Sunday, October 21, 2007

Fall Harvest

We took a trip this weekend to Afton Apple Orchard, a place around 30 minutes away from us which has even more good stuff than its name implies-- in the summer we picked strawberries there, and this time we picked apples, raspberries, and pumpkins!

I will do my best to blog about the pies which will result from the apples and the pumpkins (we picked some jack-o-lantern pumpkins too, which Daniela will be carving using her power tools-- I'm sure she'll blog about it too). But since I just put the raspberry pie in the oven, and I've blogged about that pie before (only difference this time was I used corn starch as a thickener instead of flour), I thought I'd briefly discuss my homemade pie crust.

I learned how to make pie crust from my mother, and it's just not as hard as people think. The difference between a homemade crust and a store-bought one is night and day-- more important, really, than the filling, which is often nearly as good even if it's not fresh (my cherry pie is made from canned filling, and I've often made raspberry pie from frozen berries, with good results).

It takes some practice to get the technique down-- Daniela can attest that pie-making used to involve copious amounts of swearing, foot-stomping, and other hysterics-- but once you get the hang of it it's quite easy and fast. Probably takes 15 minutes start to finish.

I think it's important to have the right equipment. You need a pastry blender (like this one), a good rolling pin (mine has a covering made of pastry cloth material so the dough won't stick), and something to roll out the crust on-- for many years I used a nice pastry cloth, though now I use our granite countertop with no cloth.

Here's how I do it (I plan to experiment with some other crusts, but this is my mother's basic shortening crust, and it's very good):

In a large bowl, mix 2 cups of flour and 1/2 tsp. of salt.

Add 1/3 cup of shortening (I use Crisco currently, though I'm exploring more organic solutions) and blend using a pastry blender (a fork would do if you don't have a pastry blender). Then add another 1/3 cup and blend again till it's all well mixed.

Now for the part which takes some practice. You want to add cold water (the colder the better) little by little, stirring the mixture with a fork as you go. You'll end up adding somewhere in the 1/2 cup to 1 cup range, but you really have to judge based on what the dough looks and feels like. You want to end up with a nice dough-- start to slow down when the dough begins to clump together, and stop when there is no more dry mixture and you can form the dough into a nice ball.

If your dough is too dry, it will crumble when you try to roll it-- go back and add some water. If you add too much water, your dough will be sticky and hard to work with-- add a bit of flour.

So, once you've got it about right, form the dough into a large ball. Then break it in two and form each piece into a ball. At this point, I usually refrigerate the dough while I make the filling-- cold dough is easier to roll out. This trick is especially useful in the summer.

Sprinkle some flour on your dough-rolling surface. Flatten the dough into a roughly circular shape. Turn it over. Re-flour the surface. Do this a couple of times so the dough gets enough flour on the surface that it won't stick to the surface or the rolling pin.

Then roll it out. Try to keep it circular and roll the dough evenly. Roll it out a bit bigger than the pie plate you're using (mine is 9", I believe). Once you've got it the right size, pick the dough up using your rolling pin (by rolling the dough part way onto the pin) and transfer it to the pie plate. Push it to make sure it's flat against the bottom of the plate.

Now put in your filling and roll out the top crust. Put the top crust on and pinch the edges together to seal the crust (otherwise the filling will leak out)-- I do this while at the same time trimming the edge with my fingers. Hard to explain but you'll figure it out.

Probably the best way to learn how to do this is the way I did-- by watching an expert a few times, trying it under their tutelage, then practicing on my own. But maybe you're a better learner than I was..... Happy pie-making!

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At 8:04 PM, Blogger Pug&MooseMama said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 8:05 PM, Blogger Pug&MooseMama said...

I think maybe everyone already knows that I married Eric because he makes pies from scratch. As far as I am concerned I am immeasurably lucky!!

At 1:15 AM, Blogger leigh andrew said...

i agree - homemade crusts are the best - but they do come with the knowledge of just how much crisco goes into them, and surely a certain amount of "swearing, foot-stomping, and other hysterics", as Andrew can attest to!

At 10:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Daniela knows her father always asked for home made apple pie. I wish he could eat Eric's !


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