup brown sugar (you don’t need to pack it real tight if your peaches are nice and sweet)
1/4-1/3 cup granulated sugar (same deal as with the brown sugar in terms of quantity)
Healthy pinch of ground cinnamon
Healthy grating of nutmeg
Big pinch of sea salt
1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water
1-2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
After rolling out your pie dough and chilling it, cut up your peaches into 8ths and mix them, gently, with all the other ingredients.  Pour into pie crust and top with the other half of your crust, whether in lattice form or just whole, with some slits cut for steam escape routes.  Brush with the egg wash, and sprinkle, generously, with the turbinado sugar.  Bake at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown, and you can see peach juice bubbling and peeking through the openings in the crust.

Peach Tart
1 recipe Indefatigable Tart Dough
3-4 ripe but firm large peaches
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup turbinado sugar
2 tablespoons plus up to one more tablespoon flour(depends how juicy your peaches are)
2 tablespoons butter
Pinch salt
After preparing your tart shell (Par-bake it for about 10 minutes, until it’s starting to turn a very light golden color), cut up your peaches into relatively even, thin slices (about 16 pieces per peach).  Pulse the rest of the ingredients until there are small, oatmeal-flake sized pieces of butter.  Arrange the peach slices in a sunburst pattern, then top with the streusel.  It will seem like a lot, but just sprinkle it as evenly as possible over the peaches.  Bake for 35- 45 minutes at 375 degrees F, or until the peaches have released juices that have become thick and sauce-like.  

This pie lasted for a record 8 hours in my house. 

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