It's the day before Thanksgiving and people all over America are stocking up on Turkeys, potatoes, and Xanax. Worrying whether their 140 pound turkey will fit into their Easy Bake sized oven and if they bought enough wine to forget to care. Planning out place settings, family football pools and Me? I'm all set. I'm ready to cook and eat and wear large pants. Just one last thing to do... the pie. Traditionally, we make Pumpkin Pie which is just about the easiest pie to make. No worrying about sugar bubbling over the side of the plate onto the oven's coils granting a much needed phone call to the nearest fire department and perhaps even a grocery store blueberry pie. Because face it, if you haven't bought your pie and you're a buyer of pie, you're left with Sara Lee or Blueberry, which is just gross, so perhaps a nice box of Ho-Hos? I say that Pumpkin Pie is the easiest to make because the filling is mostly slop, plop and pour. The hardest part of any pie is the crust which you can buy but I'm a little egotistical for that hulla-baloo. Also, Sallie Mae is still collecting funds from my Culinary School days so buying a pie crust is sort of in the same category as using pre-chopped garlic, mostly it's a crime. So homemade pie crust it is.
First of all, I'm supposedly a professional, so I can wear a black shirt with confidence. You, however, should not.
So, properly attired, you may now begin the gathering of ingredients. This is what your counter will look like:
This is what mine looks like:
I embrace my inner OCD when baking/cooking. One of the first things we learned in school was mise en place, literally translated: everything in its place. Ingredients in order from recipe's start to finish is where my disorder begins. Yes, the pastry blender is an ingredient. Not a utensil. At least it should be. Everyone knows that cutting in butter (or lard in my case) is near impossible with anything else. It's the sex toy for pies. Nothing can get the pie off... just... never mind. Use the pastry blender, you'll thank me later. Now, utensils...
Nothing special here, just a big ass bowl. I will say this, wider mouth bowls make this process a tiny bit easier since you're cutting the butter into flour. Having a surface that's mostly flat ensures equal distribution of the fat into the flour in a reasonable amount of time and if you use the pastry blender, you won't end up using your hands. Joy!
I'm not going to hand out my great grandmother's pie crust recipe because I'm not sure if this is family secret material. Hercules knows better too so don't ask him, he's no Duke. Just know I measured precisely and you should too. Baking is not a willy-nilly game of horseshoes folks, close doesn't count. It's a science. Not that your pie crust will turn purple and explode if you add too much of the wrong ingredient but it won't turn out, you can count on that. Leave the recipe tweaking to the professionals until you understand what a little of this and little of that will do to your precious baked goods.
Now we cut-in. Use your pastry blender to cut the fat into the flour. Using a slight twisting motion as you go around the bowl making sure the flour and fat are combined. You will end up with something with the visual texture of cornmeal with small pea sized fat bits. I didn't take a picture with my phone, you can't see the texture. My regular camera works fine but getting the pictures off requires a cord. My cord is buried in the massive pile of my life in the garage so, camera phone it is! When your cornmeal texture is achieved, add liquid. The method of pie making is always the same, the ingredients are going to be different so just follow your recipe. If it says to add 1/4 c. of ice cold water and add 2 T. of water after that until the desired texture is reached, then do that. I'm lucky enough to have a recipe where I can just dump my liquids in and go. (God Bless you Great Grandma Kallay) Use the pastry blender to mix in the liquid and then use your hands to press dough together into a clump of obese flour. Don't forget to remove your rings. Flour and fat do not a pretty diamond make.
Pie crust achieved! Now, just slap some flour on the counter and shape that pretty piece of dough into a disk like this:
Ah, we meet at a crossroad. As this point you may either a) begin rolling out your dough or b) chill it and use it later. Most pie crust recipes allow for a top and bottom crust, if you only need the bottom crust you can freeze the other half or make two pies, I'm making two pies. Either way, before you begin rolling out the crust, cut the disk in half. I prefer to chill my dough and let it rest before I handle it anymore. I don't want gluten to form. I'm not making Pumpkin Pizza, I'm making Pumpkin Pie. So I put it in the fridge until it's set up and hard, like butter. I wrap it twice in the equivalent of a food condom aka Saran Wrap aka Clear Plastic Wrap (for those of us on a budget) so it doesn't take on the odors or flavors of the other food in the fridge or freezer, the STDs of the baking world.
You can see why double bagging is important in this refrigerator. I'm a big fan of the leftovers but when you make a pork roast on Sunday and order pizza on Monday, that leaves exactly 2 days to eat about a week's worth of food. This was not my genius idea. This was another sticker on the coffee pot moment.
So there you are internets, your step by step guide to a great pie crust. If nothing else goes right for you on Thanksgiving, I guarantee this will. Here's hoping you have a special someone and a great family to spend your holiday with. I have the pleasure of my family this year for the first time in a couple of years. You can be sure I will be enjoying more than just the food.