Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sweet Potato Pie Part 1 - first, the pie crust

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Pie crust can seem kind of daunting, huh? But it really doesn't have to be as long as you pay attention the the "why" of the process. Pie crust is flour covered in fat, then lightly moistened with liquid to bring the dough together. The fat if kept chilled, will produce a tender and flaky (if you use shortening) crust. Some people add a bit of vinegar or vodka to their crust because the two liquids prevent gluten from forming. What's gluten? Gluten is the protein in flour that forms long stretchy strands when kneaded with liquid. Great for bread, not for pie crust.

I don't get complicated for pie crust. I use Martha Stewart's pate brisee but I use half butter, half shortening since I prefer a little flakiness in my crust. It's also an easy to recipe to remember and that means I make it more often. I like making a bunch and freezing the discs so that I just have to thaw them out when I want to make a pie or quiche.

Although I use the food processor, you definitely don't need one to make pie crust. Here's the King Arthur flour method for making the crust the analog way. Oh and if you prefer an even easier crust with no solid fat, there's an olive oil crust that's easier to work from Clotilde.

Pate Brisee - Basic Pie Dough
adapted from Martha Stewart

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar - If you like a sweeter crust I recommend increasing this to a couple of tablespoons.
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup shortening - more on that below

1/4-1/2 cup cold water

First, mix the flour, salt and sugar in the food processor.

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Now for a little bit about the shortening. I'm not one to preach about nutrition, organics, etc. but did want to mention that I use this non-hydrogenated shortening. That just means I'm using palm oil which is solid at room temperature, thus not hydrogenated. You can find this online at amazon, most healthfood stores and I found mine at wholefoods. I use it for pie crust and greasing baking pans since I find it does a better job than oil and spreads easier than butter.

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Back to the pie crust. Add the shortening and the sliced stick of butter then pulse about 10 seconds until the larger pieces of fat are no larger than a pea.

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That elusive "course meal" stage. There are still chunks of butter and shortening but not huge chunks. When you roll out the pie crust those chunks of fat melt in the oven and create steam which = flaky pie crust. So don't go hog wild with the food processor pulse button.

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Drizzle in the 1/4 cup of water while pulsing for about 20-30 seconds. Obviously this is just a stunt photo since I'm not coordinated enough to pulse, pour and shoot.

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The mixture won't look like a dough but there's a great way to test once you've added the water and pulsed for 20-30 seconds.

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Grab a bit of the mix in your hand and squeeze it together. If it comes together and stays together (not dry and floury) then your crust is done. If not, add a bit more water until the crust holds together. Just don't overpulse and definitely don't overwet.

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Dump the mix onto some plastic wrap, smush together into a disc using the sides of the plastic and then wrap up tight. Chill the crust at least for an hour in the fridge although I prefer to just make it the day before.

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Once your crust has been chilled, unwrap and get ready to roll. See those bits of shortening and butter? That will make for a flaky crust. Now, Martha's instructions say to roll out straight from the fridge. I find that if I do that, the crust tends to crack and is difficult to work. So just let it sit out on the counter 5-10 minutes and you won't have these issues.

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Assemble your rolling out tools. A bit of flour, a large spatula and a rolling pin. I've had this french style rolling pin longer than I've been married. Yikes.

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Lightly flour the counter and then the top of the dough. Begin to roll out the dough from the center and out. Turn 1/8 of a turn and roll some more. Repeat. Use the spatula to make sure the crust doesn't stick to the counter and to help you turn it. Another way to roll out the crust is between two sheets of plastic wrap which helps avoid adding too much flour. I go back and forth between both methods.

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Once the crust is rolled out to approximately 14" diameter, gently place it in your pie pan. You can fold the crust in quarters or roll the pie crust over your rolling pin in a tube to transport it. Either way, fit it into the pan gently and fold the overhanging dough under the edge of the pie. Now crimp in your preferred method. I went with the good 'ol three knuckle peak. It's so classic.

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I'm sorry I don't have more action shots of the rolling/crimping process but I'm still getting the hang of shooting in the kitchen and a little gunshy of getting flour all over the camera. I would set up the tripod but who am I kidding. Setting up the tripod would inevitably set off the curiosity meter in my boys to overload and I'd end up with no pictures at all. However, I couldn't leave you hanging so here's Deb rocking the rolling/crimping over at Smitten Kitchen.

Notice that I have some patched areas. That's perfectly normal. If you have any cracks, holes, etc. just grab some of the excess outer edges and use them to patch in the holes. I had plenty this time around since I rolled the crust straight out of the fridge forgetting I keep my fridge pretty cold.

Once your pie crust is crimped, stick it in the fridge or freezer until the filling is ready. This chilling helps the crust keep it's shape in the oven and again makes for a flaky crust.

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Like I said, I take advantage when making pie crust and just mix up a bunch. This time I made eight, two of which I fiddled with a whole wheat recipe to see how it turns out. I'm hoping to put together a yummy quiche this week. However, as promised tomorrow we move onto the sweet potato pie filling. Yum.

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2 comments:

Denise said...

OMG. I have never made a pie crust and was a bit scared of it. Only this week did I see Martha's recipe on the show WHATEVER MARTHA- cause an old HS friend told me to watch her. I made a mental note to make it 'cause it seemed so simple. This must be fate! LOL Now I MUST make PIE.

Marielle said...

Oh my goodness that show is hysterical! Don't you love how they always manage to say exactly what you're thinking when watching her show? At least now Martha is a bit more relaxed about poking fun at herself.

Glad to have encouraged someone else to have pie too. Go for it. I've found from experience that no matter how much I think I've messed up a pie, homemade trumps looks. It's just that homemade is delicious no matter how mjuch I mangle it.