Monday, July 12, 2010

Adventures in Crust, Part 2

In honor of my mom's blog-warming presents of a pastry blender and an Emile Henry pie dish, I'm trying this pie crust thing once more. You might remember my more-biscuit-than-crust pie crust from the Fourth of July Cherry Pie (with Rye)….delicious, but not a crust. So let's do this, pie crust. It's just you and me. (and the beautiful red dish).

2 1/2 cups flour
2 sticks frozen butter
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1-2 dashes salt
1/4 cup ice cold water
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon Rye whiskey

A note on preparation: in order to obtain maximum tenderness and flakiness, chill everything (mixing bowl, pastry cutter, rolling pin, butter, water as much as possible before you start. The coldness will help the butter from melting, and keep the dough from becoming too glue-like.)

First, I cut up the butter into sugar cube-sized pieces and stuck them back in the freezer for a few minutes. While those dudes were chillin, I mixed the flour, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. After dropping the butter inside the dry mix, I gave the pastry blender its inagural press….and accidentally pushed half of the flour mixture out of the bowl. Oops. Maybe I need to work on my technique.

Once Christian had given me some lessons on properly cutting the  butter into the flour, I added the 1/4 cup of cooooooold water. The dough finally began to come together, like a slightly drier shortbread (and smells like it, too!), and I took off my rings, rolled up the sleeves (to…er…my tank top? Moving on...) and got my hands dirty, combining the last stray clumps of flour to the pie dough. Once it was just together enough, I formed two patties, set them inside the bowl, and put them back in the fridge to chill some more.

After the dough had chilled for about an hour, I took out one of the dough patties, patted it down with flour on all sides to keep it from sticking to anything, and placed it in between a 12x24 sheet of parchment paper, folded on top of the dough, making a delicious parchment paper-pie crust sammich. This is a fantastic trick I learned from Alton Brown, and makes my life easy because there's no dough to stick to anything but the disposable paper. Once the dough is sufficiently rolled out (and if there are any tears while rolling, patch together with excess dough from other parts of the crust and a dab of water), place in the bottom of the pie dish, making sure there are no air pockets. I always poke a few holes in the bottom crust to allow any stray team to escape.

I made strawberry-rhubarb filling for the pie, as it is my favorite, and brings back memories of a certain mid-western vacation when I was 10. For this, I chopped up about 8 or 9 stalks of rhubarb into 1/2 inch bits, and halved 2 grocery-sized cartons of strawberries. Then I added a 1 second pour of Grand Marnier, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/4 cup of flour, and a dash of salt and stirred until the fruit was evenly coated. 

Once the fruit is covered in its sugary, boozy coating, drop it into the bottom crust. Now, to make my favorite part - the lattice crust. I personally think the lattice is easier than a flat top crust, but have yet to find someone to agree with me. Roll out the other half of the dough repeating the steps above, then slice strips (measuring 2/3 inch lengthwise) from top to bottom of the dough. Layer on in a weaving pattern, or place all horizontal pieces 1/2 inch apart on pie, then weave vertical pieces in and out of the horizontal pieces. I've been told this is a somewhat unconventional way to lattice, but it works well for me. 

Once the lattice is finished, bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes, or until the crust is golden-brown and the berries are a-bubblin!
...and after!

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